In 1966, when I returned from Vietnam after serving with the 3rd Marine Division, I showed my friend Bob Fasciano, a periodontist on the HSDM Faculty, photographs of my volunteer work in Vietnam providing dental care in the orphanages, refugee camps, villages and schools. Bob referred me to Dr. James M. Dunning, who immediately encouraged me to apply to the three-year post-doctoral program in Ecological Dentistry at HSDM. I had no idea what that meant, but it changed my life – great learning experiences and challenges. While an HSDM post-doc, in addition to our teaching and learning, we:
- Initiated the first dental assisting training program at HSDM for minorities, thanks to Dr. Paul Goldhaber.
- Helped change the mandatory state referendum fluoridation law, thanks to Dr. Dunning
- Did the first field test of the enamel biopsy technique developed by Finn Brudevold in both a fluoridated and non-fluoridated community.
In addition, Dr. Guralnick asked me to help with the development of a dental program at the MGH Bunker Hill Health Center in Charlestown and subsequently this became my first salaried position, as dental director. These were exciting times. Ed Seldin, Lenny Kaban, Ken Rothman, Tom Albert, Harry Schwartz, David Rosenstein, Steve Colchamiro, Mike Coppe, Howie Needleman, Jack Silversin, Bill Bunch, Mercedes Delores Franklin and Steve Uranga McKane were some of the HSDM students who had shown an interest in public health in those early years. There have been many more ever since, too many to list here. I have been on the Harvard faculty since 1966, about fifty years, in addition to being the City of Boston Dental Director for 34 years.
Some of the highlights of my career are:
- President, American Public Health Association.
- Chair, U.S Surgeon General’s Work Group on Fluoridation and Dental Health for the Nation’s 1990 Prevention Objectives.
- The state going from 7% to 63% fluoridated.
- Chair, Massachusetts State Dental Board.
- Member, National Academy of Medicine (formerly IOM), National Academy of Sciences.
- Treasurer, NERB (Now CDCA), and President of at least 8 other state and national organizations.
The Bunker Hill Health Center Dental Program became the model for the rest of the City, and while the City of Boston Dental Director, we ended up with 19 health center dental programs in Boston with over 100,000 patient visits a year, and now there are over 600,000 health center dental visits statewide. We also initiated an AEGD program in the health centers with Lutheran Medical Center that now has about 18 residents a year.
Many HSDM students and graduates have worked in or helped us in these endeavors, and some are still involved today. Thank goodness for that federal grant for the post-doctoral program, thank you all and thank you HSDM.