Held in conjunction with celebration of program’s 50th academic year

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Michele Ross, a 1999 graduate of the West Virginia University School of Dentistry’s Dental Hygiene program, will be the first to tell you how proud she is to be a Mountaineer. In fact, she’s so proud of her alma mater that she made a $100,000 gift toward the renovation of the Dental Hygiene Lab, which was officially dedicated Friday (Oct. 3).

With Ross’ gift and the $20,000 she helped to raise through donations from some of her fellow alums, the Dental Hygiene Lab received a major facelift. All the countertops, cabinets, and lighting were replaced. An additional lab station was added -- for a total of 25 – and each station is equipped with a new dental simulator manikin head and monitor. The stations also have the added feature of laptop connectivity. The work was completed in March while students were on spring break.
“Our students and faculty are very grateful to Michele for her continued support of our program,” Amy Funk, director of the WVU Division of Dental Hygiene, said. “Our Dental Hygiene Lab was long overdue for these renovations, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. It looks like a completely different room.”

For Ross, a Weirton, W.Va., native who currently lives in Chicago, the biggest reward from her donation came at an unexpected time and place.

“I was in Boston for a yearly dental hygiene conference, and a few students came up to me and thanked me,” she said. “At that point, the renovations weren’t done yet. It was exciting for me to see and hear how excited they were about it.”

This gift isn’t Ross’ first to the School of Dentistry. She also gave $12,000 in 2011 to name a dental operatory in the student clinic. Both gifts were made on behalf of Ross and her husband Tom Clark through the Clark Family Foundation.

Anthony “Tom” Borgia, D.D.S., interim dean of the WVU School of Dentistry, said it is the generosity of alums and donors that helps the School attract and retain the best and brightest students and faculty.

“We often talk about how we are known for producing highly skilled, clinically competent dentists and dental hygienists. In order to do that, we have to have cutting-edge equipment and technology on which to train our students,” Dr. Borgia said. “There are needs within the School that we cannot meet with state funding alone. With gifts like that from Michele Ross, we can bridge that gap, so we thank her for helping us fulfill our mission.”

The dedication of the lab on the Friday of WVU’s Homecoming Weekend, when students, faculty, staff, and alumni gathered in Morgantown, also made for the perfect opportunity to celebrate the Dental Hygiene Program’s 50th academic year.

The establishment of the undergraduate Dental Hygiene Program in the early 1960s was a milestone in dental hygiene education. WVU has the distinction of being the first and only four-year integrated baccalaureate dental hygiene program in the country. The integrated liberal arts and professional curriculum has served as model for other programs throughout the nation.

Each student attends a rural site externship for eight weeks, obtaining “real world” experience in rural dental practice and the community. In addition, students design and implement a two-year research project, culminating in a formal presentation of their research during the WVU School of Dentistry Alumni Day. Selected students present their research projects at the American Dental Hygienists’ Association’s annual meeting. During this national research competition, WVU Dental Hygiene students have received 29 awards over the last 32 years.

WVU Division of Dental Hygiene has the reputation for producing outstanding clinicians. Those who have chosen to continue their pursuit of higher education have found success in post-graduate programs, including dentistry, medicine, business, and law.

The Program has always received full accreditation status through reviews by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation. It is one of two bachelor’s programs to be distinguished as a Program of Excellence by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

The Division of Dental Hygiene also offers a program of advanced study leading to the degree of Master of Science in Dental Hygiene. It is designed to qualify dental hygienists for careers in teaching, administration, research, and management.

To her fellow alums of the WVU School of Dentistry, future graduates of the School, and its supporters, Ross has issued a challenge.

“You shouldn’t ever forget where you came from. I’m proud to be a Mountaineer because of the friendships, the job, and the opportunities it has given me,” she said. “You have to give back to the University so the School of Dentistry can continue to produce the highest quality of dental hygienists and dental professionals.”

The contribution was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $1 billion comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.

Photo caption: WVU Dental Hygiene alumna Michele Ross (center) poses for a photo with Anthony “Tom” Borgia, D.D.S., interim dean of the WVU School of Dentistry, and Amy Funk, director of the WVU Dental Hygiene program in the Michele Ross Dental Hygiene Lab, which was officially dedicated on Friday, Oct. 3.

For more information: Angela Jones-Knopf, News Service Coordinator, 304-293-7087
ajk: 09-18-14