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“Freshman Year” by Cary A. Behle, 1964

The May 1964 issue of the Washington University Dental Journal was devoted to “A Future in Dentistry.”  Its purpose was to give the school’s alumni information that they could pass on to any patients who might be interested in dentistry as a career.  A series of articles, each written by a member of the four classes, explained “Life in Dental School.”  This article about Freshman Year was written by Cary A. Behle, who graduated in the Class of 1967.

Cary A. Behle ’67

I came to Washington University School of Dentistry bewitched, bothered and bewildered.  Being just a country bumpkin from Oklahoma I didn’t know what went on in “these here doctor schools.”

The first thing I encountered was the 11-story dormitory.  My double room was comfortable and modern.  What I liked most about the situation was the convenience – the Dental School was just across the street.  Now with the tuition money in my pocket and the city of St. Louis at my disposal, I was all set to have a good time.  Unfortunately, classes interrupted my plans.

My first anatomy class was an experience I shall never forget.  When I learned we would hear about 15,000 new words this year, I went back to the room and began reading my dictionary.  Anatomy combined all the subjects of gross and microscopic anatomy, as well as embryology.  Part of our time was spent in the dissection laboratory working on cadavers, and the rest of the time was spent studying microscope slides.

I was warned by the ever-present upper classmen that physiological chemistry was tough.  That only helped me to reach the inevitable conclusion a little earlier, like five minutes after the class started.  Chemistry dealt first in theory, then applied these principles to the various functions of the human body.  The laboratory dealt with learning the characteristics of the different chemicals found in the body, as well as different analytical techniques.

The next day I was looking forward to my first real dental course in dental materials.  Now at last I was to get a taste of what I was to do the rest of my life.  I even got to wear a white coat in lab.  Dental materials dealt with the properties of the various materials used in a dental practice, and the laboratory gave us practice in handling these materials.

Dental anatomy was the other course we had the first quarter.  Have you ever tried to make a rectangular block look like a tooth?  It’s quite easy, they told us.  Just carve off everything that doesn’t look like a tooth.  Anyway in the course we learned the form and functions of teeth, which is basic knowledge to all subsequent dental courses.

As the year progressed, we picked up more courses and dropped others.  Physiology took the place of chemistry.  There we studied different systems of the body and their function and interrelationship.  The laboratory, the “freshman clinic,” gave us experience in performing operations on frogs, rats, turtles and dogs.

We also picked up oral histology, which dealt with the structure of the tissues related to the oral cavity; and comparative dental anatomy which gave us an idea of the evolution of teeth.  It also comes in handy so you can tell if you have an alligator in your chair.

This year, we are lucky enough to be the first freshman class to receive a crown and bridge course, which is usually reserved for the sophomore year.  Now we learned to prepare teeth for crowns and inlays.

Generally, the freshman year was occupied with basic sciences, giving us background for the more specific courses in later years.

Of course the year was not completely books – at least for most people.  The gymnasium in the dorm was always convenient, especially when the nurses were playing volleyball.  Nearby Forest Park offered many facilities too numerous to mention.  Then, St. Louis isn’t exactly a dull town, and if you can possibly tear yourself away from the books, you can find something to do.  Dental fraternities also offer many social activities, as well as association with your fellow students from other classes and also the professors.

Besides this, I have joined the Navy as an Ensign in the reserves and attend meetings of the Washington University Dental Company every week.

Therefore, you can see that there is plenty to do in the freshman year.  One at least doesn’t have to worry about being bored.


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