Giving Back to a School That Shaped a Career

June 5, 2017

Knowing that a substantial gift could make a big impact for a small school like the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM), Robert Chuong, DMD77, MD77, PD82, and his wife Elaine Wong, DMD, recently established a Charitable Lead Annuity Trust in the amount of $1 million for HSDM. The trust will provide the School with an annual sum for a term of 20 years.

“I feel thankful for the opportunity to go to Harvard. HSDM was naturally the place to give my gift,” Chuong said.

As a graduate student, Chuong came to HSDM from New York City. His first impression of Boston was that it was considerably smaller than his home city where he attended Columbia University as an undergraduate. “I was surprised that the T shut down at midnight,” he said.

Not only did he come to a smaller city, but to Harvard School of Dental Medicine, the smallest graduate school of Harvard. Joining a class of less than twenty DMD students, he got to know his classmates quickly and immersed himself in learning about dentistry alongside medicine.

“I liked the whole Harvard philosophy. I liked the idea that we were learning medicine in general, not only dentistry. We went to school with our medical school peers—it’s unique and a positive way of learning,” he said.

The advantages of his Harvard experience expanded as he worked toward a dual degree in Oral Surgery. He credits exceptional faculty like Drs. Bruce Donoff, Walter Guralnick, Lenny Kaban, Edward Seldin, Gerald Shklar, Stephen Sonis, and Ray Williams as mentors who helped guide him along the way.

“I was kind of shy, and lucky to have faculty who were all good teachers—all kind and informative. They were all great to their students,” Chuong said.

After HSDM, Chuong initially followed in the footsteps of his HSDM mentors, serving in academic positions at The University of Virginia School of Medicine, Department of Plastic and Maxillofacial Surgery and then back at Harvard at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, before entering private practice in Florida, where he continues practicing on a full-time schedule.

Chuong finds his work to be rewarding. “It’s fulfilling treating patients and seeing positive results. Patients are generally very appreciative. Overall the specialty [of oral and maxillofacial surgery] makes a real impact on patients’ health,” he said.

He treats a wide range of issues—from temporomandibular joint disorders and tumors, to skeletal deformities. During his career he has also produced numerous academic presentations and articles, and served as assistant editor for the monthly journal of the Florida Dental Association, among other advisory roles with nonprofits and hospitals.

Chuong credits his success to HSDM. “I appreciate that the School gave me a great education. I didn’t restrict the gift, so that the School can put it toward core operations, or possibly allow students to attend HSDM who might not otherwise have had the chance to attend due to financial limitations,” he said.

“Bob and Elaine exemplify the spirit of HSDM’s mission. Bob has made an impact in the lives of countless patients throughout his career, and now their gift to the School will make a difference in the lives of HSDM’s students,” Dean Bruce Donoff said.


See also: Gifts