School of Dentistry dean named Alumnus of the Year by Seoul National University

Posted on: Friday, 10/05/2007

No-Hee Park, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry, has been named Alumnus of the Year by Seoul National University in South Korea. He will accept the honor at an awards ceremony on Friday, Oct. 12, during the university's 61st anniversary celebration.

A noted cancer scientist and a distinguished professor at the School of Dentistry and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Park was selected on the basis of his "unrivaled achievements" and "outstanding professionalism," according to the official award letter issued by his alma mater.

Park spent 10 years as a student at Seoul National University, where he earned his D.D.S. degree and an M.S.D. degree in oral biology and pharmacology, in addition to three academic certificates.

Seoul National University is widely considered one of the most prestigious universities in Korea and in the world. Its graduates are among the foremost leaders in South Korea's government and business circles, and many of its alumni have achieved international reputations.

"The recognition of No-Hee Park as Seoul National University's Alumnus of the Year speaks to the reputation he has established as a leader in education and in head and neck cancer research, both here and abroad," said Robert Lindemann, associate dean of academic programs and personnel at the UCLA School of Dentistry. "On behalf of the UCLA dental school family, I would like to congratulate him on this honor."

Upon completing his service as a captain in the South Korean army, Park moved to the United States in 1975, at the age of 31, to study for a doctorate in pharmacology at the Medical College of Georgia. He was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship in virology and molecular biology at Harvard Medical School and completed his U.S. dental degree at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, where he later became an assistant professor.

A professor at UCLA since 1984, and the first to be named a distinguished professor at the School of Dentistry, Park has served as the school's dean since 1998 and is the longest-standing leader in the department's history. During his tenure, Park reestablished the financial stability of the school and its clinics; instituted a combined D.D.S. and Ph.D. program, a professional program for international dentists and a post-baccalaureate program for disadvantaged students; and oversaw a more than 300 percent increase in annual extramural research funding. He also founded the Dean's Leadership Institute, a seminar series that prepares students to play prominent roles in dentistry and society.

The author of more than 150 original research articles published in peer-reviewed journals, Park has maintained his research activities while dean. His areas of specialty include the molecular mechanisms of cancer development and cellular aging. In 2006, Park and his research colleagues announced that they had discovered the natural tumor-suppressive function of an RNA-building protein.

"This is an incredible and unexpected honor for me," Park said. "I consider Seoul National University my umbilical cord to my homeland. Many years ago, the training I received there gave me the strength to go forward and forge a new path in my life. It is a privilege to be named Alumnus of the Year."