Category: Schoolwide News

Classmates remembered through memorial scholarships

The 2014 MCV Campus Reunion took place April 11 through April 13 in Richmond, Va., and nearly 500 alumni and family members converged on campus to celebrate the occasion.

The tradition of reunion giving has become an integral facet of the MCV Campus Reunion. Generous donors over the years have supported their alma mater, its students and other important initiatives to the tune of millions through scholarships and other funds.

This year’s Reunion classes generously gave and pledged contributions exceeding $535,000. Alumni banded together with their classmates to select class fundraising causes, and many classes this year chose to honor the memory of the classmates they have lost.

Three new endowed memorial scholarships were created through reunion giving: the Class of 1969 Memorial Scholarship, the Dr. William Descovich Memorial Scholarship and the Dr. Randal W. King Memorial Scholarship. These funds will live in perpetuity to help deserving students defray the mounting costs of their dental education while immortalizing the alumni for whom the funds are named.

Dr. William J. Descovich (D.D.S. ’94) passed away in 2005. He was married to Carole A. Descovich, a 1991 graduate of the VCU School of Nursing. Together, they had three children.

Dr. Randal W. King (D.D.S. ’89) owned a dental practice in Midlothian, Va., for 17 years until his death in 2011. He is survived by his wife Tanya King (M.B.A. ’87, M.H.A. ’90) and their two sons.

The Class of 1969 chose to remember all of their classmates who have passed away through their memorial scholarship.

Together, the D.D.S. classes of 1969, 1989 and 1994 gave and pledged more than $100,000 to remember their friends and support students in their dreams to become dentists.

Faculty member named service-learning fellow

Tammy Swecker   Dentistry

Tammy Swecker (B.S. ’93, M.Ed. ’05), associate professor, Department of Oral Health Promotion and Community Outreach, has been selected as one of the 2014-2015 VCU Service-Learning Faculty Fellows.

She was selected from a competitive pool of faculty member applicants based on her previous involvement in service-learning and community-engagement as well as a proposed plan for enhancing community-engaged teaching, scholarship and service at the VCU School of Dentistry during the fellowship year.

The VCU Service-Learning Faculty Fellow Program supports faculty who have experience in teaching service-learning classes to improve, document and disseminate their mastery of service-learning to others. Fellows are appointed for one year with the potential of extending their appointment for one additional year and receive a stipend for their participation in the program.

SNDA raises awareness through 5th Annual Oral Cancer Walk

Oral cancer has a fatality rate higher than that of skin, cervical or thyroid cancer, yet the general public is unaware of this cancer. The Student National Dental Association has started an initiative to raise awareness and to provide support for oral cancer research.

On Saturday, April 19, 2014, oral cancer researchers, cancer survivors and their families joined the VCU Student National Dental Association for the 5th Annual Oral Cancer Walk to benefit VCU Philips Institute. Supporters gathered bright and early with enthusiasm to walk Byrd Park’s Landing at Boat Lake for a worthy cause.

The event kicked off with a touching testimony from our keynote speaker, Dania Luby. Luby told the story of her beloved sister Susan who succumbed to her gracious battle with oral cancer in 2004. She was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx in 2002 after a biopsy performed by her oral surgeon. Luby’s touching testimony demonstrated how the battle against cancer not only affects the patient, but also has a strong impact on loved ones. Luby, who was accompanied by her family and friends, stressed the importance of patient education and early detection.

The next speaker, Patrick Ruck, senior dental student at the VCU School of Dentistry and SNDA member, spoke on the importance of early detection from a clinician’s perspective. He was able to detect squamous cell carcinoma on one of his patients after a thorough and routine head and neck exam.

After these riveting speeches, the walk around Boat Lake began. With support from the Virginia Dental Association, Horsey Orthodontics, Southside Oral and Facial Surgery, Dr. Todd Kitten and Dr. Iain Morgan of the VCU Philips Institute, the SNDA raised more than $2,000 to benefit oral cancer research at the VCU Philips Institute. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Researchers identify key enzyme found in disease-causing bacteria responsible for heart valve disease

By Sathya Achia Abraham
University Public Affairs, VCU Across the Spectrum (

A disease-causing bacterium found in the mouth needs manganese, a trace mineral, in order to cause a serious heart infection, according to a preclinical study led by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University Philips Institute for Oral Health Research in the School of Dentistry.

The findings, which may solve a longstanding mystery of why some bacteria need manganese to cause disease, provide possible new targets for antibiotics.

Read more »



First chair to support program, honor mentor

Dr. A. Omar Abubaker will be the first Bear Chair and the first chair within the VCU School of Dentistry.
Dr. A. Omar Abubaker will be the first Bear Chair and the first chair within the VCU School of Dentistry.

An endowed chair is one of the highest forms of recognition provided by a university to an individual, and the VCU School of Dentistry is proud to officially announce its first endowed chair – the S. Elmer Bear Chair. At its September meeting, the VCU Board of Visitors approved the chair, established with funds totaling $1.1 million.

Previously, the Bear Chair was an endowed professorship within the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. On the thirtieth anniversary of Dr. S. Elmer Bear’s passing, with the leadership of Dr. A. Omar Abubaker, professor and chairman of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and the guidance of the VCU School of Dentistry Development Office, several alumni renewed the commitment to honor and preserve the memory of a revered practitioner, educator and mentor. To aid the fundraising effort, Andrea Bear, Bear’s daughter, produced a video tracing his life, his work at VCU and his impact on his chosen profession, which introduced him to a whole new generation of oral surgeons and VCU alumni. The chair will support the residency program’s continued development through recruitment and retention of the best and brightest faculty and residents.

Bear served from 1960 to 1981 as the first chairman and founder of the OMFS residency program. He made a name for himself nationally and internationally and devoted himself to his profession, his fellow oral surgeons and his residents, whom he affectionately thought of as his family.

“The VCU School of Dentistry always meant a lot to Elmer and it meant a lot to me too. Many of our best friends were other oral surgeons from across the country and abroad,” noted Barbara Greenberg, Bear’s widow.

Dr. S. Elmer Bear, 1921 - 1981.
Dr. S. Elmer Bear, 1921 – 1981.

Bear’s children also spent a considerable amount of time at the dental school and around the medical campus. One of Bear’s sons, Dr. Donald Bear, recalled, “We all grew up at MCV, having our turn at making rounds with Dad, so it’s a special connection.”

Another of Bear’s sons, Dr. Harry Bear (M.D. ’75, Ph.D. ’78), grew that connection into a career. Inspired by his father’s passion for patient care, he pursued a medical education and now serves as chairman of the Division of Surgical Oncology at the VCU Massey Cancer Center and professor of surgery and of microbiology and immunology at the VCU School of Medicine. “As a VCU faculty member, this honor of the Bear Chair is especially gratifying,” said Dr. Harry Bear.

“We always knew that Dad’s first love next to his family was his work,” shared Andrea Bear. “He loved teaching students and residents the right approach to difficult problems, and he worked every day for what was best for the specialty and to improve the lives of patients.”

What’s so remarkable about the Bear Chair is that it was kick-started by many of the early residents that Bear trained, like Dr. Ronald L. Tankersley (D.D.S. ’68, OMFS ’71) and Dr. Charles L. Cuttino III (D.D.S. ’66, OMFS ’72), but brought to fruition by residents that came long after his tenure as chairman including recent graduates of the program. These alumni and oral surgeons share Bear’s enthusiasm for the residency program and his commitment to ensuring that the program and the department continue to be among the best in the country. The Bear Chair funding to the program will enhance the educational experience of future residents, while forever keeping Bear’s legacy alive.

As department chairman, Abubaker will be named the inaugural Bear Chair at the VCU Investiture event on March 3. “I am honored and extremely privileged to be the first person to hold the honor in the department and the school,” said Abubaker. “And I’m excited to share the news with alumni, friends and the entire specialty.”


To learn more about how ways to support the Bear Chair, please contact Edward G. Kardos at or (804) 828-0324. Check out a video about Dr. Bear at

Faculty member and alumna inducted into honor society

Tammy Swecker   Dentistry

It is with great pleasure that the Sigma Phi Alpha  honor society announces the induction of Tammy Swecker (B.S. ’93, M.Ed. ’05), associate professor, Dental Hygiene Program, Department of Oral Health Promotion and Community Outreach.

Sigma Phi Alpha is the national honor society of the dental hygiene profession. The organization was founded in 1958 based on scholarship, leadership and character. Other dental hygiene faculty members preceding Swecker in Sigma Phi Alpha include Dr. Joan Pellegrini, Kim Isringhausen, Christy Casella and Michelle McGregor.

Members of the Alpha Alpha Gamma Chapter extend a warm welcome to the well deserving inductee.


Lots of smiles on Give Kids a Smile Day


The VCU School of Dentistry celebrated another successful year of the Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) Day program. A total of 82 patients received 507 procedures worth $32,229 in free dental care.

The effort was led by Dr. Elizabeth Berry (D.D.S. ’07, M.S.D. ’09, M.P.H. ’09), assistant professor, Department of Pediatric Dentistry, on Friday, February 7, 2014. Her team of GKAS coordinators included Reem Alhussain (D3), Kristin Coffield (D2), Kris Norbo (D4), Carson Rutledge (D2) and Dr. Jo Cronly (M.S. ’08, D.D.S. ’12), who will continue to provide treatment to the children seen on the 2014 Give Kids a Smile Day with restorative treatment needs.

This year, three special awards were presented to the participants that went above and beyond in helping with this important project.

GKAS at VCU Pediatric Dentistry Student Recognition Award – Kris Norbo

GKAS at VCU Pediatric Dentistry Resident Recognition Award – Dr. Jo Cronly

GKAS at VCU Pediatric Dentistry Dr. Carl Atkins Award* – Dr. Marcela Mujica

Give Kids a Smile Day is a national program run by the American Dental Association. Events are traditionally held the first Friday in February of each year, but the once small program has expanded into a year-round effort through participation from dentists, dental schools, volunteers and community partners.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this wonderful event.


*This award is given in honor of Dr. Carl Atkins (D.D.S. ’83, M.S.D. ’85) to the provider who treats the most children that day.

Service-learning program receives national recognition

The VCU School of Dentistry Department of Oral Health Promotion and Community Outreach was selected as a 2014 Outstanding Service-Learning Collaboration in Higher Education. The award is presented by the Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Education in Higher Education.

Dr. Lynn Pelco,  associate vice provost of community engagement, VCU Division of Community Engagement, nominated the school’s collaborative partnerships, citing the leadership of Kim Isringhausen (B.S. ’95, M.P.H. ’04), assistant professor and chair, Department of Oral Health Promotion and Community Outreach, in establishing the service-learning program at the VCU School of Dentistry. Isringhausen will receive the award at the 2014 Gulf-South Summit at Auburn University in March.

The Gulf-South Summit presents five awards annually in recognition of those individuals and community partners that make contributions to the field in outstanding ways, including fostering a culture of engagement within an institution, demonstrating program growth and sustainability and demonstrating leadership in the area of civic engagement. Now in its 12th year, the Gulf-South Summit has become one of the foremost annual conferences on service-learning in the United States.

VCU Dental Care rebranding distinguishes clinical practices


Originally posted to, January 29, 2014

By Eliza Winston

University Public Affairs

(804) 828-1231


Today marks the official rollout of the new brand for VCU’s dental clinics – formerly known as Dentistry@VCU – as VCU Dental Care. The new name will be reflected on the clinic’s website, and the rebranding will help the practice raise awareness in the Richmond area of the wide range of services it offers.

The focus for the rebranding project is to emphasize the vast array of treatments available throughout the organization, as well as the various levels of fees.

“VCU currently has the only dental school in the state, and as such we have taught generations of Virginia dentists,” said David Sarrett, D.M.D., dean of the VCU School of Dentistry. “With this rebranding, we hope to relay the message to potential patients that we provide comprehensive dental and oral health care within our clinics. If a patient needs a consult with a specialist, we are able to accommodate the patient usually in the same day. For our patients, this equates to less time spent in seeking these specialty opinions and treatment. It also allows our students, residents and faculty to collaborate in ways that may not be possible if doctors are in different locations.”

“This rebrand will help the community better understand the comprehensive care and fee structures available for patients at VCU Dental Care,” said Rebecca Pousson, executive associate dean of the School of Dentistry. “Because we have students, residents and faculty all providing services, our fees are reflective of this situation. For example, if a patient is seen in our student clinics, the fees are lower than if a faculty member was providing that treatment alone. However, it may take several visits to accomplish the same treatment that a resident or faculty could achieve in one appointment. Our ability to offer various fee levels gives the patient options.”

The rebranding will be featured during tonight’s VCU men’s basketball game through announcements and advertising at the game. In addition to targeting the outside consumer audience to reach new potential patients, posters and messaging will be available for current patients who visit the clinics.


About VCU and the VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 223 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-eight of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see

Dental Hygiene hits the Capitol

Students and faculty from the VCU School of Dentistry lobbied for oral health causes at Dental Hygiene Rally Day.
Students and faculty from the VCU School of Dentistry lobbied for oral health causes at Dental Hygiene Rally Day.
Members of the Virginia Dental Hygienists Association paused for a group photo.
Members of the Virginia Dental Hygienists Association paused for a group photo.

Registered dental hygienists and dental hygiene students from all over the state converged at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond for Dental Hygiene Rally Day on Friday, January 24, 2014. VCU School of Dentistry faculty and students were among those in attendance at the event to support the profession and advance oral health care issues.

The group met with legislators to promote the role of dental hygienists in oral health care delivery and education in area communities. They spoke with Senator George L. Barker and Delegate Rosalyn R. Dance in support of their proposed bill amendments to include dental benefits for pregnant women.

The highlight of the day was when Senator T. Scott Garrett introduced the Virginia Dental Hygienist Association on the House floor.

For more information on the VCU School of Dentistry dental hygiene program, please visit

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