ECU dental school names inaugural assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion

Dr. Wanda Wright has been named the inaugural assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion for the ECU School of Dental Medicine (SoDM).

Wright, who has been with the school since 2015, is also assistant professor and division director of dental public health. In her additional role, she will oversee and coordinate all diversity, equity and inclusion-related initiatives and programming for the SoDM. She will serve as a member of the School’s senior leadership team and will contribute to the recruitment, retention and success of underrepresented faculty, staff, students and residents.

“Those of us who have the pleasure of working and serving alongside Dr. Wright understand just how passionate she is about changing the world, starting right here in eastern North Carolina,” said Dr. Greg Chadwick, dean of the dental school. “We are fortunate to have her unique blend of experience and expertise carrying us forward in our commitment to diversity that spans our entire school.”

Dr. Wanda Wright has been named the inaugural assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion for the SoDM.

Dr. Wanda Wright has been named the inaugural assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion for the SoDM.

The creation of this position reiterates the SoDM’s commitment to its mission that emphasizes equity and diversity as core characteristics. The role re-envisions the school’s dedication to fostering an inclusive environment for every person who enters its clinics, classrooms and facilities across the state.

“I am excited to lead the diversity initiatives at the School of Dental Medicine,” Wright said. “I hope to develop a culture where diversity/equity/inclusion isn’t seen as a separate goal but central to everything we do at ECU. I am extremely honored and excited to take on this important new role, which is critical to ensuring the continued strengths of the SoDM community, as well as to the school’s ongoing leadership in community-based dental education.”

Wright’s priorities for the role include identifying funding to develop and support diversity initiatives; designing and implementing strategies for improving recruitment and retention of students, faculty and staff from historically underrepresented groups; and developing and initiating programming for faculty, staff and students related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Also a priority is to “conduct a climate survey of students, faculty, and staff to benchmark where we stand,” she said, “work on areas in need of improvement identified by the surveys and track progress and effectiveness of interventions and approaches.”

Wright was recently honored with the Four Corners Study Club Faculty Leadership Award during the dental school’s 2020 virtual Fall Convocation. She has served as a faculty leader on campus and in under-resourced communities through grants, school dental care initiatives and other programs.

Wright is the principal investigator for several current grant awards that are focused on improving the oral health care and access to it for countless under-resourced patients and opening doors to a dental education for promising and service-minded students. She is project director for two HRSA grants totaling more than $5.6 million over nine years to provide Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students.

Wright helps facilitate the ECU Poverty Simulation Exercise, an annual event for health sciences students and residents that allows them to better understand how poverty impacts patients’ lives at every level.

She also serves on the SoDM Research and Scholarship Committee and the Women and Gender Advisory Council, and has served on the Chancellor’s Diversity Leadership Cabinet.

Wright earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from University of Maryland; a master of science in health services administration from D’Youville College; a master of science in dentistry, dental public health and a certificate of advanced graduate study in dental public health from Boston University and a certificate of clinical investigation from Tufts University.