Alumni, DDS, Philanthropy

Alumna Gift Supports Pediatric Dentistry Residents

Dentist doing an examination on a boy for Give Kids A Smile Day

Gail and Paul Rohlfing Fellowship in Pediatric Dentistry will offer funding, opportunities for pediatric dentistry residents.

Gail Rohlfing DDS, MS, a UNC Adams School of Dentistry pediatric dental alumni, recently realized she and her husband, Paul, had the perfect gift for the school where she got to work among the “nicest people she’d ever met” — a fellowship in pediatric dentistry.

Originally from Nebraska, Gail Rohlfing, ‘96, was in her third year of dental school at University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry when she discovered that pediatric dentistry was the field she wanted to focus on. Her work with a family that included a child with achondroplasia set her on a journey that led her to Chapel Hill.

“That family is the thing that inspired me. I like the growth and development aspect of pediatric dentistry,” she said. “All of my dental school professors were wonderful, but the pediatric dentists were the nicest people. I thought to myself, ‘I want to be one of the nicest people.’”

After applying to residency programs, and considering schools across the country, a snowy day in Nebraska helped make the decision for the couple; they were going to try to match in Chapel Hill. “A month later, I received a phone call from Mike Roberts at UNC Chapel Hill, they were excited to have me as part of the program,” she said.

While Gail worked her way through school, Paul worked for Wyeth and later, Pfizer. They built a home, and after completing her specialty work, Gail and her partners built a pediatric dentistry practice. She had purchased a piece of land where she pictured her future clinic, but staffing changes and the economic downturn affected that prospect. She ended up buying out a partner instead of building from scratch, and the land went unused. Gail has practiced for more than 30 years in Greensboro and Winston-Salem and now consults as a pediatric dental expert.

As she looked back at her career and how she got there, she discovered she had an idea that would help her give back.

“That land had sat empty. We decided this is the perfect gift for the pediatric dental department,” she said. “We can make it beneficial to the department and fulfill a dream of mine to have a fund in our name and help support residents’ long term.”

The Gail and Paul Rohlfing Fellowship in Pediatric Dentistry will support pediatric dentistry residents at ASOD once the sale of the land is complete. The fellowship will help fund education for dentists just like Gail, something she’s grateful for.

“I’ve had a wonderful career as a pediatric dentist. It’s a wonderful livelihood. I’ve built a practice that was based on strong leadership, and having work life balance,” she said.

And while she and Paul have contributed to other charitable causes during their years in North Carolina, this gift is a little closer to their hearts.

“I grew up in a philanthropic family, and I’ve seen my parents give back. That’s how I was raised. We’ve shown our children that it’s important and told them that they should consider giving back on the day of giving to their schools,” she said. “For me, it’s looking at what my education at UNC gave me, and I wouldn’t be where I am without my residency, the connections and relationships from UNC.”