New dean at High Point University dental school| NC Health News

New dean at High Point University dental school| NC Health News

By Anne Blythe

Less than three months after High Point University held a groundbreaking ceremony for what will be the first private dental school in North Carolina, the founding dean has left; one of his assistant deans has been promoted to fill the post.

It’s not clear why Scott De Rossi, the founding dean and professor of the Workman School of Dental Medicine, left after being at High Point University since January 2021. Efforts to reach him by phone and text message were unsuccessful.

“HPU extends its heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Scott De Rossi for his remarkable contributions and wish him the very best in his future endeavors,” read a statement provided by the HPU media relations office.

Muhammad Ali Shazib, who had been the chief clinical officer and assistant dean for practice at the Workman school, has been selected as the new dean.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the community of High Point University, its patrons and our North Carolinians in breaking down barriers and to come together for the mission of putting those who need our care at the center of everything that we do,” Shazib said in a statement provided by the HPU media relations office. “To wake up every morning and be able to serve our faculty, staff, learners and patients is a dream come true for me.”

Prepping for students’ arrival

The dental school being built in High Point is expected to welcome its first students in the 2024 fall semester — 60 in all.

It will be one of three schools in North Carolina educating the next generations of dentists. The state’s two public dentistry schools are at UNC Chapel Hill and East Carolina University.

In a phone interview with NC Health News after the groundbreaking ceremony in late September, De Rossi said the dental school in High Point had been in the works for nearly a decade and a half. First the Great Recession sidelined those plans, then the COVID pandemic tossed planners a few unexpected hurdles in the timeline.

The school had touted the possibility of opening to students in 2023, but accrediting requests to the Commission on Dental Accreditation got backed up during the pandemic, De Rossi said, and the opening date was pushed to 2024.

That has not stopped the school from setting up High Point University Health, a private network of dental offices within a 65-mile radius of High Point that are owned and run by the university.

Dental students will be able to get practical experience at the offices. Additionally, revenue from the practices, which could number as many as 30 if the planning goal is met, will be streamed to the dental school to help offset operational costs.

State-of-the-art innovation

Eventually, the Workman School of Dental Medicine will be housed in a 77,000-square-foot building on the High Point University campus in an area where other health care schools are clustered.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Nido Qubein, president of the university since 2005, and others who spoke described the new dental school as one that would be “innovative” with “state-of-the-art technology.”

In the release sent to NC Health News by the HPU media relations office, Shazib is described as someone who “seeks to advance the school’s mission of becoming a leader in innovation, experiential education and life skills in oral health care.”

Shazib became interested in oral health as a youngster working in his father’s lab. He went to Lahore Medical and Dental College in Pakistan’s second largest city from 2005 to 2009 and received a bachelor’s degree in dental surgery.

After that, he did a stint in Singapore, working at a cellular and tissue engineering lab from 2010 to 2012.

Shazib then came to the United States and earned a doctorate of dental medicine from the Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine in 2014. He then completed a postdoctoral residency in oral medicine at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Making a mark in NC

In North Carolina, Shazib has worked as an assistant professor of oral medicine at the UNC Adams School of Dentistry. 

In 2020, when he joined the Chapel Hill dental school faculty, Shazib’s interests included oral health outcomes for cancer patients and events associated with chemotherapy, a topic he became interested in while working in his father’s cancer biology lab.

“I always had an interest in science,” Shazib said in a video posted to a Novant Health website. “I grew up in my father’s cancer biology lab, teaching his students how to culture and grow cells. I had a fascination with doing things with my hands and problem-solving. And in my journey of exploring what I wanted to do when I grow up, this was sort of my calling, to be here as a health care provider, to help patients that suffer from diseases of the mouth, face and jaw.

“I love the fact that in my field I have been able to solve problems that patients have often been suffering for many, many years or months.”

Shazib maintains active patient care in oral medicine, oncology and medically complex dentistry at Novant Health, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and the HPU Health-Oral Health network.

News of the exit of the founding dean had been circulating last week, but few knew what prompted the change.

De Rossi, who received his dental degree from the University of Pennsylvania dental school, joined the High Point University dental school in January 2021 after four years as dean of the UNC dental school.

Previously, De Rossi told NC Health News that he liked the idea of building a program from the ground up that wouldn’t be bogged down by the wheels of bureaucracy that sometimes turn slowly in public state-supported schools.

“The Workman School of Dental Medicine will be groundbreaking with its innovative care curriculum, its novel admission processes, its unprecedented oral health networks distributed across the Triad, across the state, delivering care to the citizens of North Carolina, ensuring our students receive pre-eminent clinical and didactic education in authentic environments,” De Rossi told the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony in September. “We will be relentless in our pursuit of integrating medicine and dentistry to improve health outcomes.”

Republish This StoryRepublish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Recommended For You