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Martino gifts promote mental, physical and financial well-being at WVU School of Dentistry

Dr. Robert Martino

Dr. Robert Martino

The demands of dental school were tough for West Virginia University School of Dentistry alumnus Dr. Robert Martino. Stress and anxiety led him to doubt whether he had what it takes to complete his education and succeed in oral healthcare.

“I wish I would’ve had someone to put their arm around me and go, ‘Hey, it’s OK. We’re all dealing with it. It’s stressful. You’re going to be OK,’ and to take my mind off of it, offer a distraction,” Martino said.

Martino is helping to provide that support for the next generation of dentists and dental hygienists with two gifts to his alma mater. A $100,000 gift from Martino’s company, Wilmar Management, supports wellness initiatives that benefit students, faculty and staff at the School of Dentistry. A second $50,000 gift from Martino and his wife, Lori, establishes a scholarship for students from West Virginia with financial need.

The Wilson Martino Wellness Fund for Dentistry will support the work of the School’s Wellness Committee, which strives to promote emotional, community, social and physical well-being through a variety of activities. The committee has previously delivered notes of encouragement to students prior to exams, provided small gifts of appreciation for faculty and staff, hosted therapeutic painting sessions and much more.

Dr. Valerie Perrine, associate dean for student affairs, community health and outreach, serves as chair of the Wellness Committee. She said Martino’s gift will help support a “Big Idea FestivALL” geared toward generating unique and valuable events and approaches to service physical, financial, social and emotional well-being. 

“Words cannot express how fortunate and grateful we are for Dr. Martino’s generous contribution,” said Perrine, also a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry. “The mission of the Wellness Committee is to promote and support the wellness of the entire School of Dentistry community. Bob’s donation is an investment in the health and well-being of our community and paves the path for a brighter educational and work environment.”

The wellness fund is named for the north-central West Virginia dental practice Martino co-owns with Dr. Kenneth Wilson, who is now retired. Martino joined Wilson’s practice, then based in Nutter Fort, after earning his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1990 and later became Wilson’s partner.

As the practice grew, Martino transitioned from caring for patients to running the business. Wilson Martino Dental, operated by Wilmar Management, now boasts seven locations and 110 employees – including many WVU School of Dentistry graduates. The practice also partners with WVU for rural rotations, helping to train future dentists and dental hygienists at Wilson Martino locations.

“The idea of what the WVU dental school is and how they’re trying to develop students not only helps us as a company but also helps our state,” Martino said. “We feel like we’re part of that because we see so many students through our rural rotations and that eventually work for us. I just wanted to say thank you and give back.”

Martino said he dealt with financial challenges as a student, so he and Lori created the scholarship to help alleviate that burden for West Virginia students in need.

Martino’s gifts reflect a personal and professional commitment to provide support for his employees and the communities where they work. Wilson Martino Dental provides training to new providers to help them adjust and succeed in a real-world practice. The administrative team handles business and operations, allowing dentists to focus solely on patient care.

Wilson Martino Dental supports and hosts many charity events, including Freedom Day USA. The event, which offers free dental services for military veterans, began 10 years ago at Wilson Martino and has since expanded nationwide to include other kinds of businesses. More than $35 million in free dental care was provided over the first nine years.

Martino’s commitment to giving back extends beyond his dental practice. Wilmar Management also sells OraCare, a professional-grade oral rinse created by Martino and two other dentists. Because the product offers unique benefits for cancer patients, Martino’s team provides free care packages for patients with cancer at any OraCare provider’s request.

Martino hopes his gifts to WVU encourage others to support the School of Dentistry.

“I’ve been blessed in my life,” Martino said. “I think WVU has been part of that blessing, so it’s my duty to help and to share and to give back. …We can make a little dent, but if we can inspire other people to step up to the plate and say, ‘Yeah, I want to do something like that,’ then I think that would be the big win.”

Martino’s gifts were made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

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