Saliva-test pioneer David Wong named to endowed chair in dentistry

Posted on: Sunday, 11/30/2008

The UCLA School of Dentistry has named oral biology professor David Wong, a pioneer in the use of saliva for diagnosing cancer and other diseases, as the first holder of the Felix and Mildred Yip Endowed Professorship in Dentistry.

The new chair, created by a $1 million gift from Dr. Felix Yip and his wife, Mildred, will support research on oral and head and neck cancers, an area of particular emphasis at the School of Dentistry. Wong has made major advances in the fight against oral cancer, having developed with colleagues the first standardized saliva-based test for the disease. His ongoing research in saliva diagnostics has helped build UCLA's reputation as a center for excellence in oral fluid research.

"Felix and Mildred Yip are visionary donors who saw an opportunity to help advance a promising area of scientific research that ultimately could save lives," said No-Hee Park, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry. "Their generous gift supports our efforts to make salivary diagnostics a new clinical paradigm for disease detection."

The Yips are noted philanthropists within the Asian American community in Southern California and have been generous supporters of UCLA and the School of Dentistry. They are among a small group of Chinese-American philanthropists who have established chairs at UCLA.

Felix Yip has served as a member of the School of Dentistry's board of counselors since 2003, and since 2002, the Yips have funded a scholarship program at the school that enables foreign scholars to obtain UCLA training in the remedy of craniofacial defects.

"Mildred and I have long been impressed with the quality of the research being conducted by the UCLA School of Dentistry, especially for those patients who suffer from cancer and related maladies," said Felix Yip, a practicing urologist. "It is gratifying that our gift will help many generations to come by supporting the research activities of a distinguished faculty member. We are proud to play a vital role in fulfilling UCLA's mission of research, education and public service."

The Felix and Mildred Yip Endowed Professorship in Dentistry is the fifth endowed professorship to be established at the dental school.

Wong serves as the school's associate dean of research and director of the Dental Research Institute. He is also a member of UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center.

Working at the frontier of the science of using saliva — rather than blood or other bodily fluids — to detect illness, Wong and his colleagues in 2006 standardized a saliva-based test for the early detection of oral cancer, a debilitating and often fatal disease. Wong's lab is currently engaged in perfecting salivary diagnostics for a wide range of illnesses, including pancreatic and lung cancers and Type 2 diabetes, and is also involved in a multidisciplinary effort to create a point-of-care device for analyzing the biological markers of disease in saliva. Wong is the author of the premiere textbook of his field, "Salivary Diagnostics," published this fall.

Wong obtained his degree in dentistry from the University of British Columbia and completed doctoral training in molecular biology and clinical training in oral pathology at Harvard University. Formerly a member of the faculty of Harvard's School of Dental Medicine, Wong joined the UCLA School of Dentistry in 2002.

Wong's research is supported by grants from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and the National Cancer Institute. His new chair title will become effective Jan. 1, 2009.

The UCLA School of Dentistry is dedicated to improving the oral health of the people of California, the nation and the world through its teaching, research, patient care and public service initiatives. The school provides education and training programs that develop leaders in dental education, research, the profession and the community; conducts research programs that generate new knowledge, promote oral health, and investigate the cause, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral disease; and delivers patient‑centered oral health care to the community and state.