McWhorter surprised with named endowment

July 7th, 2023

Dr. Alton McWhorter

Dr. Alton McWhorter, clinical professor and department head of pediatrics at Texas A&M School of Dentistry, is known for his compassionate care for patients. Only the third pediatric department chair in the school’s history, he is well regarded by colleagues, students and patients. This legacy of care and excellence will now grow to help even more people, thanks to a brand-new endowment in his name.

“Dr. McWhorter was – and still is – championing our department,” said Dr. Carolyn Kerins, a faculty member who aided in fundraising for the endowment. “This is a great way to honor his years of service to teaching and providing care to pediatric and special needs patients.”

The endowment was a surprise to McWhorter. Kerins had been planning to fundraise for the department for a while, she said, and earlier this year decided to do so in McWhorter’s name. She and Ian Wilson, director of development with the Texas A&M Foundation, quietly reached out to a select group of alumni over the spring. Wilson said that everyone was generous and eager to contribute, quickly raising $250,000. They surprised McWhorter with news of the endowment’s creation in May at the annual American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Conference.

“I knew she was fundraising, but I had no idea she was doing it under my name,” McWhorter said. “That was a big surprise. I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet; it’s kind of funny. It’s such an unbelievable honor.”

The endowment will be used to provide care for pediatric and special needs patients who otherwise cannot afford proper dental care. Wilson explained the money raised will be invested by the Texas A&M Foundation, and the returns on the investment will be used to help cover the cost of treatments. As more money is raised and the investments grow, more people will receive care thanks to the endowment.

“The cool thing about an endowment is that it lasts in perpetuity, meaning it’ll outlive us,” Wilson said. “With Dr. McWhorter’s endowment, we’re really helping pediatric families that don’t have the resources to pay for their kids’ dental needs. This is something that Dr. McWhorter cares about immensely. It’s high time that we honor this man; he’s been here for 36 years. He’s a staple within the school and one of our most beloved faculty members.”

Wilson added they intend to launch another round of fundraising over the summer, reaching out to all alumni, now that they surprised McWhorter with the endowment. Although there is no set goal, they hope to hit a total of $500,000 raised.

In addition to covering pediatric care, Kerins said the legacy fund will also offer more training opportunities for residents.

McWhorter said his passion for pediatric care grew over time. He practiced general dentistry for a few years after graduating and naturally began to evaluate his favorite aspects of the job. Eventually, the scope of what he enjoyed most narrowed to pediatric care, so he “bit the bullet” and went back to school to specialize. Part of what he really enjoys about his specialization is giving kids a good impression of going to the dentist and setting them up for good dental experiences in the future.

“We get to do all of the things in general dentistry for the most part – fillings, extractions, that sort of thing – but the smaller patients can be trickier to work with,” McWhorter said. “It’s just an easy transition from us to a general dentist. We’ve trained them to be good patients, they’ve had good experiences prior to that, and they can go on and be a good patient for someone else.”

— Caleb Vierkant

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