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Emeritus professor James McNamara honored with prestigious Ross Award from American Dental Association4 min read

April 5, 2024

Emeritus professor James McNamara honored with prestigious Ross Award from American Dental Association4 min read

Ann Arbor, Mich., April 5, 2024 – School of Dentistry Professor Emeritus Dr. James McNamara will receive the prestigious Norton M. Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research from the American Dental Association at its annual session in October.

Dr. McNamara is Professor Emeritus of Dentistry in the Department of Orthodontic and Pediatric Dentistry; Professor Emeritus of Cell and Developmental Biology in the U-M Medical School; and Research Professor Emeritus, Center for Human Growth and Development, an interdisciplinary research unit at U-M.

Dr. James McNamara

Presented annually since 1991, the Ross Award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions in clinical investigations that have advanced the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of craniofacial, oral or dental diseases, as well as outstanding research endeavors in other areas. The award honors the memory of Dr. Norton Ross, a dentist and pharmacologist who spent most of his career in academic and research positions and elevated clinical research to higher scientific standards.

McNamara is only the second orthodontist to receive the ADA award in the 32 years since its inception. His selection was announced last year as the 2023 Ross Award, but scheduling conflicts did not allow it to be presented until later this year at the ADA’s SmileCon annual conference, set for Oct. 17-19, 2024, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Based on his 55-year career combining academics and private practice, McNamara is being recognized for his research on orthodontics and craniofacial development. Long considered an innovator in orthodontic diagnosis and treatment, McNamara’s research has focused on the clinical modification of the growth of the face and jaws. He has more than 340 publications in peer-reviewed journals and has written, edited or contributed to 83 books, including his textbook “Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics,” which is used around the world. He also has given lectures or taught courses in 48 countries.

McNamara has received numerous awards and honors, including the Lifetime Achievement Award for Orthodontic Research from the American Association of Orthodontics in 2021. In 2008, the American Board of Orthodontics presented him with the Albert H. Ketcham Memorial Award, generally considered the most prestigious award in orthodontics worldwide.

In 2018, the orthodontics department at the U-M School of Dentistry held a tribute to McNamara at the conclusion of the annual Moyers Symposium, which McNamara coordinated for much of its 50-year existence. Orthodontics residents and alumni, fellow faculty and other colleagues from locally to internationally, cited McNamara’s unselfish sharing of knowledge with everyone within the global orthodontics community, from students and fellow faculty to researchers around the world to companies developing products – basically anyone working to advance orthodontics.

The Journal of Clinical Orthodontics published a lengthy, two-part interview with McNamara in its September and October 2014 issues that chronicled his journey from primate research in the early part of his career to working with experts around the world on craniofacial growth and the continually-evolving orthodontic techniques that became the standards of the profession. His history is filled with names and orthodontic terms like the Fränkel and Herbst appliances, the orthopedic facial mask, bone-plate therapy, the bonded acrylic splint expander, the Pendulum appliance and rapid maxillary expansion, to name a few. McNamara’s career led the journal’s editor to describe him as “the world’s leading authority in early and mixed-dentition orthodontic treatment.”

In a 2018 interview in the School of Dentistry alumni magazine, McNamara was asked why he hadn’t been content to be an orthodontist who mainly focused on private practice. Why had he instead committed to adding decades of advanced research and teaching to his private practice career path. “I’m curious,” he said. “That’s really the two-word answer to that question. I always wanted to know more.”

The Ross Award is one of the premier awards presented by the ADA, the nation’s largest dental association with nearly 160,000 members. Founded in 1959 to support the dental profession and the advancement of public health, the organization addresses crucial issues such as access to care and the regulations that surround the practice of dentistry.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral healthcare education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:  Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at, or (734) 615-1971.