De Rossi: “I’m home”

The new dean of Carolina's School of Dentistry has already shown a passionate, visible presence.

Since his arrival as dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Dentistry in January, Scott S. De Rossi has made it a point to be a visible presence.

He routinely spends lunch hours in the dental school atrium talking with students, faculty and staff, and is a regular visitor to the school’s various units, departments and the dental clinic.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt singled out De Rossi’s passion for his profession and for people when she introduced him during a welcoming celebration Thursday (March 30) at the Koury Oral Health Sciences Building.

“It is wonderful to have this welcoming ceremony because Scott has become such a part of this community already,” Folt said. “He has been a dynamo from the day he arrived.”

A dynamo, she added, who sometimes brings doughnuts.

“I heard you have a “Doughnuts with the Dean” and I started thinking, ‘Teeth? Doughnuts with the Dean?’”

She paused.

“So do you brush your teeth right after eating doughnuts? I actually want to come to that, having a sweet tooth myself.”

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost James W. Dean Jr. said De Rossi demonstrated his leadership ability as the previous department chair at Augusta University’s Dental College of Georgia.

He brings to Carolina a distinguished scholarly record and a respected clinical history.

But what made De Rossi rise above other candidates for the position was his passion about providing students with the best education possible and patients with the best possible care.

“While going through the process of recruitment and selection, one of the things that most stood out about Scott was his contagious energy and enthusiasm for dentistry, which is clearly heartfelt and deeply felt and really something I completely respect to have that sort of passion for one’s areas of work,” Dean said.

De Rossi earned his doctor of dental medicine degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, graduating with highest honors, and a certificate in oral medicine from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

He earned a bachelor of science degree from Providence College, and in December, earned a master’s degree in business administration from Augusta University’s Hull College of Business.

Folt noted that De Rossi comes from Augusta – a place where wearing green jackets is customary this time of the year. But from the time De Rossi found out he was coming to Carolina, Folt said, De Rossi took to wearing Caroline blue.

De Rossi offered this explanation when he took the stage.

“I know that my success has in no small part been due to the students, faculty, staff and colleagues that I have worked with over my years in academia,” De Rossi said. “But I’m home. UNC is truly a special place with special programs and special people.

“Our students and residents are extremely bright and passionate. Our faculty is world-renowned and forward thinking. Our staff is extremely hardworking and dedicated. Our alumni are accomplished, influential and unfailingly loyal.”

To have such a vibrant school community, De Rossi added, is a distinction in and of itself.

“But to have it incorporated into one of the preeminent institutions in the world, in the University of North Carolina, really makes it a place that is second to none,” De Rossi said.

The school has long been listed as a leader in education, research, community service and patient care, De Rossi said.

“It is my vision that UNC Dentistry will move beyond excellence – with your help,” De Rossi said. “Dental medicine, like all professions, is evolving rapidly. Change happens on an hourly basis, never mind a daily basis.”

Here at Carolina, he said, “we will lead that change by developing nimble oral health professionals” able to adapt to shifting demographics of disease, ready to use emerging technologies and capable of developing new health-care delivery models to reach more people.

“We will engage digital dentistry, both in the classroom and in the clinic, allowing us to better serve our students and our patients,” De Rossi said. “And to meet the mission of the University, we will engage globally, bringing benefits of teaching, research and service to individuals in communities locally and throughout the world.”