Donald Giddon, DMD59, PD62


As I approach the end of my professional career as Professor Emeritus, I truly recognize how much Harvard has meant, professionally and personally, giving me the opportunity to mentor students, research, and teach, both at HSDM and at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

After receiving the DMD ’59 and a PD training in periodontology /oral medicine from Harvard and MGH, I completed my PhD in psychophysiology at Brandeis University. My mentor was the famed psychologist Abraham Maslow, whose “Hierarchy of Needs” I modified to focus on the mouth as part of the body, being essential for survival, socialization and quality of life.

Most important to my career, however, was Paul Goldhaber, who became a successful collaborator and lifelong friend. When Paul became Dean of HSDM, he brought me from Tufts to become Professor of Ecological Dentistry upon Dr. Dunning’s retirement. It was particularly satisfying because I had actually conceptualized the term “ecological dentistry” before going to Tufts, as a department encompassing all the nontechnical aspects of dentistry, including public health and the much neglected behavioral sciences. Patient management was part of the package, together with the admonition to “treat the patient as a whole rather than the hole in the patient.”

Access to the Medical School faculty became particularly important to me, both for my research and teaching. Even as a student I became friendly with the famed Professor Harold Amos, who because of my background in statistics actually asked me to give a mini lecture on Chi2 for the entire Medical School class. HMS Physiology Professor Clifford Barger was especially helpful in developing my NIH-supported fiberoptic plethysmograph for measuring oral blood flow in response to stress associated with acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis. Subsequently, my keeping up with sufficient medicine beyond my first two years at HMS helped in my research and more recently in teaching Harvard College freshmen about stress and disease.

I also give great credit to orthodontist Carla Evans, with whom I worked in developing the Perceptometric method for determining the anthropometric bases of perceived facial and body attractiveness.

In my twilight years, I am now focusing on the political and social implications of the increased relation of medicine to oral health. With the help of Dean Donoff, Brian Swann and I developed and implemented the first program (now in its sixth year) for training general practice dental residents to become oral physicians.

Now it is a great privilege to become significantly involved in the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of HSDM and to be asked to give a lecture, “Revolution Redux in Oral Health Care.”