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The Dental Corps

AMEDD Corps History > U.S. Army Dental Corps > Walter D. Vail and the History of the U.S. Army Dental Corps

DENTAL BULLETIN SUPPLEMENT TO THE ARMY MEDICAL BULLETIN

VOLUME 6, NO. 3 (JULY 1935)

135

THE DENTAL CORPS*

(Continued from page 80, April 1935 issue).

(CORRECTION.—On page 77, April issue, it was stated that examinations for appointment of contract dental surgeons were held in the United States only. It has been found that special authority was granted for the examination of H. O. Scott in the Philippine Islands. He qualified and was subsequently appointed (S.G.O. 115881-A-1).)

Before taking up matters of legislative character it seems proper to include in this record certain accounts of Army dentistry during the Spanish American War.

The following is taken from A History of the Medical Department of the United States Army, by P. M. Ashburn, Colonel, Medical Corps, U. S. Army:

The Dental Corps did not legally exist until February 2, 1901, when Congress enacted that “The Surgeon General of the Army, with the approval of the Secretary of War, be, and he is, hereby, authorized to employ dental surgeons to serve the officers and enlisted men of the Regular and Volunteer Army, in the proportion of not to exceed one for every 1000 of said Army, and not to exceed thirty in all. Said dental surgeons shall be employed as contract dental surgeons under the terms and conditions applicable to army contract surgeons.” But it had a beginning in the Spanish-American War, in the Seventh Army Corps at Jacksonville, Florida. The following account of that beginning is taken from the report of Lieutenant Colonel Louis M. Maus, Chief Surgeon, Seventh Army Corps:

*(NOTE.—This is the tenth installment of a series of articles pertaining to the organization of the Dental Corps and the development of the Army dental service. These installments are a compilation of available records with such comment as is necessary to connect the record.-4V.D.V.).


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Department of Dentistry. On account of the large number of men belonging to the corps, who suffered from toothache, bad teeth, and other troubles of the mouth, I determined to organize a department of dentistry. I had learned previously that quite a number of the members of the hospital corps were dentists as well as physicians. Hospital Steward J. W., Horner, U.S.A., was assigned to the duties of corps dentist and Acting Hospital Steward Watts was detailed as his assistant. Suitable rooms, were hired by the Quartermaster Department for offices in each of the cities where the corps was serving. Dr. Horner equipped the offices, etc., and agreed to do the work gratuitously, only making a nominal charge for materials used, which, as a rule, amounted to very little. After the establishment of his office, the following circular, dated September 30, 1898, was issued by the corps commander:

"Dr. J. W. Horner, Corps dentist, has established himself in his office on the corner of Forsyth and Main street and in the Hubbard Building, and is now ready to attend to the teeth of any member of the Seventh Army Corps. Dr. Horner is to do all of the dental work for members of the corps free of cost, except for material furnished.

“Regimental commanders will cause this circular to be published by their company commanders to companies.

“It was almost impossible to realize the great benefit which resulted to the troops from this department, located as they were in the field. Engagements were made as in civil life, and both dentists were kept busy from early morning to late into night. I was informed by the dentist that he was unable to attend to half the calls that were made on him. In my opinion every corps should be provided with a dental department consisting of one chief dentist with the rank of major, three dentists with the rank of captain, and three assistant dentists with the rank of first lieutenant.”


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The following is taken from the Dental Cosmos, Vol. LIX, No. 7, (July 1917):

PIONEER ARMY DENTISTS IN THE PHILIPPINES.

To The Editor of The Dental Cosmos:

Sir,—Soon after getting into camp in the Richmond race-tract district at San Francisco, Cal., in May 1898, a matter of some 160 hospital corps men reported to me for duty in that camp. Within the next two or three days two of these men came to me and gave their names as W. H. Ware and John Gibbons. As I now recall, Ware was the spokesman, and they said to me, “Major Owen, we have enlisted as hospital corps men in the hope that we might be able by our personal work to demonstrate that dentists may be of service to an army.” I said, “Very well, then; go to your deans and friends in the city and have yourselves properly vouched for to me and I will talk further with you. I like the thought which you offer me." In the course of a few days they returned to me, properly vouched for as competent men. I thereupon said to them, “I want you to prepare a requisition for the necessary dental supplies that you will require for the number of men in the Philippine expedition for twelve months. I do not want you to leave out any instruments that you feel are necessary for the work, and I want you to have the drugs that you are accustomed to use. Now, make out this requisition and have the sergeant include it in the requisition that I am making for the Surgeon-general.” These men made up a requisition for two complete dental outfits, which were issued and were taken by me to the Philippine Islands. Soon after our arrival in the islands, one day, in a hurry in signing papers, I unfortunately overlooked the fact that John Gibbons was detailed away from the group remaining under my personal supervision. Ware, however, went with the detachment under my personal charge to the little island of Corregidor in the mouth of Manila


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Bay, where I was directed to establish a convalescent hospital for the 8th Army Corps in the City of Manila.

In one of the buildings where there was a good light I established Ware as a dental surgeon, and he was kept busy at this work, doing absolutely nothing else but dental work, with one or more assistants to help him keep his room and materials in proper shape, to enable him to do his work as a decent operator should be allowed to do it. It was soon discovered that there was a competent dentist, with proper tools, on duty at the convalescent hospital, and the result was that Ware was kept busy all the time to the limit of his personal capacity to labor—and his capacity was good. He worked hard, and I have regretted more than I can say that Ware, who would now be one of the oldest men in the service, little by little, with hope deferred of ever receiving a commission so that he would be on a permanent footing, at last felt that he was compelled to resign and return to civil life in order to make a position for himself. He was a good man, a good dentist, and a good friend, and I have carried since those days a warm place in my heart for a man who rendered me a loyal and untiring service.

Gibbons, instead of being detailed to do work with his dental outfit, like many other poor boy sought the excitement of the battlefield, and one day, returning from the firing-line between the handle-bars of a litter, bringing from the battlefield a wounded officer, Gibbons received a bullet which passed through his heart, and the poor boy died on the field of battle, doing his duty as an upright, honest man. I am sure from the papers and other matters that have come to my attention concerning him that had he been permitted by the Great Master he would have proved himself as faithful to his duty as a dentist as he was in the capacity of litter-bearer on the field of battle.

I inclose you herewith a copy of the picture of Ware with his operating outfit. This is the very first dentist who was ever officially employed in the United States army. My interview with Ware and Gibbons was early in May 1898.

Very sincerely yours,

                                                                                                W. O. OWEN,

                                                                                    Col. Med. Corps, U. S. Army.

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Washington, D.C., April 24, 1917.

It appears that a movement to establish the Dental Corps on a permanent basis was begun shortly after the passage of the Act of February 2, 1901. On April 25, 1902, the Secretary of War referred to the Surgeon General Senate Bill 5420, “To reorganize the corps of dental surgeons attached to the Medical Department of the Army.”

On April 29, 1902, the Surgeon General returned the bill to the Secretary of War by first indorsement as follows:

“Respectfully returned to the Honorable, the Secretary of War. The dental surgeons appointed in accordance with the Act of Feb. 2, 1901, are rendering excellent service and their services are highly appreciated by the officers and enlisted men of the Army, especially in the Philippines and at the large military posts in the U.S. A larger number could be utilized to good advantage and the permanent retention of dental surgeons as part of the military establishment will in my opinion be in the interest of the service. With reference to this bill I invite attention to the fact that in the Medical Corps of the Army we have no such title as “passed assistant” surgeon. A medical officer upon appointment has the rank of First Lieutenant and at the end of five years service, if he passes a satisfactory examination is promoted to the rank of Captain but he is still an “Assistant Surgeon.” I see no good reason for using the word assistant in the title either of dental surgeons or of medical officers of the Army. I would suggest that the three dental examining surgeons be given the rank, pay and allowances of Captain of Infantry and the other dental surgeons the rank, pay and allowances of First Lieutenant of Infantry.”

On October 14, 1902, Dr. John S. Marshall, Examining and Supervising Dental Surgeon, wrote the Surgeon General inclosing a draft of a bill providing rank and prescribing duties for officers of the Dental Corps. His reasons for presenting the bill were that dental diseases were very prevalent among officers and enlisted men; that the services of dental surgeons had


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become an indispensable adjunct of the Army; that the cost of maintaining a corps of dental surgeons would be small when compared with the financial saving to the Government in preventing loss of service by reason of incapacity for duty and the probable future reduction in the number of claims for pensions; that contract system was not adequate for the requirements of permanent dental service; that a status similar to that proposed in his bill would make Army dental practice attractive and would encourage experienced dentists to remain in the service.

Concluding his letter, Dr. Marshall stated “I would, therefore, most respectfully solicit your consideration of the merits of the case, and your suggestions upon the various features of the measure as presented, with the hope that you will see the propriety and advisability of recommending to the Secretary of War the passage by Congress at its next session of this or some other measure which in your judgment might seem more desirable.” (S.G.O. 70760-5).

The main provisions of Dr. Marshall’s bill were that “the corps” shall consist of three dental surgeons, each with the rank, pay and allowances of major, six assistant dental surgeons, each with the rank, pay and allowances of captain, mounted, and twenty-one dental surgeons, each with the rank, pay and allowances of 1st Lieutenant, mounted; that promotions were to be made by seniority service; that service as contract dental surgeons was to be computed as commissioned service; that vacancies were to be filled by appointment of candidates from civil life between the ages of twenty-four and thirty years, and that in time of war, or when war is imminent, the President may appoint volunteer dental surgeons with the pay, rank and allowances of 1st Lieutenant, mounted, provided that the total number of dental surgeons shall not exceed one to each 2,000 enlisted men in the regular volunteer forces.

Receipt of Dr. Marshall’s letter with the proposed bill was acknowledged by the Surgeon General on October 23, 1902.

On November 30, 1903, Dr. Marshall wrote the Surgeon General the following letter:

“I have had it in mind for some time to address you by personal letter and thank you for the gracious mention of


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my name in your annual report to the Hon. The Secretary of War and to assure you that it is greatly appreciated. Sometime ago you very kindly invited me to be free in suggesting for your consideration such matters as seemed to me to be of importance for the well being and efficiency of the Dental Corps.

“The question of a change in status of the Dental Corps seems at present—at least to the members of the corps—to be of vital importance, and they are looking to me to place the subject before you for your consideration. Many of our best young men are getting uneasy and more or less dissatisfied over their status and future prospects. Several of them—men whose services it would be a misfortune to loose —have written me that they are seriously considering whether they can afford to sacrifice their professional prospects and financial interests much longer by remaining in the service as Contract Dental Surgeons.

“These gentlemen would however gladly remain in the service, could they receive a reasonable assurance, that the corps would be placed upon a commissioned basis with fair prospects of promotion.

“I noticed in the Army and Navy Journal of November 14th, 1903, that Mr. Brownlow had introduced a bill in the House of Representatives with the view of establishing the corps upon a commissioned basis, but I am not sure from what source it emanated, but I think from the committee on legislation of the National Dental Association. I could wish however that it had been more definite in its provisions and statements.

“Could not the ‘proposed bill’ which I sent you be substituted for this one? Of course with such changes or additions as in your judgment would be wise and adequate for the highest efficiency of the corps and commensurate with the dignity of the profession.

“The great value of the Dental Corps to the service is fully recognized, and there is a general feeling throughout the army, that the corps should become a permanent feature of the Medical Department.


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“The cost to the government would not be increased but rather diminished, at least for several years, by placing the dental surgeons now in the service upon a commissioned status. It seems therefore to me that from the economic standpoint there could be no objection on the part of Congress to such a change in their status. I am quite sure that the dental surgeons would gladly remain even at the decrease in pay to which some would have to submit, for the sake of the improved status.

“I have been told by a gentleman who visited Washington last Spring and had a conversation with the Hon. Secretary of War, Mr. Root, upon this subject, that he was favorably inclined to the proposition to place the dental corps upon a commissioned status. Just what his idea about the number of grades that should be established and the number of files for each grade, I have no means of knowing, but I think he would approve any bill which you might propose.

“I sincerely hope that some action may be taken during this coming session of congress, to place the corps in the honorable position to which they aspire and to which the learning and the high standing of their profession entitles them to occupy.” (S.G.O. 70760-S.A.).

The Surgeon General made reply to the above communication under date of December 12, 1903. The following is quoted from his letter:

“That from the personal standpoint of the. dental surgeon it is desirable to have rank and commission there can be no doubt, but a question of this importance must be discussed from the standpoint of gain in efficient service to the government as well, and as the following objections will be urged, this office would be glad to receive your views on them at length:

“1. Dental surgeons are employed exclusively for a special line of work. They do not accompany troops in the field and are not entrusted with the command and discipline of men—why is it necessary for them to have commissions and rank?


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“2. Wherein would the dental service be improved and the government benefitted by conferring commissions and rank on dental surgeons?

“3. If the present pay is not adequate to retain desirable men in the dental service, would an increase serve this purpose?

“4. If rank is given it should not be higher than 1st Lt., because the Reserve Med. Officer, which it is desired to substitute for the Contract Surgeon, will have that rank. Would the majority of dentists in the army prefer the rank of 1st lieutenant with $133.33 per month or their present status, with pay unchanged?

“The bill introduced by Mr. Brownlow was evidently presented to him by some one not conversant with the service, and is so indefinite that its discussion is not necessary. In the bill proposed by you, an explanation of the meaning of the latter part of the first section, namely: ‘and to perform such other duties as may from time to time be directed or authorized by the Secretary of War’ is desired.

“Your attention is also invited to par. 1584, A.R. If dental surgeons should be commissioned their entire time would necessarily be at the disposal of the government, and the same liberality in regard to professional services for every one connected with the army would be expected, as is now demanded of medical officers.”

Dr. Marshall’s reply to the above communication was as follows:

“I have the honor to reply to your communication of December 12th, in which you state that your office would be glad to receive my views at length, upon certain questions which will be urged as objections to the proposition made to you by the Contract Dental Surgeons, to organize a commissioned Dental Corps in the U.S. Army.

“I desire to first briefly preface my replies to your questions by certain statements relative to the educational and scientific standing of the specialty of Dental and Oral Surgery; its im-


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portance as a conserver of the general health of communities, and its value to our military forces in garrison and in field service.

“1st. The educational and scientific standing of the specialty of Dental and Oral Surgery.

“The better class of Dental Colleges in the United States require the same preliminary education for entrance into these institutions, as is required by the better class of Medical Colleges. The courses of instruction for the first two years are also the same for all the fundamental studies, like Anatomy, Physiology, Chemistry, Histology, Pathology and Bacteriology, while in the third and fourth years, they have complete courses in Materia Medica, Therapeutics, General Surgery and Oral Surgery. The balance of these courses are made up of those special subjects which relate to the diseases of the teeth and gums, and the technique of restorations of partially decayed teeth, by filling, crowning and bridging, and the construction of artificial substitutes for teeth lost by accident or disease. Special attention in the courses of instruction in Oral Surgery, is given to the various methods of treating fractures of the jaws and gunshot injuries of the face, by mechanical appliances.

“The dental surgeon, therefore, who graduates from one of our best dental colleges, is as well prepared, in every way, for the discharge of his professional duties, as are the graduates of the best medical colleges for theirs.

“It is a generally recognized fact that America leads the world in the science of dental surgery, and has thereby brought such distinction upon our educational system, that the civilized world sends many of its young men, who desire to practice dentistry, to our schools to receive their technical education.

“The graduates of our dental colleges are recognized in every land, as superior in learning and technical skill to all others, and many of them have the distinction of occupying the position of court dentist to the various rulers of Europe and Asia.


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“2nd. 1st importance as a conserver of the general health of communities.

 

“Dental surgery is a modern science, based upon the scientific discoveries and most enlightened practice of medicine and surgery. In fact, is a specialty of medicine, and depends for its success in preventing and checking the ravages of disease, upon the application of those principles which are recognized in medicine and surgery, as essential to a rational method of treatment.

“Dental caries, Pulpitis, Dento-Alveolar-abscess, and Pyorrhea-alveolar (Rigg’s disease), which frequently result in severe constitutional disturbances of an acute or chronic character, involving, when neglected, weeks and months of illness, are among the most common diseases to which the human body is subject, while the loss of the teeth from these diseases, often results in the establishment of gastric and intestinal disorders, which makes the performance of the ordinary duties of life burdensome to these individuals, or renders them confirmed invalids, and, in some instances, causes their death.

“The application of the methods of modern dental science, have proved, that in a large majority of cases, these diseases are preventable, while upon the other hand, their progress can, in most instances, be permanently arrested by appropriate treatment. The importance, therefore, of dental science, as a factor in the conservation of the general health of communities, cannot be over-estimated.

“There is no doubt in the minds of many men of science, that the increased longevity of the human race in civilized nations, as shown by the Actuary's statistics, is in part, due to the beneficient influences of modern dental science over disease of the oral cavity and their sequelae.

“3rd. Its value to our military forces in garrison and field.

 

“The necessity for the services of dental surgeons in the Army had long been recognized by our military authorities, but it was not until the experiences of the late Spanish-American War had been crystalized into pertinent facts, that Congress realized that the Health, Comfort and Efficiency of our troops in


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the field would be greatly improved if they could receive the services of competent dental surgeons.

“Since the establishment of the Corps of Contract Dental Surgeons, the facts and statistics gathered by the Surgeon General, and incorporated in his Annual Report, for 1903, to the Honorable Secretary of War, prove that the need of dental surgeons in the Army, was much greater than at first supposed. This report shows that 16,161, or that twenty per cent of the entire mean strength of the Army were treated for dental and oral diseases, by the thirty contract dental surgeons now in the employment of the Government, and that the great majority of the operations performed (49,483), were of an emergency nature, and necessary to place the patients in fit physical condition to perform their military duties. Much of this service was rendered during active operations in the field, and at outposts in the Philippine Islands, the dental surgeon often operating in a tent and under arms.

“The prevalence of dental caries in the Army is something appalling, particularly among those troops who have served a tour in the Philippine Islands, as the following statistics will show, and which, I believe, is a fair sample of the conditions to be found in all troops who have seen tropical service.

“In a recent examination, by a dental surgeon under my command, of a regiment of infantry (white), which returned from the Philippine Islands about one year ago, having completed a tour of over two years service, it was found that the total enlisted force numbered seven hundred and thirty-eight. Of this number, 649, or 87.94 %, needed dental treatment: 260, or 35.23%, were emergency cases, needing immediate treatment, while only 89, or 12.06%, were free from dental caries in its active stages. Several of the latter cases had been subjects of the disease at a previous period, and had been operated on by filling, or extracting the teeth.

“The services of the dental surgeon will also be of great value during active operations in the field, in assisting the surgeons in the treatment of fractures and gunshot injuries of the jaws, by the construction of splints and other mechanical devices for these cases.


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“With this brief statement of facts as to the great need of dental surgeons in the Army, and their value in field operations, it would seem that in the future they must always be present with our troops, in both garrison and field service, and that they should therefore become a permanent corps, with such commissioned rank, pay and emoluments, as would be commensurate with the nature and scientific character of the services rendered.

“You state in your letter, ‘That from the personal standpoint of the dental surgeon, it is desirable to have rank and commission, there can be no doubt, but a question of this importance must be discussed from the standpoint of gain in efficient service to the Government as well.’ This position is eminently correct, and will meet with the approval of every dental surgeon in the service, for I feel confident that we can prove to your satisfaction, that only by establishing a permanent corps of commissioned dental surgeons, can the highest efficiency of the service be reached and maintained.

“The first question which your proposed is as follows:

“1 ‘Dental surgeons are employed exclusively for a special line of work. They do not accompany troops in the field, and are not entrusted with the command and discipline of men. Why is it necessary for them to have commissions and rank?’

“In discussing this question, I would respectfully call your attention to the fact that the officers of the Paymaster’s Department are employed exclusively for a special line of work, and are not entrusted with the command and discipline of men, except when furnished with an escort to guard the public funds, (see page 214, par. 598, Military laws of the United States, 1897), Chaplains, (see page 329, par. 931, of the same authority), are also employed exclusively for a special line of work, but they are not entrusted with the command and discipline of men, and yet these officers hold regular commissions in the U. S. Army.

“Each dental surgeon is allowed, by Army Regulations 1881, ordinarily one enlisted man as an assistant, detailed from the sergeants or privates of the Hospital Corps, while dental surgeons located at base stations and general hospitals, where the amount of dental work required is very considerable, have two or more enlisted men (Hospital Corps) under their command and discipline. When the dental corps was originally organized,


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it was expected that its members would accompany the troops in the field. With this expectation in view, the general outfit for dental surgeons was so selected, as to conform with the needs of field service. The instruments and supplies are packed in chests suitable for field transportation, and the chest protected from rain with canvas covers. These are the only operating outfits issued to the dental surgeons, and they have given most excellent satisfaction. There is, therefore, in my judgment, no reason why the dental surgeons should not accompany and serve the troops in the field as readily and with as great efficiency, as the Medical officers perform their duties under like circumstances. The Dental Surgeons in Mindanao, Jolo and Samar, have practically had continuous service in the field, accompanying the troops whenever they moved in large bodies, and doing duty, often under arms, at small and isolated posts, where the dangers from surprise and night attacks were constantly imminent. These gentlemen have experienced all of the hardships and dangers of service in the field with courage, and performed their duties to the satisfaction of their commanding officers. It therefore seems to me, under the circumstances, that the dental surgeons should have commissions and rank.

“Question 2. ‘Wherein would the dental service be improved, and the Government benefitted, by conferring commissions and rank on dental surgeons?’

 

“Although the services of the dental surgeons have met with merited approbation, and commendation from the officers of the Army generally, I do not feel that the Corps has by any means, reached its highest efficiency. Our present methods are .susceptible, in many respects, of considerable improvement, and the personnel of the Corps can be made more and more efficient, through study of, and a longer experience in, this special field of duty. It is a well established fact, recognized in all departments of the service, that the highest efficiency of officers and men, can only be obtained after long years of teaching and experience in any special branch of the service. This applies with as much force to the dental surgeons, as to other responsible agents of the Government, and the longer they remain in the service, the more efficient they will become.


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“A contract system of employment is not conducive to the best interests of any branch of military service, which it is desired should reach the highest possible efficiency. Frequent changes in the personnel of any organization or corps, will always keep its general efficiency down to the level of the least efficient unit in it.

“The dental service can, therefore, in my judgment, be greatly improved, and its highest efficiency reached, only by offering such inducements, by way of commissions and rank, to the dental surgeons now in the service, that they will be willing to remain as members of a permanent corps.

“The Government will be greatly benefitted by the improved service which is sure to follow upon the organization being placed upon a permanent basis, and also for several years, at least, from a more economic administration, of the corps, if placed upon the basis of three Majors, six Captains, and twenty-one First Lieutenants, as anticipated in the proposed bill.

“The pay of the Corps under the present contract system is as follows:

3 Examining and Supervising Dental Surgeons at $2520.00 per year

  $ 7560.00

27 Dental Surgeons at $1800.00 per year

   48600.00

Total

$ 56160.00

“The pay of the Corps, if commissioned, according to the provisions of the proposed bill, would be as follows:

3 Dental Surgeons with the rank of Major at $2500.00 per year

 $ 7500.00

6 Assistant Dental Surgeons with the rank of Captain, mounted, at $2000.00 per year

  12000.00

21 Assistant Dental Surgeons with the rank of 1st Lieutenant mounted, at $1600.00 per year

  33000.00

Total                                       

$ 52500.00

“This would be a net saving to the Government of $3660.00 per year.


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“Question 3. ‘If the present pay is not adequate to retain desirable men in the dental service, would an increase serve this purpose?’

 

“This question from the standpoint of the dental surgeons is one of status, and not of pay. No increase in pay, would, in my judgment, render the service more attractive to the present members of the Corps, or to those outside, unless military rank went with it.

“The position of the Contract Dental Surgeon, officially and socially, is not a desirable one to a man of spirit and legitimate pride in his profession. He very naturally feels that inasmuch as he holds a university degree, in an honorable profession, that he ought not to be debarred from such rank and privileges as are accorded to other officers in the service with like general attainments. The dental surgeon, under the present status, has to carry all of the responsibilities of commissioned officers in property accountability, the command and discipline of the Hospital Corps men assigned to duty with him, as well as the responsibilities of his professional work. Furthermore, the contract dental surgeon, in the performance of his professional duties, often finds it necessary, for the good of his patient, and the best interests of the service; to exercise certain authority and command over them. But, by a recent ruling of the Judge Advocate General, U. S. Army, the contract surgeons can no longer legally exercise this right, for he says, `A contract surgeon, not being an officer of the Army, but a civilian employee, is not authorized to issue orders to enlisted men.' This ruling, of course, applies with equal force to contract dental surgeons, and will consequently have an unfavorable influence upon their professional usefulness in the Army, unless they are given a commissioned status, with the same official control and command over their patients, while they are under their care and treatment, as is exercised by commissioned Medical officers.

“Nearly all of the gentlemen who now compose the Corps of Dental Surgeons, were selected with great care, after a rigid professional examination, to test their fitness for the service, and they have shown, by the character of their work, that they are accomplished practitioners. The retention in the Corps of these gentlemen, is very desirable from the standpoint of efficiency in


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service, and I would most respectfully suggest that this can be best accomplished by giving them appropriate rank and commission.

“Question 4. ‘If rank is given, it should not be higher than First Lieutenant, because the Reserve Medical Officer, which it is desired to substitute for the contract surgeons, will have that rank. Would the majority of dentists in the Army prefer the rank of First Lieutenant, with $133.33 per month, to their present status, with pay unchanged?’

 

“If the dental corps is to become a permanent feature of the Medical Department, and I believe this is desired by all Army people, would placing the dental surgeon upon the status of Reserve Medical Officers make the Corps a permanent organization? As I understand the idea of the Corps of Reserve Medical Officers, they are to form a body similar to volunteer medical officers, who can be discharged at any time when their services are no longer needed, and from which, vacancies in the regular medical corps can, as they occur, be filled. The Dental Corps, it seems to me, should be placed upon a different basis from this, as it will be necessary, if the affairs of the corps are to be administered with an eye to its highest efficiency, that it should be provided with a certain number of executive officers, familiar with the needs, the peculiarities, and the technique of the profession. The efficiency of the Corps can be greatly improved of such executive officers could be appointed and placed in control of the Corps as Directors, under the administration of the Surgeon General.

“It has been suggested by several members of the dental corps, that the three Examining and Supervising Dental Surgeons, according to seniority, should be made Dental Directors and Assistant Dental Directors, with suitable rank and commission, and that all others be given the rank of First Lieutenant, with promotion to the rank of Captain after five years of service, and made a part of the regular establishment, attached to the Medical Corps, but, of course, kept in a separate class. This arrangement, I believe, would be satisfactory to the Corps.

“From letters which I have received from members of the Dental Corps, I believe that I can assure you that the majority of the dental surgeons in the Army would infinitely prefer the


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rank of First Lieutenant, with pay at $133.33 per month, to their present status, with pay unchanged, or even increased.

“Question 5. You invite attention to paragraph 1584 Army Regulations and say, ‘If dental surgeons should be commissioned, their entire time would necessarily be at the disposal of the Government, and the same liberality in regard to professional services for every one connected with the Army, would be expected, as is now demanded of Medical officers.’

“In replying to this question, I would respectfully call your attention to the first section of the ‘proposed bill,’ which provides that ‘The duties of the dental surgeons shall be to give dental treatment and service to those now entitled, or hereafter may be entitled, to treatment and services of the Medical Corps of the Army.’

“The dental surgeons all feel that the same liberality, in regard to professional services, should govern the Dental Corps as now governs the Medical Corps, and it was for this reason that the above clause was inserted. The use of the precious metals in the filling of teeth; the construction of crowns and bridges, and artificial dentures, is not now provided for by the Government, but I believe it should be, and the Government reimbursed for the actual cost of the same, and the account treated as a cash sale, as is customary in the supply departments of the Army for officers and their families, and the money paid to the dental surgeon, who should turn it over to the proper authority. The accounts for the enlisted men could be sent to the company commander, and placed upon the pay rolls, to be deducted from their pay, and turned over by the Paymaster to the proper authority. This, in the case of the enlisted men, would be a great convenience.

“Question 6. You request explanation of the meaning of the latter part of the first section of the proposed bill, namely: ‘And to perform such other duties as may, from time to time be directed or authorized by the Secretary of War.’

The only idea in inserting this clause was to provide for emergencies, when it might be necessary or expedient for the interests of the service to require the dental surgeon to perform other duties than those strictly professional, such as details on Boards, Courts Martial, etc., however, it is probable that this


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would go without saying and could be omitted.

“Finally, I would respectfully suggest that the importance of the work of the dental corps and its general acceptability to the Army, justifies giving them a status that will further contribute to their efficiency while the members of the Dental Corps, individually and collectively, have fully demonstrated their professional ability, proficiency and faithfulness to the service, and, are, therefore, in my judgment, worthy of the honorable status to' which they aspire.”

The Surgeon General’s reply to the above letter was very complimentary to Dr. Marshall as is shown below.

“Your reply to the letter from this office asking for information in regard to certain questions which would surely be raised regarding the proposition to confer rank and military status on Contract Dental Surgeons has been received, and will have, as it merits, attentive consideration. On a first reading I am impressed with the lucid and positive manner in which the points touched on by you are presented. While complimenting you on this, I feel bound to say that the statement does not quite make clear what compensating advantage from a commission the Army dentist will gain to make up for the two hundred dollars a year he will sacrifice in pay, or how the efficiency of the Service will be promoted. But I am open to conviction.”

(To be continued)