Awards, Faculty and Staff

Chen Wins UNC Institute of Aging’s Gordon H. DeFriese Award

Dr. Xi Chen, assistant professor in the Department of Dental Ecology, recently received one of the Gordon H. DeFriese Awards given annually by the UNC Institute of Aging. Chen is the first dental faculty member to receive this award.

“It is such an honor to receive the Gordan H. DeFriese Career Development Award,” said Chen. “As the first dentist receiving this award, I am so grateful for the recognition I have received for my work. I hope this recognition could further promote interdisciplinary collaboration between dentists, physicians, nurses and other geriatric and gerontological researchers here in UNC.”

Chen received the Gordon H. DeFriese Award for his contributions to geriatric oral health research, inter-professional teaching and services to local aging communities. As leader of one of the very few teams to systemically study oral health and dental management issues in older adults at the end of life, Chen’s team’s findings could substantially change the current practice of palliative oral health management for terminally-ill persons. Chen recently also received a National Institute of Health K23 Career Development Award to develop an instrument to assess dentally-related function in older adults with dementia. This instrument will enable dental and other health care professionals to better care for geriatric patients with cognitive impairments through thorough objective, standardized assessments for the first time. Since arriving at UNC in 2008, Chen has actively participated in inter-professional teaching to help dental, medical and nursing students better understand, evaluate and manage the oral health of geriatric patients. He also collaborated with other UNC faculty to develop a new oral care protocol to improve oral and system health for long-term care residents with cognitive and physical impairment.

During the award presentation, Drs. Dilworth-Anderson and Palmer, interim co-directors of the Institute on Aging, stated, “This award was established by the Institute on Aging to honor Gordon H. DeFriese. [Dr. Chen’s] credentials and nomination letters convinced the selection committee that [he is] indeed embarking on an impressive career in aging and that [he is] held in high esteem by [his] peers. [His] selection not only recognizes [his] past accomplishments but, more importantly, [his] potential for future development as an outstanding researcher in aging. We at the Institute look forward to [Dr. Chen’s] collaboration with us and with other programs on this campus as we pursue aging-related research, education and public service activities. “

The Gordon H. DeFriese award recognizes junior faculty or staff members or doctoral students who demonstrate outstanding promise and commitment to aging research. The award is named for Dr. Gordon H. DeFriese, whose distinguished research career spanned more than 30 years. During his career, he was known for his strong commitment to developing the careers of his colleagues.

This year’s other award recipient is Dr. Timothy Platts-Mills, assistant professor at the UNC School of Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine.