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The Catalyst

Pediatric dentist, eduator, mentor praised and remembered

By Cindy Abole
Public Relations

Dental Medicine’s Dr. Ron A. Bell.

Pediatric dentist and dental educator Ronald Allen Bell, DDS, a professor of pediatric dentistry and orthodontics at MUSC’s James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine, died at his home on John’s Island on July 29. He was 67.

Beloved by dental faculty, staff, residents, and students, Bell served as chairman of Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics until his retirement in 2004. During his tenure at MUSC, Bell was named director of the postgraduate program in Pediatric Dentistry, MUSC Children’s Hospital and College of Dental Medicine, and served as director of the postgraduate program in orthodontics also at the dental school.

On a national level, Bell served as president of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and the College of Diplomates, American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. He was a fellow of the Pierre Fauchard Academy, a member of Omicron Kappa Upsilon and a fellow of the American College of Dentists. He was selected for America’s Top Dentists Award (2003 to 2013) and America’s Top Teachers Awards (2004-2013). He was selected Outstanding Alumnus, Louisiana State University School of Dentistry (2002).

Luis Leite, DMD, professor and chairman of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, praised Bell for his contributions to dental education and friendship. “Dr. Bell was a brilliant teacher and was passionate about his work, life, family, friends, and the good times. He spent over 35 years committed to contributing to the knowledge of his students and improving the lives of his patients. He had a profound effect on those around him, and his role in the education of residents and students will remain an enduring legacy.”

Cynthia Hipp, DDS, director of the Postgraduate Pediatric Dentistry Program and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, also shared fond memories of her colleague.

“Ron recognized the best in all of us, even when we did not see it in ourselves,” said Hipp. “He was an amazing husband, father, friend, educator, and mentor. Ron’s legacy lives through the lives he has touched, taught and mentored over so many years. I am a better person to have had the opportunity to know and learn from him.”

Interim director of the Postgraduate Orthodontics Program, Jing Zhou, DDS, Ph.D., praised Bell for his wisdom and zest for life. “Ron was more than just a mentor to me at work, he was a friend who was always willing to share his wisdom about orthodontics as well as fun conversations about food, beer and life. Most importantly, he was a good man, someone that our colleagues, students and patients could really trust.”

Dental colleague Harry Hutchins, DDS, was recruited by Bell in 1990 and worked side by side with him for 24 years. “My tribute to Ron is to continue to teach our undergraduate and graduate dental students so long as I physically and or mentally can.”

James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine’s Dr. Ron Bell, right, receives The Order of the Palmetto award from Dean John J. Sanders, left, on July 23. Also present is his wife, Marti Bell and son, Matt.  photos by Anne Thompson, Digital Imaging

On July 23, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley bestowed The Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, upon Bell for his contributions to people around the state. His friends and colleagues have established the Dr. Ronald A. Bell Endowment in Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, the first in the college.  A lecture series is being planned to honor Bell’s legacy.

Dean of the College of Dental Medicine, John J. Sanders, DDS, summed up his staff’s admiration for Bell as a colleague and friend. “He was a great educator, a true mentor and I am very fortunate to say, my friend. Dr. Bell had a long and very distinguished career that was recently recognized by his receiving the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest honor. He was with the college for 24 short years and served as first chairman of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics and later as the first and only director of the Orthodontics Residency Program. He clearly will be missed and fondly remembered.”

A native of Louisiana, Bell was born in Baton Rouge, July 7, 1947. He completed his early education at East Baton Rouge Parish public schools. He attended Tulane University and received his undergraduate degree from LSU in 1969.  He completed his degree in dental sciences from LSU in 1973. He went on to earn a master’s degree in education from what was then known as LSU-New Orleans. After serving three years in the U.S. Army Dental Corps, Bell returned to LSU-New Orleans to earn a certificate in pedodontics. In 1987, he earned a second specialty certificate in orthodontics from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. He spent the early years of his career teaching at MCG before moving to Charleston.

Bell is survived by his wife of 46 years, Marti and son, Matthew, both of Charleston; sister, Mary Marguerite Attuso of Baton Rouge, LA; and other family.

In lieu of flowers the family requests that contributions be sent to the Ronald A. Bell Endowment for Pediatric and Orthodontic Dentistry, MUSC Foundation, 18 Bee St., MSC450 Charleston, SC 29425.

A memorial service for Bell is scheduled at 4 p.m., Oct. 3 at MUSC’s St. Luke’s Chapel.


September 12, 2014



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