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Dr. Dominick DePaola, educator and researcher, dies at 70

April 17, 2013

Dr. Depaola 
Dr. Dominick P. DePaola, a renowned dental educator and researcher, died unexpectedly April 16 at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He was 70 years old.

“This is a sad day for dental education and research,” Dr. Richard W. Valachovic, executive director of the American Dental Education Association, said in an email to ADEA leaders.

Dr. DePaola was the first person elected by his peers to the office of president of the ADEA. He also was elected president of the American Association of Dental Research and was the first person to hold both the ADEA and AADR presidencies. In 2005, ADEA presented Dr. DePaola with its Distinguished Service Award, one of many honors and awards earned in his lifetime.

At the time of his death, Dr. DePaola was academic dean of the Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. From 1998-2007, he was president and chief executive officer of Boston's Forsyth Institute, an independent research organization.

Earlier in his career, Dr. DePaola served as dean of three U.S. dental schools: the Dental School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; the New Jersey Dental School at the University of Medicine and Dentistry at New Jersey; and the Baylor College of Dentistry, Dallas. During his tenure in San Antonio, Dr. DePaola also was acting dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

He was highly regarded for his research on nutrition as it relates to oral health and disease—work that earned him an honorary membership in the American Dietetic Association, the only dentist so honored.

Dr. DePaola published more than 80 scholarly articles and textbook chapters, and also edited two texts. He delivered more than 1,000 national and international lectures, seminars and special education courses. He also was a founding member of the Santa Fe Group, a think tank on dental policy and advocacy.

In 2009, he received the Gies Award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Oral Health and Education from the ADEAGies Foundation.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Dr. DePaola received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1964 from St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights. In a 2011 interview for Inside Dentistry, Dr. DePaola lauded the education he received at St. Francis as preparation for a career in service to others.

“Essentially, they made it clear that we had a lot of opportunities ahead of us in life, and one of them could be caring for people,” he said. “So that experience pushed me into thinking about what kind of profession I wanted to go into.”

He earned his dental degree in 1969 from the New York University College of Dentistry and later completed a general dentistry internship at Beth Abraham Hospital in New York City. He also earned a doctorate in nutritional biochemistry and metabolism from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Asked what advice he would offer today's dental graduates, Dr. DePaola told Inside Dentistry that new dentists should “train to be careful, critical thinkers.”

He added, “They have to understand lifelong learning and be prepared for the unexpected, because change is imminent and continuous. They also need to really care about the health of the public.”

A funeral mass for Dr. DePaola was scheduled for Saturday, April 20, at Brooklyn's St. Francis of Paola Church, followed by burial at Calvary Cemetery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Dr. DePaola is survived by his wife, Rosemary, and their daughter, Alexis. Donations can be made to the Dominick and Rosemary DePaola Scholarship Fund at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen St., Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. 11201.