A NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE: ECU Dental Medicine hosts leader of American Dental Association

The East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine earned some national recognition this week as the American Dental Association President spent two days on campus.

Dr. Carol Summerhays is the 152nd president of the ADA and represents more than 158,000 members nationwide. Her mission on this trip, however, was to connect with the future of the field.

“It has been a huge priority to get out to dental schools around the country because this is the future of dental medicine,” she said.

During multiple town hall meetings held Feb. 29 in Ross Hall, she shared advice on leadership opportunities and fielded questions about efforts to reduce student debt and secure higher reimbursement rates for Medicaid-funded care.

Students, residents and faculty members from ECU community service learning centers around the state also joined the question-and-answer sessions by teleconference.

Summerhays visited the ECU dental clinic in Ahoskie during her time in the East, and said she was impressed by the facility and what it represents.

“The model that ECU has with their clinics is a really fine example of bringing care to communities in need,” she said.
DentalThird-year ECU dental student LaJoi Wiggins listens during a town hall meeting led by the president of the American Dental Association.

Community service learning centers are located in eight rural and underserved areas across North Carolina. Fourth-year students and dental residents train at the centers under faculty supervision while providing high-quality dental care to residents of those communities.

Two dental students who are members of the American Student Dental Association lured Summerhays to ECU after meeting her last year.

“We were both struck by her warmth and sincere interest in students,” said Jennifer Pan, a third-year dental student.

She said she hoped Summerhays sensed “our mission and dedication to service” during the visit. “That’s what’s unique about us,” Pan added.

Classmate LaJoi Wiggins, a candidate for president of the national American Student Dental Association, said it’s important for students to look up from their classes from time to time and contemplate the future.

“It’s a mutually-beneficial relationship,” she said of supporting the ADA and other professional organizations. “We just keep reiterating that (dental medicine) is bigger than right now. This is about your career 20 years from now.”

The visit was not ECU dental medicine’s only connection to the ADA. Dr. Greg Chadwick, dean of the school, was himself a president of the national organization 15 years ago.

By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services
March 1, 2016