Bulletin of Dental Education

Around the Dental Education Community - April 2010

(Faculty, General, Leadership, Learning) Permanent link   All Posts

ECU Alumnus Gives $4 Million to New School of Dentistry

Left to right: Dr. Ledyard E. Ross, Greenville orthodontist; East Carolina University Chancellor Dr. Steve Ballard; and ECU School of Dentistry Dean Dr. James R. Hupp stand with a drawing of the School of Dentistry building, which will be named for Ross following a $4 million gift to the school. Photo by Cliff Hollis, ECU News Services.Two years after local, state, and university leaders broke ground for the new East Carolina University (ECU) School of Dentistry, many of those same officials were on hand to recognize a retired Greenville orthodontist for his gift to the new dental school.

The orthodontist, Dr. Ledyard E. Ross, 84, has pledged $4 million to ECU for academic purposes at the School of Dentistry. His gift is one of the largest in the university's history.

"This generous gift comes at a time when we are starting a new school and puts us in a position to support faculty and students at its inception," said Chancellor Dr. Steve Ballard. The funds will be used for student scholarships, faculty research, and other academic enterprises.

A 1951 graduate of then-East Carolina College, Ross has been a supporter of several academic and athletic initiatives at the university since establishing his dental practice in Greenville. He is a member of ECU's Leo W. Jenkins Society and Order of the Cupola.

"Dr. Ross' gift to the university reinforces that the North Carolina General Assembly saw the wisdom of establishing a School of Dentistry at ECU and reinforces the vision they had and we have for this school," Ballard said.

Dean James R. Hupp said, "The difference between being a good dental school and a great dental school hinges on private giving. Dr. Ross' very generous philanthropic gift will propel us toward greatness, allowing us to accomplish our grand vision of improving the health and quality of life of North Carolinians by leading the nation in community-based, service-learning dental education. We cannot thank him enough."

ECU's dental school plans to admit its first students in fall 2011. About 50 students will enter the program every year. The Ledyard E. Ross Hall, on the ECU Health Sciences campus, will have more than 100,000 square feet of space. The North Carolina General Assembly has provided about $90 million for construction. That appropriation covers both the dental school building in Greenville and 10 community service learning centers in rural and underserved areas of North Carolina.

Woolford Trust Pledges $100,000 Toward New MCG School of Dentistry Building

Artist's rendering of the new MCG School of DentistryThe SunTrust Bank Trustees Foundation - Thomas Guy Woolford Charitable Trust has pledged $100,000 toward construction of the new Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry building. The 268,788-square-foot building will be more than 100,000 square feet larger than the existing building, which opened in 1970 on Laney Walker Boulevard. The expanded space will allow the school to increase its class size incrementally from 63 to 100 by 2016, and its residency positions from 44 to 72. The increase will make the MCG School of Dentistry among the largest in the nation; only 13 of the country's dental schools have a class size of 100 or more, according to the American Dental Association.

"We are so appreciative of this pledge," School of Dentistry Dean Connie L. Drisko said.

"It is encouraging to see a Georgia foundation support the future of the state's dental education and oral health through such a generous gift, in spite of the troubling economic news Georgia faces." Construction of the $112 million building began in October 2009 and is on schedule for completion in June 2011. The building should be occupied by the beginning of the 2011 school year. For more coverage, see the November 2009 issue of the Bulletin of Dental Education Online.

OHSU Team Discovers Powerful Molecule Regulator in Blood Pressure Control System

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry have discovered that nitric oxide is a powerful regulator of a molecule that plays a critical role in the development and function of the nervous system. The finding could someday play a significant role in the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure, which affects about one in three adults in the United States.

The new discovery is published online and will appear in the May issue of the Journal of Neuroscience Research.

Changes in blood pressure are signaled to the brain by nerve cells called baroreceptors. The OHSU dental school team previously found that baroreceptors make a molecule called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which belongs to the family of neurotrophins that play a critical role in the development and plasticity of other nerve cells.

The OHSU dental school team found that nitric oxide is a potent regulator of BDNF in baroreceptor neurons. Nitric oxide is known for its ability to improve the elasticity of blood vessels and lower blood pressure. It is the active metabolite of nitroglycerin, which has been used to treat coronary artery disease for more than 100 years. Nitric oxide widens small arteries and counteracts artery stiffening, and several lines of evidence also indicate that its deficiency leads to hypertension.

"This is the first study to show the role of nitric oxide in inhibiting BDNF release from peripheral nerve cells," said Dr. Agnieszka Z. Balkowiec, principal investigator, Associate Professor of Integrative Biosciences in the OHSU School of Dentistry and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology in the OHSU School of Medicine. "This finding supports our hypothesis that BDNF is involved in establishing connections in the blood pressure control system and could someday play a significant role in the prevention of high blood pressure."

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