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“Why Choose Washington University for a Dental Education?” by John T. Bird, 1964

John T. Bird

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.”  Other articles explored what is dentistry and career opportunities in dentistry.  This article was written by John T. Bird, then an associate dean of the School of Dentistry and member of the 1943 graduating class.  Bird later served as dean of the School of Dentistry from 1967 to 1976.

John T. Bird

John T. Bird ’43
Associate Dean

When making a selection involving as much time, money and personal impact as dental training, the experience and reputation of the school are probably as important considerations as any to be made.

Only three dental schools have operated longer than Washington University, and they are on the east coast.  Hundreds of schools have been started since the first one in 1840, but only the strong ones have continued.  Obviously, Washington University’s School of Dentistry has demonstrated its ability to provide the dental training required by the changing times since its founding in 1866.

One good reason for choosing Washington University School of Dentistry then is its long experience and good reputation.  Many alumni send their children and their grandchildren back to their Alma Mater for dental education.

How does it stand now? – among the very best.  Most if not all of the dental schools in North America have the American Dental Association’s approval, which means they meet certain minimum standards.  Of course Washington University is among them, but as surely as models of the same car differ, so do approved dental schools.  This difference is some of the explanation for such things as tuition differences.

Washington University School of Dentistry, for instance, has its own staff of basic science teachers and research personnel.  It would be less expensive if other divisions of the University taught these subjects for us as is done in many dental schools, but we consider it important to have the direct and personal influence of these people (mostly Doctors of Philosophy) constantly among our faculty.  This is expensive but definitely an asset of this School of Dentistry.

The faculty in general is another of the most important features to be considered in choosing a dental school.  The number of full-time teachers in a school indicates a type of full commitment to the students which cannot be expected from part-time teachers.  Of our total faculty of 79, 23 are full-time teachers.  This is a high proportion, and when considered against the maximum number of students per class of 52, a good ratio between students and teachers is seen.  In the freshman year, 14 teachers are involved with the class, 26 teachers with the sophomores, 51 with the juniors and 55 with the seniors.  The part-time teachers are dentists who also conduct dental practices, and they bring their invaluable clinical experience especially to juniors and seniors as they begin the clinical phases of their education.

Financial aid for students is another important factor to consider.  Though there are never enough loans to fill all needs of all students, over one-fourth of our total tuition is paid in loans.  In addition to the usual federal loan funds for students, the School of Dentistry has a good number of its own loan funds available, and dental students share liberally in the University’s general loan funds.

How a school uses its facilities is also a feature to judge.  Washington University maintains full facilities for each student admitted.  The limit of fifty-two students each year is established because of the size of laboratories, lecture rooms and clinics.  Space in these areas is always available to each student whether he uses it or not.  This too is expensive, but it is the policy of this school that no student is to be deprived of the opportunity to learn because of an overcrowding of facilities.

Another reason to choose the School of Dentistry of Washington University is the type of dentist its produces.  This may be the most important factor, if it is true that a school may be judged by its product.  Look at our alumni and quietly compare them with other dentists.  There is something pleasingly different about them.  Ask them what it is, and they will say something like, “The School showed us how to grow intellectually and always be good dentists even many years after graduation.  We learned more than the techniques of treatment.  We can enjoy the new developments in the profession because we have learned how to judge them, select the best and pass them on to the benefit of our patients.  This makes a satisfying life.”

This is stated in another way in the published objectives of the School – “Washington University School of Dentistry, a private institution, is dedicated to high professional skill and to the development of an atmosphere of learning that will equip the student to evaluate properly the developments of the future.”

It is very difficult to find a better School of Dentistry than the one at Washington University.


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