By Lance D. Davis, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsMay 17, 2016
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (May 17, 2016) - U.S. Army Dental Activity-Japan took the lead to restore the Tri-Service Dental Health Symposium, hosting 70 military dentists from the Army, Navy and Air Force May 10-12 at The New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo.
The last Tri-Service Symposium was hosted in 2013 by the Naval Hospital Yokosuka Dental Services but was discontinued indefinitely due to budgetary constraints, according to Maj. Demarcio Reed, commander of DENTAC-Japan.
When designated by U.S. Army Dental Command-Pacific to host a regional symposium, DENTAC-Japan decided to include the sister services with the intent of bringing back the Tri-Service Symposium, said Reed.
The purpose of the symposium is to build stronger connections among military dentists, said Reed, in the Pacific region and provide them with professional, continuing dental education.
"This event is essential to our professional development, providing us great opportunities to learn from one another, build camaraderie, esprit de corps, and relationships that will endure hopefully long afterwards," said Reed, during his opening remarks.
Participants from the Pacific region included: Korea; Alaska; Hawaii; Joint Base Lewis McChord, Wash.; Okinawa; and the mainland of Japan.
Dental officers had the opportunity to hear presenters from the three branches of service cover a variety dental areas and specialties, including the dilemma of a cracked tooth; pediatric dentistry; and an analysis of dental emergencies and oral health effects of combat stress.
"This has been extremely informative," said Navy Cmdr. Toni Bowden, comprehensive dentist assigned to 3rd Dental Battalion at Camp Butler in Okinawa. "When meeting with our sister services, you often find you're doing things the same way, but you still pick up ideas on how you can enhance or improve what we do every day."
The symposium also included a presentation from Maj. Gen. Michihiko Suzuki, chief of the Japan Self-Defense Forces Dental Corps and oral surgery department at JSDF Central Hospital in Tokyo.
Suzuki provided an overview of the Japan Self-Defense Force, its medical corps, dental officers and Japanese dentistry.
"It was important for me to participate because of the mutual understanding between our two countries: America and Japan," said Suzuki. "I look forward to an even closer relationship in the future."
Bowden said she thought it was "very nice" to have Suzuki represent the JSDF and she enjoyed learning about Japanese dental officers and their educational paths.
Navy Lt. Steve Milord, general dentist assigned to 3rd Dental Battalion at Marines Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, said he enjoyed all of the presentations, but "Value of Intuition as a Decision-Making Tool for Strategic Leaders" given by Army Col. Shan Bagby, commander of DENTAC at JBLM, stood out the most to him.
Milord said it was unique because it emphasized the value of intuition and critical thinking among officers.
"At the level of being a doctor, when you have this higher education, it's easy to think that you're there in terms of intellectual development and not push yourself to grow in other ways, but life does not end at mastering dentistry.
"We're not only dentists; we're officers," he said.
The military dentists were able to receive continuing dental education credits, which helps them maintain professional credentials and state licensure, said U.S. Air Force Capt. Duy Nguyen, general dentist assigned to 374th Dental Squadron at Yokota Air Force Base.
"A symposium like this is cost effective because we (in Japan) don't have to travel back to the states to get our continuing dental education credits," said Nguyen.
Attendees had the opportunity to network during an evening reception.
"Being able to interact with our sister services is what's most special because it's not like we get to see each other every day," said U.S. Air Force Col. Richard McClure, commander of 374th Dental Squadron.
"The more we can interact, I think the better it is for our relationships in the future," he said.
Army Capt. Daniel Bjorge, general dentist assigned to DENTAC-Japan at Torii Station in Okinawa, who previously served in the Air Force said the overall event was great and necessary because "we're all the same."
"It doesn't matter if you're Army, Navy or Air Force when someone needs treatment. We're all working towards the same goals."
Reed said the Navy is scheduled to host the Tri-Service Symposium next year and hopes it will eventually expand to include JSDF dentists, as it did originally, now that "the door has been reopened."