Heart surgeon Denton A. Cooley, MD (left) is pictured with Rade D. Paravina, DDS, PhD, the first holder of a distinguished professorship named for Cooley's father, Ralph C. Cooley, DDS, seen in the portrait behind them. Photo by Rhonda Whitmeyer.
University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston Professor Rade D. Paravina, DDS, MS, PhD, has been chosen as the first holder of the Ralph C. Cooley, DDS, Distinguished Professorship in Biomaterials, an endowment created by world-renowned heart surgeon Denton A. Cooley, MD, in memory of his father, a 1908 graduate of the school.
The professorship is the first in biomaterials at UTSD and celebrates Dr. Ralph Cooley’s achievements as an internationally known dentist and inventor of dental devices and biomaterials, including Copalite, the most widely used restorative product in the 20th century.
Paravina is director of the Houston Center for Biomaterials and Biomimetics at UTSD, where he is a tenured associate professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry and Prosthodontics. He is an internationally known expert in color and appearance in esthetic dentistry and, together with the dental company Vita Zahnfabrik, has designed two shade guides, Linearguide 3D Master and Bleachedguide 3D Master, both licensed through the UT Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
He has also authored/co-edited two books: Fundamentals of Color: Shade Matching and Communication in Esthetic Dentistry (Quintessence Publishing, 2011) and Esthetic Color Training in Dentistry (Elsevier, 2004); as well as two software programs, an educational CD, and more than 170 peer-reviewed publications.
Funds from the endowment are to be used to support a faculty position with emphasis on research and instruction in the area of biomaterials and their applications in restorative dentistry. Dean John A. Valenza, DDS, said Paravina was selected because of his role as director of the Houston Center for Biomaterials and Biomimetics.
Paravina thanked Valenza, Associate Dean for Research Jacqueline Hecht, PhD, and Restorative Dentistry and Prosthodontics Department Chair Raymond Koeppen, DDS, MBA, MS for the distinguished professorship.
Paravina earned his doctoral degrees at the University of Nis School of Medicine in Serbia — his native country. He first heard the Cooley name, he said, while growing up in Serbia in the late 1960s. Denton Cooley performed the first successful human heart transplant in the United States in 1968, and a year later became the first heart surgeon to implant an artificial heart in a human. He pioneered many techniques used in cardiovascular surgery.
Among Cooley’s many honors is membership in the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, a coincidence that surprised and pleased Paravina. But he is also mindful that it is the heart surgeon’s dentist father, Ralph C. Cooley, for whom the distinguished professorship is named.
“What Dr. Ralph Cooley did is pretty much in line with the philosophy I use in research in biomaterials,” Paravina said. “We want to make clinical dentistry easier by developing products that are efficient and can be used without significant learning curves.
“Materials can work against dental professionals, or they can work for them,” he said. “So we’re working to develop materials that work for us.”