Wednesday, March 19, 2014
The Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry has endowed and named its department chair position for S. Elmer Bear, D.D.S., who held the position from 1962 to 1981. It is the VCU School of Dentistry’s first-ever endowed chair.
The current department chair, A. Omar Abubaker, D.M.D., Ph.D., became the first S. Elmer Bear Chair in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery this month.
Abubaker has been at the VCU School of Dentistry for almost 23 years and has been the chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery for nearly 12 years. He earned his Ph.D. and D.M.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, is certified by the American Board of Oral Maxillofacial Surgery and the National Dental Board of Anesthesiology and has authored more than 45 scholarly articles, 111 book chapters and two textbooks.
“Being part of this department and one of the teachers and mentors in this program over the past 23 years, I feel that I am part of what the Bear Chair symbolizes,” Abubaker said. “So to be the first Bear Chair, and be part of what the chair is about, is an unparalleled unique privilege and a high honor. It is the best reward I could ask for in an academic career.”
“I think this could be, no doubt, a high point for the School of Dentistry’s history to have the first endowed chair named after Elmer Bear,” said David Sarrett, D.M.D., dean of the VCU School of Dentistry.
Bear became chair of the Medical College of Virginia’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in 1962 and served in that position until 1981, by which time MCV had merged with Richmond Professional Institute to become VCU.
“To a guy who’s gotten almost every honor, this is the ultimate honor,” said 1983 VCU oral surgery resident Joe Niamtu, D.M.D., in a video produced to support the chair’s endowment. “(Bear) did more for the specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery in his 60 years on the planet than may happen in the next 100 years.”
“He is one of the pioneers of oral and maxillofacial surgeons who advanced the specialty locally, nationally and internationally through practice and research,” Abubaker said. “He transformed the traditionally minor oral surgery to a specialty that treats and manages many head, face and neck diseases and conditions.”
Bear held many leadership positions in local and national organizations. At the peak of his career, he was president of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the official organization of the specialty.
One of his most iinfluential accomplishments was the founding of VCU’s Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency Program, which today receives a yearly average of 170 highly qualified applicants for just three positions.
“He dedicated his life to educating and training dental students and oral and maxillofacial surgeons,” Abubaker said. “Many of his students and graduates went on to be national leaders of the specialty and the profession as deans, chairpersons and presidents of national professional organizations.”
Today, the School of Dentistry’s Department of Oral and Maxiollofacial Surgery is closely associated with the VCU School of Medicine and the VCU Medical Center.
These unique partnerships provide students with the option to earn a medical degree after graduation and department faculty and residents with opportunities to deliver complex elective and emergency surgical care to patients from across the VCU Medical Center. Such care supports the medical center as a Level I trauma center and major cancer and cardiac patient care facility while providing oral and facial surgery services that are not being offered outside the VCU Medical Center.
Department faculty and residents also contribute significant amounts of research and published scholarly writing annually.
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