Dentists complete advanced residency program
July 21, 2011
FORT SILL, Okla. -- During a two-week humanitarian mission in May, four Fort Sill Army dental students treated more than 250 children in an impoverished area. The training was part of their curriculum in the Comanche Advanced Education in General Dentistry-1 year program -- a post-doctoral level training for new Army dentists.
"Every child had gross tooth decay and multiple lesions that needed to be cared for," said Capt. John Brady, dental resident. "I got an appreciation on how to treat children and the different techniques to use. And, we gave them instruction on how to prevent the problems."
Brady was one of eight Fort Sill dentists who completed the Comanche AEGD resident program. The captains graduated July 15 during a ceremony at the Graham Resiliency Training Center.
"It's a great program," said Brady, who graduated from Tufts University in 2010 and who will be stationed at Fort Riley, Kan. "The mentors and the support staff helped us grow to become dentists."
Each year Comanche AEGD takes eight recent dental-school graduates and puts them through a challenging academic and clinical course, said Col. Bernard Hennessy, Fort Sill Dental Activity Comanche AEGD program director.
"Our goal is to produce a dentist who is capable of working independently, say, in a deployed or remote area," he said. "The program probably gives the dentists a five-year advantage over their classmates who didn't do this training after dental school."
The Army trains about 48 dentists annually through its AEGD scholarship program at seven forts, he said. At Sill, the training covers prosthodontics (crown, dentures, bridge work); endodontics (root canals); periodontics (gums, gum diseases); oral maxillofacial surgery (extractions, dental trauma); and restorative (fillings, cosmetic dentistry).
The residents spent about two months immersed in each specialty treating patients at some of Fort Sills' five dental clinics. Working with mentors, the residents were closely monitored and evaluated until their skill levels were shown to be proficient.
Hennessy described the 2011 class as "very talented."
"It's amazing to us mentors how really bright these young men and women are," he said. "They work hard, and they've been a joy to be around."
Capt. Sasha Smith, a graduate of the Georgia Health Sciences University, School of Dental Medicine, said the AEGD program also taught her about leadership roles and working with others.
"I worked not only with my classmates, but assistants and mentors," she said. "A lot of teamwork evolved during the program."
She said she was looking forward to working as a brigade dentist at Fort Drum, N.Y.
During the graduation ceremony, Fort Sill DENTAC Commander Col. Mary Jo Corbett noted the symbolism of the graduation date and the spirit of the resident program to its namesake people.
"The fifteenth of July is celebrated as Comanche Chief's Day, you will note that there is a full moon today," she said.
The dental students were involved in a triad of centennial celebrations during their yearlong residency here, Corbett said.
First was the Army Dental Corps, then came the field artillery school and the community is still celebrating the anniversary of the death of the last and greatest Comanche chief, Quanah Parker, she said.
"You have been formed in the red dirt of Oklahoma, you've been molded into shape and fired up by the leadership of the Fires Center of Excellence in the leaders you are today," Corbett said to the graduates.
Keynote speaker Col. Priscilla Hamilton, U.S. Army Dental Command commander at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, said the new dentists earned the 9D special skill identifier and are the backbone of deployment dentistry.
"You are absolutely essential in those isolated areas ... you will earn your keep," said Hamilton, a 1982 graduate of the Comanche AEGD program.
Capt. Eric Sexton, a University of Oklahoma dental school graduate, said one of the most challenging parts of the program was learning to become an Army officer while simultaneously attending a doctoral-level program.
"It's a very real AEGD program with the same academic and clinical rigors in a civilian program, and you add to that a whole new lifestyle that the Army represents," said Sexton, who will remain at Fort Sill.
During the ceremony all the graduates were awarded the Army Achievement Medal. The other graduates were Capts. Abby Boschert, Philip Buckler, Chad Coombs, Jesse Hall and Stephen Peterman.