Alumni, Dental Foundation, Endodontics, Endodontics Residents

The future of endodontics is bright with endowed fund gift

Takashi Komabayashi, DDS, with Stuart Fountain, DDS. Fountain and his wife recently created an endowed fund to support the specialty of endodontics at Adams School of Dentistry. Komabayashi is the current director of the graduate endodontics program, and Fountain was the program's first director.

One of the first dentists to specialize in endodontics is looking to the future of the profession, with an endowed gift to support endodontics faculty and students at UNC Adams School of Dentistry.

“My heart is in dentistry, and my heart is in endodontics,” said Stuart Fountain, DDS. “It’s where I’ve been since the beginning, and when it was time to assist the school of dentistry, I had to zero in on the needs of endodontists and support the specialty of endodontics at the dental school.”

Fountain, with his wife, Carol, have created the Fountain Fund for Encouraging Excellence in Endodontics to help graduate students perform research and present the results and progress at local and national dental conferences. Fountain hopes the fund will “continuously raise the stature of the dental specialty of endodontics.”

A career change

Fountain first became interested in dentistry after graduating from Davidson College. He was selling insurance, but he became disillusioned with the industry, instead wanting a career where people came to him for care instead of pushing a product. A minister told him his voice and demeanor were suited to dentistry, and Fountain couldn’t stop thinking about it as he considered his career change.

“I had a regular dentist in High Point when I was growing up. They didn’t use a lot of anesthetic, and that is where I learned to mumble bad words,” he joked.

With a business degree, Fountain took courses at Guilford College to earn enough science credits to apply for dental school at ASOD, then the UNC School of Dentistry.

“I found that crown and bridge work was not my strong suit, and two things came together; one was the announcement of a new specialty, called endodontics. It hadn’t been a specialty before then, and it coincided with my first “A” in endodontics. I could see that this was a wide-open new field and knew this was for me.

“I liked the idea of helping people save teeth instead of being in oral surgery and taking them out,” he said.

Pursuing endodontics as a specialty

Fountain in 1971 when he was a member of the Department of Endodontics at ASOD.

Fountain pursued his newly adopted specialty at the University of Pennsylvania and studied with Louis Grossman, DDS, an early pioneer of endodontics. During his studies at Penn, UNC had created a department of endodontics, headed by Jack Shankle, DDS. The two men kept in touch, and he invited Fountain to come back to North Carolina and join the endodontics faculty.

Fountain’s experience in Pennsylvania included a lot of jokes about being a Southerner, but he realized he was better suited to North Carolina and gladly accepted a position at UNC. As a faculty member, he was tasked with putting together the graduate program in endodontics.

“Dr. Cathey was the first trained endodontist in North Carolina, and I was the second one,” Fountain said.

Under Shankle, Fountain focused on the graduate training program, and Cathey worked on the undergrad program, forming the first Department of Endodontics at ASOD. After helping build the program and working for four years, Fountain joined the late Wayne Mohorn, DDS, an ASOD alum, at a private practice in Greensboro in 1972. Fountain continued to commute to Chapel Hill once a week to help out in the clinics at the dental school, something he did for the next 20 years.

Private practice

Eventually, Fountain decided to retire from his practice, which had grown exponentially since its inception, and recently even celebrated 50 years in practice.

“When I retired, it had become Mohorn, Fountain, Olmsted, Torney, Mohorn, Mohorn and Morgan, D.D.S, P.A., with offices in Greensboro, High Point, and Asheboro. Today it is called Piedmont Endodontics with five offices and recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding,” he said.

Looking back at his career, Fountain realized he still had an idea of how he could give back to ASOD.

“I had been talking about giving back for years, and I had talked about the possibilities, asked staff in the endodontics department what the needs were, and we began to piece it together,” Fountain said.

An endowed fund to support endodontists

Fountain’s own dental career included many years spent in various dental associations and societies, and he served as president of the NC Dental Society, president of the American Association of Endodontists and vice president of the American Dental Association. He wanted to make sure other endodontists and students were able to participate in these groups, too. Travel expenses, research costs and other fees could be taken care of by the endowment, so he made sure his fund specified that charge. He also wanted to make sure ASOD was able to recruit and retain the best endodontists in the country.

“I’m quite aware of the difficulty in recruiting faculty for the school of dentistry, and some of the funds will go to incentive money to provide something like a signing bonus for new faculty,” he said.

Fountain is passionate about endodontics, and he hopes others share his passion, enough to contribute to the fund and keep it going.

“I would welcome others to contribute to building it to a larger amount so we can make more of an impact,” he said.