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“The Young Graduate” by Benno E. Lischer, 1940

Benno E. Lischer

This editorial by Benno E. Lischer appeared in the August 1940 issue of the Washington University Dental Journal.  Lischer (1876-1959) received his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from the Dental Department of Washington University in 1900.  He served on the faculty of his alma mater from 1900 until 1924, when he was appointed lecturer on Orthodontics at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).  In 1929 Lischer moved to San Francisco to accept the position of professor of Orthodontics at the University California.  Four years later Lischer returned to Washington University when he was offered the deanship of the School of Dentistry; he served as dean and professor of Orthodontics until 1945.

Benno E. Lischer

by Dean Benno E. Lischer

At this time of the year many of us are concerned with vacation plans seeking a period of rest, or at least an appreciable slackening in our daily tasks.  A short two months hence summer will be giving way to autumn and another academic year will start its cycle of problems and accomplishments.  Yet only a few weeks ago scores of stages all over our land were set for Commencement ceremonies, and young graduates and their parents by the thousands were participating in these exercises with high hopes and earnest expectations.  Many fervent speakers again extolled the virtues of principles we long have held dear and not a few were unafraid to dwell on the grave problems of these cruel days.  After half a century of the most brilliant technical progress, never before equaled in history, the world breaks down in violence and civilization itself is striving to survive.  In this milieu our young graduate must carve his career.

It is not difficult to praise ideals of the past and the achievements of our pioneers, to draft the blue-prints of their notable successes.  But our young graduate may argue that our social controls “have lagged behind our technological advances,” and that he is “confronted with difficulties and problems far more distracting and formidable than ever troubled his predecessors.”

He knows that good health increases our capacity to work and to enjoy life; that dental caries is so widespread that all children need his services; that at least half of them are suffering from hideous oral deformities; and that reliable medical authorities estimate that fully three-fourths of the chronic diseases of old age start by way of the mouth.  Wherever he turns he sees the necessity for extending dental services.

He has pondered the carefully controlled school experiments which showed that the cost of a “repeater” in the grades would provide the necessary dental care for twenty-seven children; he has observed that many repeaters are the result of dental neglect.  And so he questions the soundness of a society that knows the implications of its ills yet takes no action to correct them.

Our young graduate of today believes that if we would put wisdom into our teeth we must begin in infancy, and that the aim of the health professions is to prevent as well as cure diseases, deformities and mutilations.  Dentistry to him is more than an art for the repair of decayed teeth; it is a growing science at the threshold of great achievements; a field of knowledge that abounds in opportunities for promoting the health and happiness of man.

As the young graduate goes forth to take his place in dentistry he will meet with responsibilities we failed to recognize, or unbravely consigned to a convenient destiny.  His professional proficiency undoubtedly is better than was ours; but he will ask questions – need to ask questions – and seek answers that we did not trouble about.

Fortunate indeed are the young men and women entering the profession today who comprehend the basic importance of the scientific studies of human relations, of dire need for balancing the production and distribution of man-made wealth; who accept gladly and with reasonable clarity the assumptions and validity of democratic government, and who,

“In this black hour,
when skies are dark with hate,
And sweet green earth lies prostrate, charred and sere;
    . . . . .
That fire itself is helpless to devour
Or undermine
The treasure of the spirit.”


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