Tom Millard (right) accepts the Hall of Honor plaque in honor of his late father, H. Dean Millard, from Dr. Wayne Colquitt.
Dr. Connie Verhagen (center) is presented with the Distguished Service Award by Dean Laurie McCauley and Dr. Josef Kolling.
Carlene Sullivan Gibson, an emeritus dental hygiene grad, and her husband, Ric Fochtman, look at the 1927 graduation photo of her father, Carl Sullivan.
Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 4, 2016 -– Members of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry Class of 1966 were honored Thursday during a Homecoming weekend program that also recognized a former faculty member, an alumna with a long record of service to dentistry and a dental organization that has helped the school advance the profession.
About 40 alumni who earned their DDS and Dental Hygiene degrees in 1966 returned for the presentation of their 50-year emeritus medallions and several other events, including the school’s annual awards ceremony.
The awards presented this year are:
• The 2016 Hall of Honor Award was presented to the family of the late H. Dean Millard, who was a respected faculty member at the School of Dentistry for 37 years. Millard was the first person to receive a master’s degree in Oral Diagnosis and Radiology from U-M. He was a pioneer in advocating a more holistic approach to dental education and clinical practice, and emphasized the relationship between oral health and systemic health. He was a consultant for Project HOPE’s dental program and was a leader of the First World Workshop on Oral Medicine. Millard earned his DDS from U-M in 1952 and his Master’s degree in 1956.
In introducing the award, Dr. Wayne Colquitt (DDS 1968, MS 1975) said School of Dentistry students during Millard’s tenure on the faculty no doubt remember filling out five pink pages of a form providing broad health background information for each of their patients. That sort of comprehensive assessment was a new emphasis at the time. While it may have been seen as laborious busywork by students, it signaled a transformation in health care that allowed dentists to “avoid emergencies and nasty surprises” later when treating their patients. That holistic approach to oral diagnosis is now commonplace, Colquitt noted.
The Hall of Honor award is presented posthumously by the School of Dentistry’s Alumni Society Board of Governors to recognize and honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the profession of dentistry. Nominees must be a graduate of the DDS, DH, MS or PhD programs, a faculty member or a research staff member. Since the Hall of Honor was created in 2003, 48 people have been honored.
• The 2016 Distinguished Service Award was presented to Dr. Connie Verhagen (DDS 1986, MS 1988), a pediatric dentist who practices in Muskegon, Mich. Verhagen was cited for her “extraordinary level of commitment and leadership to dentistry over the last 30 years.”
Verhagen has been active in the Michigan Dental Association for three decades, serving as president from 2011-12, as a trustee from 2002-13 and in numerous other officer and committee assignments. She’s accepted leadership roles in the Muskegon District Dental Society, the American and Michigan Academies of Pediatric Dentistry, and many other organizations. She’s written on a wide range of topics for professional journals, and has been a panelist and speaker on numerous dentistry-related topics at seminars throughout Michigan and around the country.
Dr. Josef Kolling (DDS 1981, MS 1984), said a statewide program that has benefited thousands of Michigan residents in the last several years would not exist if not for the leadership of Verhagen. He said she tirelessly advocated for the Mission of Mercy project started several years ago by the Michigan Dental Association. It provides free dental care to underserved patients at two-day clinics scheduled every other year at a different location around the state. This year, the third MOM organized 1,244 volunteers who provided nearly $1 million of free dental care to 968 patients – in two days.
• The Partner in Leadership Award was presented to the Delta Dental Foundation (DDF) for its longstanding connection to and generous support of the school’s mission. The DDF has provided nearly $3 million to the School of Dentistry over the past five years for student scholarships, faculty support, scientific clinical research, community outreach programs, continuing education and many other projects and initiatives.
The DDF’s most recent $2 million gift will be used to build the Delta Dental of Michigan Integrated Special Care Clinic to serve dental patients with special needs at both the school’s Community Dental Center in downtown Ann Arbor and as part of the upcoming major dental school renovation project at the school’s campus location. Until the permanent dental center is completed, the temporary clinic currently under construction at the Community Dental Center will be funded by a portion of the $2 million gift. This clinic is expected to be operational by August 2017.
Prior to the awards luncheon Thursday, the returning dentists and dental hygienists from the Class of 1966 were honored during a program that included individual presentations of their emeritus medallions. Dean Laurie McCauley welcomed the alumni with a presentation that summarized current programs and initiatives, highlighted by the school’s latest ranking as the top school of dentistry in the country and No. 2 in the world, a reference that drew applause and cheers from the alumni.
McCauley said current administrators are focused on maintaining and improving upon the tradition of excellence that has marked the school since its early days 140 years ago. She read a letter from a university alumnus that she keeps in her files because it reminds her of that high standard. The alum, who graduated from U-M in 1956, wrote to tell the dean that the dental work he received at the School of Dentistry all those years ago when he was on campus is still in place and working just fine. McCauley said the letter is a small example of a greater truth: “This is the Michigan tradition – excellence that lasts for decades and decades.”
Alumni also toured the Roberts Preclinical Simulation Lab and talked with current students about the equipment they use. Some of the dental tools haven’t changed much since 1966, they said, and some are considerably different. During the tour and at the awards luncheon that followed, alumni gathered in small groups to reminisce about their time together half a century ago.
On the way to the lab tour, Carlene Sullivan Gibson, an emeritus dental hygiene grad, and her husband, Ric Fochtman, searched the hallway that is lined with dozens of DDS class photos, looking for the Class of 1927. At last they found it at the far end of the wall. The prize? Once again seeing the vintage graduation photo of her father, Carl Sullivan, who practiced dentistry in Detroit until 1974. The sentimental moment was another good reason the couple had come from Indian Wells, Calif., for the Homecoming events.
Drs. Jerry Heiman and Jim Coggan stood near a display case in the Sindecuse Museum atrium, sharing stories and finding common ground in their recollections of their dentistry education at U-M.
Heiman, who is retired after practicing dentistry for 26 years in Midland, Mich., said five decades of professional growth and life experiences have informed his once-harsh memories of his dental school days. Professors were all-business and aloof; there was a right way and everything else was the wrong way. In some of his advanced work, as a resident in oral surgery, the faculty operated on the patient and the students watched rather than getting hands-on experience they would have preferred. Then there were the social customs of the time: “I can remember being told, ‘You should never appear out in public without a suit and tie on,’ ” Heiman said.
Yet, when Heiman and his U-M-trained dentist friends went out into the professional world, they learned that they were leaders in the profession. “As tough as it was, as unfriendly as it was, I think they did probably have a pretty good model of preparing us,” Heiman said. “I have nothing bad to say about my education. It was the way it was done at the time and it produced a good result.”
Coggan said his memories of dental school often focus on a single, ground-breaking professor of periodontology. “Thinking back to my time here, what comes to mind in terms of the quality of my preparation was being terrorized by Dr. Sigurd Ramfjord in perio. I didn’t ‘get it’ at all,” Coggan said, and as a result he went off to practice in California, uninterested in that specialty. But over time, a funny thing happened – he began to realize periodontology was something he liked. “And it was 10 years later that I found myself back in graduate school specializing in what was so challenging, so difficult for me in Ann Arbor," he said. One of his cherished professional memories is from several years later when Ramfjord was in California for a presentation and Coggan had “a wonderful opportunity to share a few minutes with him and give him acknowledgement for how my professional career had progressed.”
The School of Dentistry’s Homecoming weekend continues today with a reception in the school Commons from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. and on Saturday with alumni attending the U-M football game vs. Maryland at Michigan Stadium.
The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service. General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan. Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies. Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide. For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at: www.dent.umich.edu.
Sharon Grayden, Communications Director, at (734) 615-2600, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Lynn Monson, Writer, at (734) 615-1971.