The UNC School of Dentistry and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, following an afternoon of panel discussions about the future of dental public health, announced the establishment of a new professorship in the field of dental public health on June 5. Made possible by the private donations of Dr. and Ms. Chester and Joy Douglass, the R. Gary Rozier and Chester W. Douglass Distinguished Professorship in Dental Public Health will support a jointly appointed faculty member, as yet unnamed, who specializes in dental public health.
The professorship, which honors Dr. Gary Rozier, professor of health policy and management at the Gillings School and a respected national leader in dental public health, was announced after a day-long symposium held at both schools, during which panel discussions addressed the future of dental public health. At a dinner honoring Rozier’s career, he learned that the professorship would bear his name as well as with Douglass’s.
“This professorship provides assurance that this important academic discipline will have a home here at UNC,” said Dr. Jane Weintraub, dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor of the UNC School of Dentistry. “It ensures a continued collaboration between the schools of dentistry and public health, which are arguably among the best in the nation and already have a history of working together for the betterment of the health of citizens of North Carolina.”
Through his research at UNC – which spans 38 years – and strong collaborations with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies, Rozier has created a legacy of impact, demonstrated through scores of peer-reviewed publications. His Into the Mouths of Babes program has been shown to be a cost-effective way to reduce dental caries and hospitalizations. The program now is used across the U.S. and in several other countries, to the benefit of millions of children. Rozier has mentored more than 100 students, many of whom have advanced to leadership roles in the dental profession.
“Dr. Gary Rozier exemplifies what it means to be a gentleman and a scholar,” said Dr. Barbara K. Rimer, dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor of the Gillings School. “His scholarship is legendary, impressive in both the quantity of his publications and the depth and breadth of his research impact. He is a great example of how academic research can benefit people in our communities. Gary also is an outstanding mentor and colleague, gracious, kind, a notably great collaborator and a generous citizen of the university and his profession.”
Douglass, whose generous private contribution made the professorship possible, dedicated his career to improving dental care for those living in the U.S. He authored more than 140 papers on topics including dental public health, oral epidemiology and health policy. As former chair of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology, he mentored students, encouraging them to “think big” and continue learning. While on the UNC faculty from 1971-78, Douglass spent one year (1975-76) as a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow in Washington, D.C., working as a member of the health staff in the U.S. Senate.
“Chet has mentored an amazing number of leaders in many different aspects of the dental profession, many of whom celebrated dental public health with us on June 5,” Weintraub said. “This generous gift from Chet and Joy allows us to create something special here at UNC – a true home for the discipline of dental public health – while honoring Chet and Gary, who blazed the trail of dental public health research for all of us.”
The schools of dentistry and public health also celebrated a generous grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation to support the Excellence in Dental Public Health initiative and a gift from Delta Dental to support dental public health. The Excellence in Dental Public Health initiative will focus on dental public health problems and challenges in North Carolina.
“North Carolina has a proud history of coming together to find innovative solutions to improve the oral health of our most vulnerable populations,” said Brad Wilson, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and chairman of the BCBSNC Foundation. “We need to do more and we need to do it now. We look forward to a continued and active partnership with the Gillings School and the School of Dentistry you continue to sharpen UNC’s focus on oral health across two great learning institutions.” Wilson has long been a strong proponent of improved dental health.
“Delta Dental of North Carolina’s mission is to improve the oral health of the communities we serve,” said Curtis R. Ladig, president and chief executive officer of Delta Dental of North Carolina. “Thus, Delta Dental is pleased to be a partner in addressing critical dental public health issues in North Carolina with support for the North Carolina Collaborative for Excellence in Dental Public Health.”
Together, the professorship from Chet and Joy Douglass, gift from Delta Dental and the generous grant from BCBSNC Foundation, will enable the schools of public health and dentistry to collaborate to solve real world problems of people in North Carolina.