Fall 2017

150 Reasons Why We Love this School

By Helene Ragovin, with additional reporting by Laura Ferguson

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Illustration by Sean McCabe 

In 1931, William Rice, the dean of the Tufts Dental School, delivered a stirring radio address. The school was then a mere 63 years old—penicillin had only been recently discovered—and people tended to regard dentistry more as a trade than a profession. Rice urged his fellow dentists, particularly the younger ones, to be thorough in their examinations and thoughtful in their diagnoses—and to put professionalism before quick profit. “Stick to it!” he commanded. “You’ll win in the end!”

And stick to it we did. While the professional and technical landscapes have changed, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine has continued, without fail, to produce generations of dentists who have cared for generations of patients. Our students, alumni and faculty have conducted groundbreaking research and served as role models, teachers and mentors. We’ve now been leaders and innovators through a century-and-a-half.

And so, as we begin our sesquicentennial celebration, we’ve highlighted some of the people, places and things that help define this institution. We hope you’ll recognize many—maybe even be surprised by a few—but we also want to hear all the reasons you love the School of Dental Medicine. Please send your thoughts and memories to helene.ragovin@tufts.edu.

Photo: Kelvin Ma

1. Tufts Dental Facilities

Since 1976, TDF clinics throughout Massachusetts have provided treatment to thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as trained hundreds of students. People with special needs “have long been among the most underserved groups in our population,” said Joseph O’Donnell, DG74, the first dentist-in-chief for TDF. “Providing care for these individuals and creating a training program for dental students at Tufts was indeed a special privilege for me.”


2. Golf

Every September for the past 35 years, the alumni association’s Wide Open tournament has raised money for the student loan fund.


3. Dry Mouth

There are many similarities between dry mouth and dry eye, including that both pose health risks such as organ damage. Driss Zoukhri, professor of comprehensive care, investigates whether damaged salivary glands in the mouth (or lacrimal glands in the eye) could be repaired with the help of stem cells.

4. Pursuing Science at the NIH

A scientist emeritus at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Bruce Baum, D71, H17, led a team in developing the first gene-therapy technique to repair dam- aged salivary glands in patients with oral cancer and chronic dry mouth. As former director of the NIH Medical Research Scholars Program, he advocated for the importance of biological science and critical-thinking skills in dental education.

5. Our Dedication to Research

Associate Dean for Research Gerard Kugel, D85, MSD93, professor of prosthodontics and operative dentistry, has been closely involved with our research enterprise for nearly 40 years, seeing it grow into a program that spans stem cells, wound healing and materials testing. Some of his own work, in collaboration with Tufts’ biomedical engineering department, explores the use of silk coatings to improve implant osseointegration. He spoke to us about why research is valuable—and worth protecting.

In this tough funding environment, how do you articulate the worth of research?
Gerard Kugel: No matter how excited we are about research, our funders are going to ask: ‘What have you done for me?’ I would say that research, when integrated with the practice of dentistry, means you can do a great deal. I believe research is not about moving ideas from bench to chair, but from chair to bench. We should be asking: What problems do patients have?

The school has a broad research enterprise now. Do you think that will change?
GK: With federal government cuts, we do face an uncertain future. From my perspective, we have to sustain a balancing act of corporate, pharmaceutical and federal funding. The dental schools that are going to survive will be balanced. But we also have to remember: You don’t do research to make money. The goal is to promote intellectual curiosity, to help your profession grow, to allow the students to grow intellectually.

6. Bates-Andrews Research Day

On the first Wednesday in March, the school honors George Bates, D1889, M1903, AG1904, and Robert R. Andrews, D1875, two early faculty members who had a lasting impact on the school’s research efforts. Students present their work, get hands-on practice for professional presentations and vie for academic prizes. The legacy of the men also lives on in the Andrews Honor Society, founded in 1921, and the Bates Student Research Group,

Anna Quincy Churchill. Photo Courtesy of: Peter Laband, D50

which dates back to 1935.

7. Anna Quincy Churchill, M1917

An anatomy professor at the dental and medical schools from 1918 to 1954, she made personal, interest-free loans to students who needed help finishing their studies. She was easy to spot in a crowd thanks to her signature parasol.

8. Our Loyal Patients

“I’ve gone to Tufts all my life, and what I really feel is every dentist I’ve ever had, every student I’ve ever had—they want to be dentists, and they want to do it well.”

—Nancy Farris, a patient for more than 70 years.

Anna Farris. Photo: Kelvin Ma

Reasons 9-41, 150 Years and Counting, A Timeline

Reasons 42-57, Our Tufts Dental Trailblazers

58. Our Greek Life

The Mu chapter of Delta Sigma Delta, the first dental fraternity in the U.S., has been around since before the turn of the 20th century. Alpha Omega’s Gamma chapter was founded in 1911 and accepted Jewish students at a time when many frats did not (today, AO hosts Tooth Day at Fenway Park). And 1944 saw the founding of Omicron Kappa Upsilon, the National Dental Honor Society. Tufts hosts the XiXi chapter.


Photo Courtesy of: The McKenna Family

59-62. Four Generations of the McKenna Family

The McKenna dental dynasty, focused largely on orthodontics, began with brothers Paul and Ernest, both D1918, followed by their younger sibling, George D32. In the second generation was Paul Jr., A46, D49, for whom the McKenna Clinical Operatory in the ortho department was named. Paul III, DG81, and Stephen, D87, DG90, represent the third generation and, for the fourth, Catherine is set to graduate in 2020.


ARNO BOMMER SR, D1919, and ARNO BOMMER JR, D52, shared a practice in Revere, Mass. and became the first (and only) father/son presidents of the Massachusetts Dental Society.


JOAN COURTMAN, D88, and JESSICA COURTMAN, D03, were the first mother/daughter pair to graduate from the dental school.

67. Hirsh Health Sciences Library

Each year, more than 34,000 visits to the stacks in the Sackler building are from dental students crossing the sky bridge from One Kneeland.

Photo: Tufts Archives


68-69. Football

The Tufts 1916 football team was integrated at a time when that was practically unheard of. Two African-American players, dental students WILLIAM BROWN, D1916, and EDWARD MORRISON, were denied rooms on the road and experienced racist taunting from opponents from other colleges.


70. Special Needs

The special-needs population is a focus of John Morgan’s work as professor of public health and community service. In an unprecedented 2012 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association, Morgan and colleagues analyzed electronic dental records to find that even though people with intellectual and developmental challenges tend to receive oral care more often than the general insured population, they still exhibit more oral disease.

Photo: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


71. Baseball

Before JIM LONBORG, D83, set up his successful practice in Hanover, Mass. (from which he’s now retired), he spent 15 years as a celebrated Major League pitcher. He was the first Red Sox pitcher to win the Cy Young Award and helped anchor the 1967 “Impossible Dream” season, when he led American League pitchers in wins (22); games started (39); and strikeouts (246).

Reasons 72-95, Our Local and Global Impact

Photo: Tufts Archives

96. Our WWII Service

By the early ’40s, the dental school had joined the rest of the nation in preparing for war. In 1942, the program condensed the academic calendar so that graduates could enter the service quicker. The next year, war claimed its first dental alumnus—Army lieutenant JAMES PAPPAS, D41, who was killed in action at Guadalcanal. And by 1944, every male graduate was commissioned for either the Army or Navy. The school yearbook that year included a photo of students listening to the news of the June 6 D-Day invasion on the radio.


Distinguished Professor Emeritus H. CHRIS DOKU, D58, DG60, served on the faculty from 1957 to 2000, including 35 years as chair of oral and max-illofacial surgery. His influence was everywhere: teacher training, starting special-needs clinics, constructing One Kneeland. “If you look at what went on at Tufts dental during that time,” said Dean Emeritus Lonnie Norris, DG80, “it all had Chris’ involvement.”


KANCHAN GANDA, a physician who heads the dental school’s division
of medicine, created a medical education program for dental students that for many years was unique to Tufts.


For 40 years, Professor Emeritus MORTON ROSENBERG, D74, an anesthesiology expert, taught at the dental and med schools; practiced at Tufts Medical Center and was a prodigious researcher. Author of a textbook on dental emergencies, he is known for training dentists to handle the unexpected.


100. Cancer

Addy Alt-Holland, assistant professor of endodontics, is trying to find a treatment for a rare genetic disease, Basal Cell Carcinoma Nevus Syndrome. She hopes that quest can help tackle the mysteries of other, more common skin cancers.


For many years, the fourth-year class produced a yearbook, which was known by different names. One of them: the DENTAL EXPLORER.


102. Basketball

The prize for winner of the Bates League Basketball tournament in the 1950s? An “ivy-covered saliva ejector,” of course.


TUFTS DENTAL OUTLOOK was a student magazine that detailed school life starting in 1928. Original copies are available in the university archives at Tisch Library.

Photo: Alonso Nichols

104. Jacob Wirth

Maybe it’s the proximity to One Kneeland—or maybe it has something to do with the bratwurst and beer—but dental students have come here for years to de-stress.

105. Jimmy Farinella’s Greeting

“Good luck and God bless ya, Buddy.”

Those words from Farinella, a maintenance worker at the dental school, earned the respect and affection of students in the late ’50s. “Long after we have left Harrison Avenue,” reads a 1959 edition of Outlook, “we’ll remember him for his friendly and sincere expression.”

Photo: shutterstock.com


Assistant Professor Christine Pastan, D91, DG94 helped introduce mind-body wellness into the curriculum and practices yoga and meditation with students.

107. The $4.95 Lunch

It might just be the best deal in town: Chinese from New Golden Gate on Beach Street for under five bucks.

108. An Early Commitment to Equal Opportunity

In February 1969, the Tufts Observer reported that the dental school was setting aside five slots for disadvantaged students, becoming the first dental school in the nation to encourage the application of students who might otherwise find it impossible to receive professional training in dental medicine.

109. Jay Stinson’s Can-Do Spirit

The day after the legendary Blizzard of 1978, Boston was at a standstill—two feet of snow does that to a city. But it didn’t stop JAY STINSON, dean emeritus for admissions and student affairs, who trudged across Boston Common from his Beacon Hill home—normally a 13-minute stroll, but on this day a labyrinthine slog—and slipped into the school through the hospital. “I spent the day going from one office to another on the seventh floor answering phones,” he recalled. And, as always, keeping the school running.

Reasons 110-120, One Kneeland Street


121-122. Regeneration

Periodontology professor Jake Jinkun Chen, DI09, is exploring new treatments for diabetes-associated periodontitis, ways to repair dental and craniofacial tissue defects, and oral and craniofacial bone regeneration. This work also holds the potential to develop treatments for disorders such as osteoporosis. Wouldn’t it be something if people could regrow lost or damaged teeth? Professor of Orthodontics Pamela Yelick, GA89, whose lab studies craniofacial and tissue regeneration, has been investigating engineering techniques with an eye toward producing new, living teeth.


The Tufts chapters of the AMERICAN STUDENT DENTAL ASSOCIATION and the AMERICAN DENTAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION host events such as National Student Lobby Day and field a team for annual debates with other schools.


The tradition of Friday evening social gatherings, known as “DENTAL ROUNDS,” was born in the early 1970s. They were held on the eighth floor of One Kneeland and later moved to Posner Hall.

Photos: Tufts Archives

125. Posner Hall

The first dormitory for Tufts medical and dental students (300 of them) opened in 1954, endowed by a $1-million gift from Harry and Hannah Posner. It was at the time the second-largest gift the university had ever received.

126. Our Deep Connection to Norway. (Yes, Norway)

Photos: Tufts Archives

After Nazi occupying forces had closed universities around Europe during World War II, the dental school decided it had to help. In 1945, it invited 22 displaced Norwegian students to enroll. If the students were bewildered when they arrived four weeks into the semester, they soon got their bearings, thanks in part to FINN BRUDEVOLD, a fellow Norwegian on the faculty. “The friendly attitude of everybody around us made us feel at home very soon,” the students wrote in the 1949 yearbook. “We leave Tufts with a splendid education, pleasant memories and a true concept of what constitutes a real American and a real democratic country; and for this—we wish to thank you all.” But not every Norwegian among the D49s returned to Norway. Cum laude graduate ERLING JOHANSEN went on to become a longtime dean of the school. And MAGNOR VATNE met his future wife in Boston, and they raised a family in Vermont (including two sons who graduated from Tufts). Over 45 years, Vatne provided dental care to generations of families at a clinic surrounded by gentle rolling hills. The setting, said his daughter Karen, always reminded him of the country he’d left behind.

127. The Dispensary Team

These folks always go the extra mile to provide students with everything that they need to keep going during the day. In fact, the Dispensary Team won the “Extra Mile” Award in 2012 at the university’s annual Distinction Awards ceremony.


128. Stem Cells

Creating replacement parts for damaged organs? That’s the goal of Jonathan Garlick’s work with pluripotent stem cells, the kind derived from adult cells that can be reprogrammed. As the oral pathology prof breaks down in his famous rap: “Moral issues to address/Hypotheses we need to test/Why capturing pluripotency/Is causing so much controversy.”

129. Our Flair for Drama

In the late ’40s through the ’50s we had the annual “smoker,” a chance for students to
peform comedy skits about dentistry and for faculty to serenade the crowd. That went the way of poodle skirts, but we still like to have fun in the spotlight. Check out the video tour of One Kneeland made in the style of “Downton Abbey”: http://bit.ly/2fmtK8x

130. Our Record of Empowering Women

Class pictures of the early part of the 20th century show a handful of female faces in the crowds—but enrollment by women at Tufts dropped after the 1920s, as it did at most other dental schools. In 1946, dental student ESTHER WILKINS, D49, DG66—a future giant in the profession—wrote that “lady dentists” were still a “curiosity.” The ’70s brought a wave of women into professional schools, and by the ’80s, women helped boost sagging enrollments at dental schools throughout the country. At Tufts, the D89s were first to elect four female class officers, including president RHENU SHARMA. While woman remain just a tick behind men in national dental school enrollment, at Tufts they surpassed men with the D08s, and have outnumbered men in most years since then.

131. Three “Dental Oscars”

Tufts has won three “Dental Oscars”—William J. Gies Awards from the ADEAGies Foundation—for the school (2011), Esther Wilkins (2012) and Tufts Dental Facilities (2015).

132. Dinner with Paul Kwan

Kwan, who teaches anatomy, invites students to a 10-course Chinese banquet to mark the completion of the challenging head and neck section. “It signifies they can survive anything,” Kwan said. “When I talk to past graduates, a lot of them remember two things: The smell of the Gross Lab and the Chinese banquet.”

133-134. Heroes of Tufts Dental Medicine

CHARLES MILLSTEIN, D62, attended Tufts dental school along with his twin brother, Philip, and then enjoyed a 35-year practice. Some 50 articles on the school’s history—many published in these pages—testify to his desire to share his knowledge with others. Millstein’s classmate VANGEL ZISSI, D62, DG67, wears many hats—clinical professor of endodontics emeritus, friend to students, generous alum, adviser
to Dean Huw Thomas—but this magazine especially appreciates his eagle-eyed, 21-year tenure as alumni editor.

Reasons 135-139, The Inventions of Our Alumni and Faculty

Photo: Emily Zilm

140. The Many Clubs that Celebrate Diversity

The Tufts chapter of the Student National Dental Association, a national organization to promote and support minority dental students, was founded in 1972. Today, the organization sponsors events like Impressions Day, to introduce high school students and undergraduates to opportunities in the dental field. The Hispanic Dental Association was started in 1994, and the Asian Dental organization in 2008. Other student groups include the Academy of LDS Dentists; Arab Dental Society; Christian Medical and Dental Association; Tufts Dental Hillel; Korean American Dental Association; Muslim Student Association; Persian Association of Student Doctors and Dentists and the South Asian Medical-Dental Association. Tufts was one of the first two dental schools in the country to have an LGBTQ student support group.

Photo: Chitose Suzuki

141. Commencement

They enter the tent as excited, nervous or somewhat weary fourth-year dental students—
they leave as newly minted DMDs.

142. Marie Burack’s 40+ Years

“It feels good to know that I’m actually doing that has heart.”

Burack, an administrative assistant and the school’s longest-serving staff employee, has kept the Tufts Dental Facilities’ Canton clinic on an even—and even cheerful—keel since first taking a job for the school in October 1976. As for her longevity, that’s rooted in a steadfast dedication to the important work of the school. “To go to work every day and see this wonderful mission with such dedicated people,” she said. “That’s a great experience.”


143. Color-Coded Scrubs

You can recognize each class of predoctoral students by their colors. Today, you’ll see Caribbean blue (D18), royal blue (D19), cranberry (D20) and gray (D21).

144. Match Day

With about half the students in each graduating class going on to residencies or specialty training, the school honors those placements at a Match Day event.

145. Postgraduate Ceremony and Dinner

A chance to honor graduates of the certificate and residency programs.

146. White Coat Ceremony

Students are formally welcomed into the dental profession at the White Coat ceremony, now held at the beginning of the first year.

147. Yankee Dental Congress

Let’s admit it: New England’s midwinter confab undoubtedly has the best name of any conference in the country.

148. Homecoming and Reunion

Who says you can’t go home again?

149. Continuing Ed

You know you’re taking a CE course when…

Suturing pig jaws is making you hungry for lunch.

You willingly spend all afternoon staring at pictures of oral cancer.

You find yourself thinking, “Boy, I wish the simulation lab existed when I was a student…”

You can look up from your typodont and see the entire Boston skyline.

You realize that you’ve signed up for the wrong course, and are now in Iceland chasing the Northern Lights.

 150. You!

We’d like to celebrate our 150th anniversary with you. Because it wouldn’t have been possible without you.


September 28, 2018

Museum of Science,

Boston, Massachusetts

Visit Dental150.tufts.edu for more information


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