Dr. Matt Morrone is first ECU dental grad in school’s General Practice Residency

ECU’s General Practice Residency (GPR) in dentistry has existed since 1979, but this year marks the first time that an ECU dental school graduate has been admitted to the program.

Dr. Matt Morrone was among the ECU School of Dental Medicine’s first graduating class in May 2015. During his final year of dental school, he applied for the one-year GPR program to deepen his knowledge of general dentistry and gain experience with patients who are medically compromised or have special needs.

Historically, the General Practice Residency program was managed by the ECU Family Medicine Dental Practice in partnership with Pitt County Memorial Hospital. In 2011, the ECU School of Dental Medicine assumed oversight of the GPR program. The program is now integrated with Vidant Medical Center (formerly Pitt County Memorial Hospital) and is located on the hospital campus.

“I chose the GPR program because I wanted to get a year of extra training in general dentistry, and I was very interested in the emergency medical and dental component as well,” said Morrone.

GPR residents and attending faculty provide comprehensive and emergency dental treatment for the public but also for hospital emergency patients as well as in-patients who may suffer from multiple systemic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, head and neck radiation, organ transplant recipients, and immunocompromised patients.

Morrone is one of four residents from US dental schools supervised by Dr. Robert Carter, director of the GPR program and a former US Army colonel with vast experience in general dentistry and residency programs.

“I appreciate that we get a lot of experience in the operating room with Dr. Carter and Dr. Richard Salzer,” said Morrone. “We treat patients who may not be able to tolerate being seen in a private dental office and perform all the necessary dental procedures they need during a single visit to the operating room. Procedures can range from restorations to extractions to cleanings. It’s a very valuable experience to help a patient who may not otherwise be able to receive dental treatment.”

Morrone, who is originally from Pinehurst, N.C., and the grandson of a dentist, cites his volunteer time with the NC Dental Society’s Missions of Mercy (MOM) free mobile clinics during college as the driving force behind his career choice. As an ECU dental student, he gave freely of his time volunteering for local free dental clinics and community service projects. He also took part in a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

Prior to graduation this spring, Morrone was inducted into the Omicron Kappa Upsilon National Dental Honor Society, and he received the Academy of Operative Dentistry Student Award from the school’s faculty.

Morrone says the most rewarding aspect of the GPR residency thus far has been treating medically complex patients who require dental care.

“The GPR residency is further preparing me to comprehensively treat patients. Not only is it preparing me to treat their dental disease but also to participate in the management of their systemic medical conditions safely as well. There are multiple disease processes, conditions, and illnesses that can drastically affect how and when you perform dentistry for a patient,” said Morrone.

The most challenging part of the residency for Morrone has been learning to communicate effectively with medical residents and other personnel who send patients to the hospital dentistry clinic.

“Interprofessional communication is a pillar in the successful delivery of medical and dental care for patients; therefore, ensuring that we are communicating effectively through our notes and phone consultation is vital.”

As he prepares for a life-long career in dentistry, Morrone often recalls the words of a dentist who became his friend and mentor, “It’s important to remember that a dentist doesn’t just fix teeth. Those teeth belong to a person, and you should never lose sight of the patient as a whole.”

So, what’s the next step for Morrone after the GPR experience? In typical Matt Morrone fashion, he is planning ahead. He has been accepted into a 30-month orthodontics residency at Seton Hill Center for Orthodontics in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. With an orthodontics practice in mind eventually, Morrone also hopes to return to education at some point and be involved with organized dentistry.

Whether choosing to specialize or remain in general dentistry, the GPR program is providing Morrone with invaluable experience. “I have already learned an immense amount regarding comprehensive patient care in the first three months of the residency and look forward to what the next nine months will bring,” he said.

Matt Marrone and Dr. Robert Carter

Dr. Matt Morrone (right) and Dr. Robert Carter, director of the School of Dental Medicine General Practice Residency, volunteered at the annual “Give Kids a Smile Day!” in Greenville, sponsored by the East Central Dental Society.