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Nero and Biggerstaff Diversity Scholarship Fund - National Dental

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									                          Drs. Nero and Biggerstaff Diversity Scholarship Fund



         On Saturday October 16, 2010 Dean Sharon Turner of the University of Kentucky College of
Dentistry (UKCD) and members of the Kentucky Dental Society hosted a reception in honor of Dr.
Benjamin Nero (’67) and Dr. Robert H. Biggerstaff (’73 Orthodontics). This occasion launched the public
announcement of the Drs. Nero and Biggerstaff Diversity Scholarship Fund. Members of the scholarship
planning group were Dr. Canise Bean (’80), Dr. Carol Bolden (’89) and her husband Wayne Bolden, Dr.
Carrie Brown (’80), Dr. Lamont Gholston (’76 and 80 Orthodontics), Dr. Charles Lee Hatley (’85), Dr.
David Mott (’90), Dr. Ben Nero and Dr. Charles Thomas (’77). The group was ably assisted by Ms. Kim
Harris, director of Development, University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. The scholarship committee
awarded Jihaad Abdul-Majid (’11) and Tyresia White (’13) $ 1, 000 each. The amount raised to date is
$34,375.

       Dr. Biggerstaff accepted the recognition and spoke passionately and eloquently with
appreciation. Dr. Nero could not attend. His letter of acknowledgement, appreciation and perspective
was read to the attendees who responded enthusiastically.

        Dr. Nero, a native of Greenwood, Mississippi, graduated from Kentucky State University in 1962.
He was the football team’s premier quarterback. He majored in biology with minors in chemistry and
English. His early career began as a pathology technician in the UKCD laboratory of Professor Sheldon
Rovin. Dr. Nero received his DMD degree in 1967 in the second graduating class. He was the first
African American graduate.

         Dr. Nero completed his dental education with an internship and a residency in orthodontics.
Both programs were located at the Albert Einstein Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania. His
planned partnership with a mentor in Philadelphia culminated in his purchasing this orthodontic practice
after his mentor’s premature death. He has practiced since 1971 in Philadelphia and has two satellite
offices in New Jersey. Nero’s impact on young patients has been enormous and he has been a
successful ambassador for dentistry. Dr. Nero’s guidance and influence on African American dental
students at the University of Pennsylvania has been especially great.

        The story of Dr. Biggerstaff’s career is really a homecoming saga. His journey began in his
hometown of Richmond, Kentucky. Biggerstaff’s father, a local general dentist, relocated his practice to
Lexington while his son was in high school. Robert Biggerstaff then graduated from Lexington Dunbar
High School and matriculated to Howard University in Washington, DC. At Howard he earned BS and
DDS degrees.

        Biggerstaff returned to Kentucky in the 1950s and practiced general dentistry in Louisville for
eight years. The desire to explore many issues in craniofacial biology led to his earning MS and PhD
degrees in physical anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. Shortly after several prominent
presentations at scientific meetings, Dr. Biggerstaff was recruited to become a faculty member at UKCD.
He taught growth and development and conducted research. While on the faculty, Biggerstaff earned a
certificate in orthodontics.

         With the faculty appointment of Dr. Biggerstaff, UKCD institutionalized its “diversity
experiment”. As a faculty member, he pioneered computer assisted dentoalveolar measurement
models (1969-1980), presented research solutions with computers in orthodontics, continued and
promulgated the exploration of genetic variation in bilateral dental structures using his twin model and
solidified the union of physical anthropology and forensic dentistry. Biggerstaff’s efforts also brought
NIH grants to the College. He has published over 63 peer reviewed papers. His professional and
scientific efforts merited promotions to full professor and later chairman of the UKCD Department of
Orthodontics.

        As the first Black faculty member at UKCD, Dr. Biggerstaff, along with Dean Harry Bohannon and
Mr. Gerald Hill, established a template for the recruitment and retention of Black dental students. This
template was focused on educating Kentucky residents to help address the enormous unmet dental
need in Kentucky.

        Recent survey findings (October 2009) from the “diversity experiment” are impressive. The
majority of African American DMD graduates have been residents of Kentucky. When compared with
the University of Louisville School of Dentistry (ULSD), these diversity data are quite different. Having
had two-thirds the class size of ULSD, UKCD (founded 1962) has graduated 67 African American dentists;
ULSD (founded 1887) has graduated about 65 African American dentists. Intramurally, UKCD has
graduated seven specialists and ULSD has graduated five specialists. It is known that at least 12
extramural programs (Albert Einstein Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University, Duke University,
Medical College of Georgia, National Naval Dental School, Ohio State University, Ohio University College
of Osteopathic Medicine, University of Alabama-Birmingham, University of Louisville, University of
Michigan, University of Missouri and VA Medical Center-Los Angeles, CA) have educated Black UKCD
graduates in every dental specialty. At least one graduate attended medical school and became a
radiologist. To date, there are at least 18 Black specialists. By contrast, at least four Black ULSD
graduates have attended extramural specialty programs (Michael Reese Hospital, Tufts University and
University of Rochester). The Black dentists from UKCD reflect the wide range of activity within the
profession of dentistry. There are private practice clinicians, providers in hospitals and in community
health center settings, military managers, federal administrators and academicians.

        The impact of Dr. Robert Biggerstaff’s career in the areas of physical anthropology, orthodontics,
forensic dentistry and educational diversity has been significant. Many of his contributions have gone
unnoticed. However, the Commonwealth of Kentucky has been the beneficiary. Through his patients
and students, Dr. Biggerstaff has enjoyed a long and successful career of clinical practice, teaching and
research. He and his wife G. Marinelle are retired and reside in Louisville and Florida.

Lamont R. Gholston, DMD, MPH, MSD

UKCD Class of 1976

								
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