R. Gary Rozier, D.D.S., M.P.H.

John P. Rossetti Community Oral Health Impact Award 2021 Recipient

R. Gary Rozier, DDS, MPH

Throughout his 44-year career in dental public health, Dr. R. Gary Rozier became known as a cutting-edge researcher, consultant, and educator.

One of Dr. Rozier’s most noteworthy achievements was leading a team of researchers in evaluating the Into the Mouths of Babes program in North Carolina, the cornerstone of a Medicaid initiative designed to improve access to oral health preventive services for preschool-age children. Since this initiative launched, millions of young children in the United States have received such services.

Dr. Rozier played a key role in the Into the Mouths of Babes program that trains primary care health professionals in delivering preventive oral health services. The program was the first of its kind in the United States. Dr. Rozier led a comprehensive team in an evaluation of the program that resulted in more than 24 peer-reviewed publications about its effectiveness. The program resulted in an 18 percent reduction in dental treatment and a 21 percent reduction in oral-health-related hospitalizations among program participants, as well as other positive outcomes. The program has contributed to reducing disparities in oral health status and increasing access to oral health care for preschool-age children. In North Carolina, more than 500 primary care health professionals deliver preventive oral health services during more than 160,000 well-child visits every year; about half of visits are for children ages 1 and 2 who are enrolled in public insurance.

Almost two decades after its inception, the program has demonstrated that this primary care model is transferrable to other states, is sustainable, and is cost-effective in reducing disparities in access to oral health preventive services. Reimbursement for fluoride varnish applied to the teeth of young children by primary care health professionals is now available in every state. Across the country, preschool-age children, many of whom would not otherwise have received oral health preventive services, have benefitted from receiving care as a result of the program.

Dr. Rozier’s studies provided the first-ever scientific evidence of the effectiveness of this delivery model and led to preventive oral health services being recommended as an essential part of well child care by the American Academy of Pediatrics; the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force among other health organizations. His contributions to the scientific literature total more than 170 peer-reviewed publications plus many more editorials, monographs, and book chapters.

Dr. Rozier has mentored more than 100 graduate students and is known for holding students to the highest scientific standards. More than 40 of his students have been recognized with awards from the American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPD) and other professional organizations. He is past president of AAPD; the American Board of Dental Public Health; and the Behavioral, Epidemiologic, & Health Services Research Group of the International Association for Dental Research, and past editor of the Journal of Public Health Dentistry. Dr. Rozier serves on several editorial boards.

Dr. Rozier received his B.S. degree from Wake Forest University and his D.D.S. and M.P.H. degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). He retired from full-time teaching in 2014. His career was honored with a professorship that bears his name and that of Dr. Chester Douglass, who, along with Dr. Joy Douglass, made this professorship possible through a private gift. Dr. Rozier remains active as a professor emeritus in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Gillings School of Global Public Health, UNC, and has produced 40 publications since his official retirement.

Dr. Barbara K. Rimer, dean of the Gillings School of Global Public Health, has written that Dr. Rozier exemplifies what it means to be a gentleman and a scholar. She says, “his scholarship is legendary, impressive in both the quantity of his publications and the depth and breadth of his research impact. He is a great example of how academic research can benefit people in our communities.”

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