Faculty earn Research & Scholarship Awards

Dr. Todd Watkins

Todd Watkins, DDS

Four School of Dental Medicine faculty researchers and inventors were honored March 2 as part of the 2021 Research and Scholarship Awards, presented virtually by the ECU Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement (REDE).

Honored with the Outstanding Research Scholars awards were Dr. Mark Moss, associate professor, Department of Foundational Sciences; Dr. Michael Webb, clinical associate professor and chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics; and Dr. Wanda Wright, assistant professor, division director of dental public health and associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Dr. Todd Watkins, assistant professor and assistant dean for dental education and informatics, was recognized for accomplishments as an inventor.

During the virtual ceremony, the faculty were lauded for their research and scholarly contributions to ECU that lend to new technologies, medicines and innovations that will transform life in rural North Carolina and beyond.

Moss was honored for excellence and productivity in research-scholarship. In 2020, he was awarded three grants as principal investigator and serves as co-principal investigator on another. He also had six peer-reviewed publications.

Moss’s work represents the School of Dental Medicine’s mission of improving the health and quality of life of all North Carolinians and emphasizing community-based, service-learning oral health education.

Mark Moss, DDS, PhD

“I consider it a true privilege to work along-side the future leaders of dentistry in North Carolina. I also am a learner in this adventure,” Moss said. “The gap between public health and clinical practice is wide, and there is a need to find ways to bridge the gap for our underserved and disadvantaged populations. ECU School of Dental Medicine is uniquely positioned to address this gap, and I have the honor of helping out in the workforce deployment process for oral health.”

Moss shared more of his teaching philosophy.

“Our work in the Community Oral Health Practice course is about bridging the gap between clinical practice and public health,” he said. “We focus on underserved populations because they often fall through the ‘cracks’ in the existing health care delivery system. Goals for me are to foster an attitude of discovery in our class sessions as a group of teachers and learners. I hope to convey the idea and further develop the concept of a systems approach to complex problems. To me, this means viewing the world of health care from a systems perspective with a focus on oral health.”

Webb was honored as a leading teacher-scholar at the SoDM for 2020. He serves as principal investigator on a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant that aims to expand dental residency training for treating special needs patients in rural communities. He also authored a book chapter on “Behavior Management and Medical Emergencies.”

“I am totally surprised and extremely honored to have earned the distinction of being named one of ECU’s outstanding faculty for 2020. No man is an island, and as with any accomplishment, there are a lot of people who helped me directly and indirectly in my career,” Webb said. “There have also been a lot of people who have given me encouragement including my wife, Camy, who has been there for the last 36 years. This honor also belongs, in part, to all of them.”

Michael Webb, DDS, MEd

Michael Webb, DDS, MEd

Webb passes his love of discovery on to students by guiding them as they make connections between what they have learned in the past and new knowledge. He also encourages students to incorporate scholarly activity, community service and a love of learning in their future careers.

“As a clinician, I always tell students and residents to do the right thing for the patient. On a broader scale, I try to model professional behavior for future dentists, so they see that a professional life is more than just treating patients. It includes interacting with other health care professionals, being active in the community, being an advocate for children and participating in continuing education.”

Wright earned the distinction for excellence in external grant funding and peer-reviewed publications in 2020. She is the principal investigator on a Duke Endowment grant focused on school-based oral health programs in Bertie County schools. She also serves as principal investigator on a HRSA grant that provides scholarship funding for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. She is a co-investigator on grant projects focused on special needs oral health care and health disparities. In 2020, she had seven peer-reviewed publications and three invited presentations.

Wanda Wright, RN, DDS, MS, MSD

Wanda Wright, RN, DDS, MS, MSD

“I am extremely honored to be one of the recipients for outstanding faculty recognition,” Wright said. “I am appreciative of those who nominated me, and I’m appreciative of ECU REDE for the time and effort they put into this annual award process. This recognition is a memorable event in my professional career. To be recognized by ECU REDE is a highlight that I will always remember.”

Watkins was recognized as an inventor who earned patents last year for securing two patents that provide practical analytics for student and instructor performance related to competence in addition to traditional grades.

The patents represent the foundational intellectual property for an operational analytics platform known as the eXtensible Competencies Platform (XComP), and are the result of a decade of work by Watkins and the ECU Office of Technology Transfer to develop the platform’s U.S. and international patents.
“XComP was initially built to analyze the detailed strengths and weaknesses of students across all courses within a single degree program,” Watkins said after the patents were secured. “We see XComP as a component of a larger, cloud-integrated ‘educational ecosystem’ that connects a wide variety of traditional educational softwares with non-traditional, job-specific performance reporting systems to expand the scope of the project to any level of education and training.”