Dr. Szarko honored for service, achievement

PARKERSBURG – Dr. James Szarko of Parkersburg recently received the Pierre Fauchard Distinguished Dentist of the Year Award.

Named for the man known as the father of modern dentistry, the award is bestowed for outstanding contributions to the art and science of dentistry.

In practice for more than 35 years, Szarko has offices at 2000 Dudley Ave.

Szarko said he was contacted by Dr. Robert Wanker, associate dean of students and alumni affairs at the West Virginia School of Dentistry, about the honor.

“I was very pleased and very surprised. I really had no idea. It really is quite an honor. Apparently there are different segments of the academy all over the U.S., and the West Virginia section is associated with the West Virginia School of Dentistry,” Szarko said. He received the award on May 15.

The local dentist is a 1976 graduate of the West Virginia University School of Dentistry. After graduating he worked at the West Virginia State Dental Clinics, operating and managing three dental clinics, working with underprivileged children including the Pruntytown Industrial Home for Boys and Salem Industrial Home for Girls from 1977-1979.

He’s been in private dental practice from 1979 to the present. He is a board-certified sleep medicine dentist.

“I’ve trained for that for 22 years. Over 40 million people have some form of sleep problems and a lot of those issues have a relationship to various diseases. I’m hoping to work with dental schools to educate the students on these issues and teach them how to detect these problems,” Szarko said.

He serves as dentist for the Pressley Ridge Drug and Rehabilitation Center and as an emergency room dentist.

Szarko taught oral pathology at WVU-Parkersburg in the dental assisting program, helped with the Wood County Schools’ Co-Op student work program for junior and senior students and has visited many Wood County Schools talking about oral hygiene and dentistry, including presenting dental career programs for junior and senior high school students as well as participating in preschool dental screenings for area children.

Szarko was president of the West Virginia Dental Association in 2011. He was inducted into the American College of Dentistry, an honor bestowed on only 3.5 percent of the nation’s dentists.

He participated in the first West Virginia Mission of Mercy in Hedgesville and was instrumental in bringing that project to Wood County in 2009.

“We saw 1,300 people in two days at the one in Hedgesville. We provided over $1 million worth of dentistry services at the local Mission of Mercy,” he said. “It was a reward in itself seeing the changes in people after they had been treated.”

“I think one of the reasons I was nominated for this award is because people have seen what I’ve done over the years. But there are a lot of other dentists who deserve the recognition as well, working in the trenches. I told them I wasn’t accepting it for myself but for all the dentists who do the same thing I do everyday,” he said.

Szarko has received numerous awards over his lifetime of public service, including the National Jefferson Award founded to establish a Nobel Prize for Public Service in the U.S. and awarded for outstanding community service. He is a recipient of the John Howard Award at WVU School of Dentistry in 1976, and was presented a Spirit of Wood County Award for his stewardship and service in conjunction with the local Mission of Mercy dental clinic project.

A Pennsylvania native, Szarko also has a bachelor’s degree in biology and secondary education and a master’s degree in biology in addition to his doctorate in dentistry.

Szarko and his wife, RoseAnn, have three children. He is active in his church and enjoys fishing, gardening, photography, works with stained glass, model railroading and music.