The Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation has aligned with United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties (UCPLA) to establish the United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles Endowed Chair in Special Patient Care at the UCLA School of Dentistry.

The endowed chair, UCLA Dentistry’s ninth, will support teaching, research and patient care for special needs patients and will be held by the head of the school’s section of special patient care.

Ralph, Shirley and Peter Shapiro, who drove the creation of the chair, see it as a way to address the lack of essential support systems for the medically vulnerable in our society. Their goal is to help UCLA dentists improve access to care, and quality of care, for people with developmental disabilities.

“The Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation and United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles feel strongly that our society should take care of those unable to take care of themselves,” Peter Shapiro said. “We would like to see the tradition of care and support for our most vulnerable loved ones to continue in perpetuity.  For this reason we wanted to establish the UCPLA Chair in Special Patient Care at the UCLA School of Dentistry.”

Faculty and residents at UCLA Dentistry’s Special Patient Care Clinic treat people with complex medical conditions such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and severe autism. There is a shortage of skilled clinicians to care for people with these conditions, and finding a clinic that even accepts these patients can be a difficult and time-consuming challenge for their family members and caretakers.

“Dental care for those that are physically challenged and medically compromised is disappearing,” said Dr. No-Hee Park, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry. “UCLA currently provides that care, but we have the same challenges that have forced clinics throughout California to close. This very generous gift will help address the limited resources that we face in treating this patient population.”

UCPLA strives to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of children and adults with developmental disabilities and others with similar special needs. 

“It is an honor for United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles to align with the Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation to create a strong clinical care foundation for individuals with developmental disabilities at one of the best dental schools in the country,” said Dr. Ronald Cohen, president and chief executive officer of UCPLA.

Endowed chairs and professorships play an increasingly important role in the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty. Reserved for the most distinguished scholars and teachers, including the best junior faculty, endowed chairs provide vital funds for the support of the chair-holder’s research, teaching, patient care and service activities.

“This endowed chair will allow the dental school to continue to provide critical patient care and find solutions for the lack of support throughout the country for this vulnerable population,” said Dr. Eric Sung, chair of the school’s section of special patient care. “By partnering with organizations like United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles, we can work to identify where the need is most critical and find a way to meet those needs through training programs at the school.”

Ralph Shapiro is a longtime member of both the UCLA Foundation board of directors and the UCLA School of Law board of advisors. He has also served on various advisory councils across the university, including UCLA Dentistry’s Centennial Campaign cabinet. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1953 and his law degree in 1958, both from UCLA. His wife, Shirley, received her bachelor’s degree from UCLA in 1959. Shirley Shapiro serves on the boards of UCLA Women and Philanthropy, the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, and the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

The Shapiros are the founders of the Shapiro Family Charitable Foundation, and their son, Peter, is the president.