Dr. Gene Paxton Lewis, who championed public health dentistry in Kentucky, dies at age 78

kward1@herald-leader.comFebruary 26, 2014 

Gene Paxton Lewis conducted the first statewide survey of oral health in 1987.

Dr. Gene Paxton Lewis, 78, a champion of public health dentistry, died Feb. 12 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Dr. Lewis spent more than 20 years with the U.S. Public Health Service, and much of that time was spent helping develop community health centers, colleges focusing on health professions and other initiatives in Kentucky and other southeastern states.

From 1982 to 1986, he had a special assignment as executive assistant to the Kentucky health services commissioner.

Dr. Lewis also worked for the University of Kentucky. He served as chairman of the Department of Community Dentistry and interim dean of the College of Dentistry in the 1970s, and he returned to UK in 1988 to lead the college's Program of Public and Professional Services.

"Gene was a leader in public health dentistry," said Dr. David Nash, a UK professor of pediatric dentistry who served as dean of the College of Dentistry during part of Dr. Lewis' tenure at UK.

Dr. Raynor Mullins of the UK Center for Oral Health Research said the UK College of Dentistry is known for its community outreach services, and Dr. Lewis, "a big, tall Texan with a huge smile," is "in large part responsible for that."

His online biography with the UK College of Public Health Hall of Fame says he "conducted the first statewide survey of oral health in 1987 and published the first Kentucky Smile Curriculum for elementary schools."

He is also credited with helping create the first mobile dental facility and helping form the Kentucky Oral Health Coalition.

Dr. Lewis served as president of the American Board of Dental Public Health and the American Association of Public Health Dentists, as well as on the governing council of the American Public Health Association.

He is survived by his wife, Charlotte Daniels Lewis, and three children, Sarah Lewis, Lisa Carlsten and Barry Lewis, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at First United Methodist Church of Frankfort. Calling hours begin at noon. Rogers Funeral Home in Frankfort is in charge of arrangements.

Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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