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Dorris: More than cleaning teeth

Family endowment encourages holistic approach to dentistry

Published: January 27, 2023 by UTHealth Houston Development Communications

Husband and wife, Wayne Dorris, PhD (left), and Jacqueline T. Hecht, PhD (right) post with Dean John A. Valenza, DDS.
Husband and wife, Wayne Dorris, PhD (left), and his Jacqueline T. Hecht, PhD (right) post with Dean John A. Valenza, DDS. Photo by Brian Schnupp.
Herbert Dorris, DMD, pictured wearing a Boston Marathon shirt in front of a white house.
Herbert Dorris, DMD, pictured wearing a Boston Marathon shirt. Running the marathon and having a vegetarian diet were two of the ways he modeled the behavior he encouraged for all of his patients. Photo courtesy of Dr. Wayne Dorris.
Newspaper clipping of Dr. Herbert Dorris demonstrating how to properly brush teeth. Photo courtesy of Dr. Wayne Dorris.
Newspaper clipping of Dr. Herbert Dorris demonstrating how to properly brush teeth. Photo courtesy of Dr. Wayne Dorris.

Dentists have unique opportunities to guide their patients to lives filled with health and well-being, and Herbert Dorris, DMD, made the most of these chances for almost 50 years.

“Dentistry was more than cleaning teeth to him,” says his brother Wayne Dorris, PhD. “He looked at the whole person and wanted to help them be as healthy as possible.”

To make that happen, Herbert spent a lot of time talking to patients about their general health and how they could prevent disease. Instead of only stressing biannual dental cleanings, he taught the importance of taking care of both oral and overall health every day.

Herbert’s favorite device at his private practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was his Xerox machine, which he used to copy articles about health care that he handed out to his patients and his family to encourage them to develop healthy habits.

“‘Floss without loss,’” was one of his favorite sayings, according to Wayne.

Beyond advocating for the wellness of others, Herbert also practiced what he preached. He was a vegan and an active runner who worked hard to take care of his body.

In honor of Herbert’s lifelong commitment to his patients, Wayne and his wife, Jacqueline T. Hecht, PhD, established the Herbert J. Dorris, DMD, Endowed Fund in Health Promotion to encourage dental and dental hygiene students, residents and professionals to support their patients’ overall well-being.

These resources will be used for lectures, curriculum development, health promotion and the inclusion of other health care providers in the school’s clinics and outreach programs.

“Herb was a holistic dentist and would want to be remembered in that context,” Jaqueline says. “The School of Dentistry is the perfect place for this endowment because education and compassion are part of the school’s mission.” 

Jacqueline is deeply involved in UTHealth Houston as Professor and Director of the Center for Craniofacial Research at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry as well as Leah L. Lewis Distinguished Chair and Director of the Pediatric Research Center at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. She also served as Associate Dean for Research at the School of Dentistry from 2012 to 2020.

A positive and caring person, Herbert ran an old-fashioned dental practice. He did not have a dental hygienist as he preferred to do the cleanings himself.

“He was very happy doing everything as a general dentist and didn’t feel the need to specialize,” Wayne says.

After an internship in the United States Air Force, Herbert started his practice near the campus of his alma mater, Harvard University. At first, most of his patients were students. As his business grew, patients began bringing in their family members as well. “He was proud of treating multiple generations from the same family,” Wayne says.

“The Dorris family has long supported the cause of health, and they inspire our entire School of Dentistry with their generosity and leadership. This endowment aligns perfectly with our vision to incorporate overall health into dental practice, and improve well-being for people across our communities,” says John A. Valenza, DDS, Dean and The William N. Finnegan III Distinguished Professor in the Dental Sciences. “We are incredibly grateful for their support to establish this legacy in honor of Dr. Dorris and his approach to health.”

“It is our responsibility to give back,” Wayne says. “This endowment is a way for us to help other people have a better quality of life. That’s what my brother’s life has been all about. Being a dentist was part of his identity.”


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