Dr. Eric Sung appointed as inaugural endowed chair holder

Posted on: Wednesday, 10/14/2015

Dr. Eric Sung, professor and chair of the section of special patient care, has been appointed the inaugural holder of the UCPLA Endowed Chair in Special Patient Care at the UCLA School of Dentistry, effective September 30, 2015.

The endowed term chair – the ninth endowed chair at the dental school – was established to support teaching, research and patient care for special needs patients with a goal to advance oral health care for people with developmental disabilities and other medically vulnerable patients. The chair was created out of an alliance between the Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation, United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties (UCPLA) and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.

Dr. Sung has been with the Special Patient Care clinic, formerly the Hospital Dentistry clinic, since 1992 and became the program director of the General Practice Residency and Hospital Dentistry Program in 1995. He is the preeminent expert on treating complex cases, and is a graduate of the UCLA DDS program and the UCLA General Practice and Hospital Dentistry residency program.

Having no intention of pursuing this particular specialty, Dr. Sung decided well into his fourth year of dental school to apply to General Practice Residency and Hospital Dentistry programs. It was the application of medical principles to dental practices that first attracted him. After completing his residency, he went on to treat patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and City of Hope, positions which greatly expanded his knowledge and expertise.   

“There is no one more deserving of this endowed chair than Dr. Eric Sung. It is because of the reputation of our Special Patient Care clinic and his track record that UCLA is the no. 1 choice for treating patients with developmental disabilities,” said Dr. No-Hee Park, Dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry. “I know that he will meet the high goals that we have set for this chair holder.”

Health resources and, especially, oral health resources for people with developmental disabilities and other medically vulnerable patients are close to non-existent. This lack of resources makes finding a qualified care provider difficult for individuals who need special care. As the endowed chair holder, Dr. Sung will work to improve and develop programs to help better care for this patient population, increase accessibility and find solutions for the lack of support throughout the country for this vulnerable population.

“It is because of Dr. Sung’s passion, experience and expertise that the UCLA School of Dentistry has the highest caliber of dental care for special needs patients in all of Southern California,” said Peter Shapiro, president of the Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation. “We couldn’t think of a more qualified individual to be the inaugural holder of this endowed chair.”

An important feature of endowed chairs and professorships are to provide vital funds for the support of the chair-holder’s research, teaching, patient care and service activities. The support an endowed chair provides for teaching activities will be especially important to the future growth of the General Practice Residency and Hospital Dentistry training program. This training program prepares dentists to work comfortably in a hospital setting and provide care for compromised patients.

“My goal is to expand our Hospital Dentistry program by increasing exposure residents and dental students have to a special needs patient population,” said Dr. Eric Sung. “By increasing exposure, you’re creating an environment where these trainees become more familiar with these complex cases and not fearful. They in-turn will seriously consider this field as a future profession.”

It is the mission of the UCLA School of Dentistry to improve the oral and systemic health of people of California, the nation and the world through education, research, patient care and public service. This endowed chair and the appointment of Dr. Sung will allow the dental school to improve the health of the entire population, even those with complex medical conditions such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and severe autism.

“As a leading direct care provider of services in Southern California for persons with developmental disabilities, one of our biggest challenges is identifying quality healthcare for our clients,” said Dr. Ronald Cohen, president and chief executive officer of UCPLA. “This endowed chair and the appointment of Dr. Eric Sung is a significant step forward in improving the lives of a medically vulnerable population.”