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Leadership gift aids facility upgrades at WVU School of Dentistry

David and Julia Whiston

David and Julia Whiston (Download the full image)

Dedicated West Virginia University supporters David and Julia Whiston are enhancing oral health care education and clinical services via a leadership gift to upgrade School of Dentistry facilities.

The couple’s gift supports Transforming Oral Health: The Campaign for Facilities, an ongoing fundraising effort to modernize facilities at the School of Dentistry for future generations of students and patients.

“The goal is to raise at least $1 million in this segment of the really important effort,” the Whistons said. “We know that facilities play an important role in delivering excellent patient care but they also play a role in attracting the best students and faculty. We’re happy to be part of this important effort.”

“Dr. and Mrs. Whiston are wonderful supporters of WVU and our School of Dentistry,” said Dr. Stephen Pachuta, dean of the School of Dentistry. “David and Julia are nationally recognized servant leaders. They dedicate their life to serving community and the health care professions. Their active engagement in local, state and national service has made a significant positive impact on access to high-quality health care and patient safety. Through their generosity and support of our University and School of Dentistry, they will continue to make a difference in the lives of our West Virginia families and those entrusted to our care.”

Now retired as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, David Whiston earned the DDS degree at WVU and later served as president of the American Dental Association and the ADA Foundation. His wife, Julia, served as executive director of the Washington Press Club Foundation and then the White House Correspondents’ Association.

They hope their contribution will encourage other WVU School of Dentistry graduates to show gratitude for the support they have received as students with gifts to benefit the next generation.

“We hope that it attracts matching funds,” David said. “It’s a good time for everyone to reflect on their good fortune and the role WVU School of Dentistry has played in that good fortune. I think each of us understands that we were given a great opportunity by being accepted and educated by the WVU School of Dentistry. No one can ever really say that they did everything on their own. So, it is a good opportunity to acknowledge the help we received.”

David was born and raised in Monongalia County. After high school, he became aware that dentistry offered opportunities to explore his interest in science linked to patient care. Morgantown-area provider and mentor Dr. Don Comley steered him toward specialization in oral and maxillofacial surgery, which further appealed to this interest in the sciences. 

Following his graduation from the School of Dentistry, David completed an internship and residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch and additional residency training at the University of Pennsylvania before settling in northern Virginia to practice.

He became involved with organized dentistry early in his career and held leadership roles with many dental and health care organizations throughout his career.

“Once you get into it, you understand that policymaking is a very important part of public health and, if you have an interest in policy – whether it’s related to oral health or health care in general – it’s just natural to pursue opportunities to develop policy,” Whiston said. “That was certainly my experience in organized dentistry and health care in general.”

David notably served on the Board, including as Board Chair, of The Joint Commission, the accreditation organization for hospitals and health care facilities domestically and internationally.  

Post-retirement, he continued to contribute to health care quality and patient safety through his service on the Hospital Board at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Julia is a board member at Doorways, an organization that supports unhoused people who are victims of domestic violence.

Among other gifts to the University, the Whistons established an endowment to help with oral health care costs for patients in partnership with the School of Dentistry. They feel this current gift to the Facilities Fund is the best way to help patients, students and the School of Dentistry.

Their gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University as part of WVU Day of Giving. The 24-hour fundraising event, held March 20 raised $30.4 million from over 8,500 gifts.

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