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AMEDD Corps History > U.S. Army Dental Corps


John Sayre Marshall’s Report to

the 1901 National Dental Association Annual Meeting:

“Organization of the Dental Corps of the U.S. Army,

With Suggestions upon the Educational Requirements

for Military Dental Practice”

When the National Dental Association (NDA) met in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 6-9 August 1901 for its annual meeting, the members of the Board of Examining and Supervising Dental Surgeons had just completed their work in Washington, D.C. on 31 July. They had examined and selected 27 of the 30 contract dental surgeons that Congress in February had authorized to serve in the U.S. Army Medical Department. John Sayre Marshall, President of the Board and the senior examining and supervising contract dental surgeon, and Robert T. Oliver, member and recorder, both attended the annual meeting as official representatives of the Army Medical Department, establishing a pattern of official participation and involvement that has continued ever since. Both Marshall and Oliver were headed to their first duty stations, Marshall to the Presidio of San Francisco and Oliver to Manila for duty with the American forces in the Philippine Islands.

At the NDA’s request, Marshall had prepared a report entitled “Organization of the Dental Corps of the U.S. Army, With Suggestions upon the Educational Requirements for Military Dental Practice” based on the board’s recently concluded work and his thoughts about the future of dentistry in the U.S. Army. Col. Walter D. Vail, Dental Corps, who did pioneering research and publication on the early history of the Dental Corps during the 1930s, stated in his biographical sketch of Marshall in the July 1940 edition of the Dental Corps’ Dental Bulletin Supplement to The Army Medical Bulletin that this report was “unquestionably the most important document in the early history of military dentistry.”[1]

1 Walter D. Vail, “John Sayre Marshall, Pioneer Army Dental Surgeon, (1846-1922),” Dental Bulletin Supplement to The Army Medical Bulletin 11 (July 1940), 113.

Transactions of the National Dental Association [1901].

Chicago: Dental Digest, 1902.







Pursuant to an order issued by the Secretary of War, the Surgeon General of the U. S. Army convened in Washington, Feb. 18, 1901, the members of the examining and supervising board of dental surgeons. These gentlemen had been previously appointed by the Surgeon General and approved by the Secretary of War, on the authority of the provisions of the army reorganization bill, which was passed on February 2, to have charge of the examination of the candidates who were seeking appointment as dental surgeons in the U. S. Army. Orders were thereupon issued to the Board to immediately formulate the plans for the examination, and to be prepared to receive the first class of candidates upon Feb. 25.

The Board after due deliberation presented to the Surgeon General the following plan: First. The candidate should be required to pass a satisfactory written and oral examination upon the following theoretical subjects, which form the curricula of the colleges that are members of the National Association of Dental Faculties, namely: Anatomy, Physiology, Histology, Physics, Metallurgy, Chemistry, Dental Anatomy and Physiology, Dental Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Dental Pathology and Bacteriology. Orthodontia, Oral Surgery, Operative and Prosthetic Dentistry. Second. They should prove to the satisfaction of the Board their ability to perform all of the usual dental operations and laboratory work by clinical tests upon patients furnished for that purpose. These


tests consisted of— Operative Dentistry: 1. The examination and record of condition of mouth and teeth. 2. Preparation of cavities with hand and engine instruments. 3. Instrumentation and technique. 4. Preparation and manipulation of filling materials. 5. Insertion of fillings. 6. Treatment and filling of root canals and preparation of root for pivot crown. 7. Manipulative technique in removal of calcareous deposits. 8. Application of rubber-dam, metallic separators, matrices, etc. 9 Diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of oral diseases. 10. Care and sterilization of instruments and hands. Prosthetic Dentistry: 1. Impressions in plaster paris and modeling compound, casts, bite and articulation. 2. Construction of a denture in vulcanite. 3. Construction of die and counter-die from model to completion, carving the endentulous model from a solid block of plaster paris. 4. Construction of swaged plate, with metal and rubber attachments, also two shell crowns (bicuspid and molar) and one Richmond crown. 5. Construction of interdental splints (Dunning and Kingsley).

An average of seventy-five per cent was required in each subject for the theoretical and eighty-five per cent for the practical examination. This was to make it certain that none but skillful operators would succeed in obtaining an appointment. In marking the papers, and in grading the operations on the teeth, the methods of treatment, and the prosthetic work, a rigid system was suggested so that every candidate would be graded according to his merit. This plan was approved by the Surgeon General and has been conscientiously carried out by the Board. These examinations covered just two weeks with each class, one week being devoted to the theoretical subjects and the other to the practical work. The patients which were furnished for the clinics came from the General Hospital, Washington Barracks and Fort Meyer [Myer]; while many of the officers of the army on duty at the war department have been glad to avail themselves of this opportunity to have their teeth treated and put in a serviceable condition. By this system of examinations the Board felt sure that it would be able to weed out the ignorant and incompetent applicants, and believes it has succeeded in so doing.

We were assured at the outset by the Surgeon General that no political pressure from any source would be brought to bear upon our Board in favor of any candidate; but if there should be, our duty was to pass upon the professional fitness and aptitude of the


candidate for the service, as required by the law which called our Board into existence, and our report would be final. There has been some fault-finding by the friends of some few candidates who failed to pass these examinations, and the cry has been raised that the examinations were “too rigid,” “too high,” and “too medical,” but this is really the highest compliment that could have been paid to the work of the Board.

The examinations of the Board have proved that those gentlemen who had been out of college for any considerable number of years generally failed in the theoretical examination, while those that had recently graduated failed in the practical examinations. The majority of those candidates who successfully passed the examination had been in practice from two to four years. These men as a rule took high standing in their practical work, and this is also an evidence that they had kept up with the studies of the theoretical department.

The results of these examinations are as follows: Number of candidates invited to take the examinations, 86. Declined to appear, 6. Failed to appear, 10. Total number examined, 70. Found qualified and approved, 19, or 27 1-7 per cent of the number examined. Physically disqualified, 8, or 11 3-7 per cent of the number examined. Fully examined and rejected, 3, or 4 2-7 per cent of the number examined. Failed in theoretical examination, 7, or 10 per cent of the number examined. Withdrew before completing theoretical examination, 33, or 47 1-7 per cent of the number examined. Average age of approved candidates, 27 2-12 years. Candidates examined who were graduates in both dentistry and medicine, 1. Number of persons appointed by the Surgeon General without examination by the Board, as provided for in the law, 5. Total number of dental surgeons now in the Army, including the three members of the Board, 27. Vacancies yet to be filled, probably in the Autumn, 3.

It will perhaps be interesting to know the states and territories from which these gentlemen came: Alabama, 1. California,1. District of Columbia, 2. Iowa, 1. Maryland, 1. Massachusetts, 1. Missouri, 2. Montana, 1. Nebraska, 1. New Jersey, 1. New York, 1. Ohio, 1. Pennsylvania, 2. Washington, 1. West Virginia, 1. Wisconsin, 1.

The following is a complete list of the members of the Corps and their present stations. Members of the Board—John S. Marshall,


President, Presidio, San Francisco, Cal. Robert T. Oliver, Recorder, Manila, Philippine Islands. Robert W. Morgan, Member, Havana, Cuba. Robert P. Updike, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Edwin P. Tignor, Fort Riley, Kan. William H. Ware, Philippine Islands. Hugo C. Rietz, Philippine Islands. Ord M. Sorber, Fort Sam Houston, Tex. William C. Fisher, Fort Sheridan, Ill. John H. Hess, Military Academy, West Point. Ralph W. Waddell, Philippine Islands. Seibert D. Boak, Philippine Islands. Franklin F. Wing, Philippine Islands. George M. Decker, Island of Cuba. Frank P. Stone, Philippine Islands. Frank H. Wolven, Philippine Islands. William H. Chalmers, Fort Monroe, Va. George L. Mason, Philippine Islands. Clarence E. Lauderdale, Philippine Islands. Jean C. Whinery, Philippine Islands. Charles J. Long, Philippine Islands. Hugh G. Voorhies. San Juan, Porto Rico. Appointed from the Army—Emmett J. Craig, Philippine Islands. Samuel W. Hussey, Philippine Islands. Charles A. Petre, Philippine Islands. Douglas E. Foster, Philippine Islands. Alden Carpenter, Philippine Islands.

The Board, after being in continuous session for five and one-half months, from six to eight hours each day, and often being obliged to devote the greater part of its evenings to marking papers and other work pertaining to its official duties, finally adjourned sine die on July 31, 1901.

The examination of the candidates, however, was only a small part of the work that the Board found to do. It was early recognized in our deliberations that successful practical examinations could not be conducted except by the aid of a complete operating and laboratory outfit. We therefore recommended to the Surgeon General that two complete outfits be purchased at once and set up in suitable quarters for the use of the Board. This was immediately approved by the Surgeon General, and orders were issued by the Secretary of War, instructing the Board to proceed at once to Philadelphia and purchase such outfits. These were shipped and set up ready for use by the time that the first class had passed its theoretical examinations.

The next most important question in the organization of the corps was the selection of the general or field outfit. This was no insignificant undertaking, because it was exceedingly important in the selection of the furniture, instruments and supplies, that they be as light as possible, for the reason that transportation in an army


is always a serious consideration. Consequently, the lighter the weight of the outfit the better from this standpoint. After the furniture, instruments and supplies had been selected, it was necessary to have special chests devised to hold them, so that they would not be displaced or broken in transportation.

Each dental surgeon is furnished with one of these outfits, which contains all necessary instruments for operations on the teeth and sufficient supplies for a three months' service. It is so light that it can be carried upon the backs of two mules, together with an army field desk, two folding tables and two folding chairs. Another important question was that of preparing a nosological table for the use of the corps. The object in preparing this table was to secure uniformity and the same nomenclature in the register of dental operations and in the monthly returns. For the same reason a system of designating the teeth by numbers, of describing the location and the character of cavities of decay, the kind of filling material used, the nature and character of other operations, and the treatment of diseased teeth was designed by the use of letters and a combination of letters, which is so simple that any hospital corps private could master it in an hour or two of study.

These records if carefully kept will prove of great value after a few years in the study of the etiology of dental and oral diseases, and will also be of considerable value to the Pension Office in detecting fraudulent claims for pensions by reason of physical disability claimed to have been induced from the loss of teeth while serving in the army. These records will show every form of dental operation that is performed upon each officer and enlisted man, and every form of disease treated.

According to the provisions of the army reorganization bill, which incorporated the bill prepared by your committee on National Dental Legislation, the number of dental surgeons to be employed in the army was reduced to thirty. As a consequence of this the dental corps will be for a time at least the hardest worked branch of the medical service. Private letters received from those of the corps who have already reached their stations prove this statement • to be true. One says: “There is more immediate dental service needed at this post than three men can perform in six months. I am working over hours to relieve the necessity.” Another says: “I find plenty to do, more in fact, than I can do.” The bill pro-


vides, however, that free dental service can be rendered only to the officers and enlisted men of the regular and volunteer armies. The army regulations fix the hours of service at 9 A. M. to 4. P. M. During these hours the dental surgeon is expected to devote his entire time and attention to the care of those persons who are entitled by law to his services, except in cases of emergency, but after these hours he may attend civilian attaches and others who may request treatment, and for this he is permitted to charge a regular fee. He is, however, required by a special rule of the Surgeon General to state upon the monthly returns how many civilian attaches he has treated during each month. This was thought to be necessary as a check upon the temptation to neglect regular duty for that which would pay better in dollars and cents. There will be many opportunities of this kind presented, and to one who is not afraid of work a considerable sum may be earned during the year, enough to increase the income to a figure commensurate with the dignity of a professional calling. The hours for regular service are so fixed that the dental surgeon will have at least two hours each day that he can devote to the treatment of the families of the officers and enlisted men. I believe, however, that if the corps becomes a permanent organization the courtesy of free dental service will be extended to them, just as it is now the case with medical and surgical treatment, and I any inclined to think that this would be better from the standpoint of the highest efficiency of the corps, and only a just concession to those who are ever ready to defend our country against a foreign foe, even at the cost of their lives; while their pay is so small in many instances that there is no possibility, with a family to feed, clothe and educate, of laying by anything for old age.

In closing this part of my communication I desire to say, that I have been assured by scores of officers of the regular army whom I have met in Washington that our corps will be most cordially welcomed wherever it may be sent, for there is dire need of its services, and this is especially true in Cuba, Porto Rico and the Philippines. We are also encouraged by these gentlemen to believe that it is only a question of time when the corps will be made permanent by giving its members commissions. It will be necessary, however, in my judgment, before commissions can be obtained to first prove two things, namely—Is the corps necessary to the health and efficiency of the army? And does it pay in dollars and cents? These will be


the questions that must be answered to the satisfaction of Congress before any more legislation along this line can be expected. After the Philippine Islands have been pacified and the war is really ended retrenchment in the expenses of maintaining the army and navy will come prominently before Congress. Sentiment for the soldier will by this time have disappeared, because of the fact that the volunteers who have friends in every community are now all at home, and there will no longer be any strong political influence brought to bear upon our senators and congressmen on behalf of the regulars. Cold facts will then be the only power that will move Congress to increase the expenses of maintaining any department of the army. We must convince Congress that our corps is not only necessary to the good health, and consequently to the efficiency of the army, but it must be shown that it pays; that from a financial standpoint it is a matter of economy; that by having dental surgeons in the army much loss of service from incapacity for duty, resulting from dental and oral diseases, and by reason of necessary leave, often of weeks, in order to have troublesome teeth treated and filled, will be prevented. When the balance-sheet is presented to Congress it must be shown to be in favor of the government, if the corps is to be made a permanent feature of our military establishment. This I trust we shall be able to do. We have been given a chance to prove ourselves a beneficent profession in an entirely new and untried field, with no precedents to guide or experience to warn us of the dangers in our pathway or of the obstacles to be overcome. But I believe that the young men who form the dental corps of the U. S. Army will prove themselves equal to the occasion and bring honor upon the profession to which they belong.

Suggestions Upon the Educational Requirements for Military Dental Practice. The army dental surgeon, by reason of his military surroundings and associations, and the isolated position in which he will often find himself professionally, will need to be broadly educated, and so expert in his calling that he will be capable of managing any case that may be presented to him for treatment. Many times he will be so placed, as for instance, at a remote post upon our western or southwestern frontier, in Cuba or the Philippines, that he can by no possibility obtain the aid of a suitable consultant or advisor; so he must rely entirely upon his own judgment and experience in conducting his cases. It therefore becomes


necessary that his general education shall be upon broad lines and his professional knowledge as complete as possible upon every department or dental practice. This should also include a good knowledge of general Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Physical Diagnosis, Urinary Analysis, and the general Principles of Surgery. This is necessary if the members of the dental corps are to fill their positions with credit to themselves and honor to the profession.

In considering the character and the scope of the examination of candidates for appointment as contract dental surgeons in the U. S. Army, the Examining Board took into account the special and peculiar conditions likely to obtain in military dental practice, and the adverse criticism which would be likely to come from our confreres, the army surgeons, if we passed incompetent men. The examinations in both the theoretical and the practical subjects were so outlined as to cover so far as possible every feature of dental practice, and those general medical and surgical subjects which are necessary to be known by one who must, when occasion requires, be able not only to prescribe constitutional remedies for the relief of those general conditions which are often present as existing causes or complications of dental and oral affections, or are associated with certain surgical diseases of the mouth and jaws; but must also be able, by conducting a physical diagnosis, to determine the condition of the heart and of the lungs, and by urinary analysis ascertain the condition of the kidneys, and thus determine if an anesthetic can with safety be administered; which anesthetics are indicated or contraindicated; whether or not a surgical operation can be made with any degree of safety to the life of the patient, and the best method to be pursued in the operation under consideration.

In fairness to the Board it should be said that the questions which have been submitted to the candidates have all been of an eminently practical nature, and so selected and presented as to test their general knowledge of each subject and their ability to apply this knowledge in a practical manner.

To prove this, let me say that the examination questions in general anatomy were confined to the bones, muscles, blood-vessels and nerves of the head, face and neck. In general physiology they were confined to the functions of digestion, of the circulation, of the nervous system, especially those of the cranial nerves and the vasomotor system, of the liver and of the kidneys. These physiological


functions have all a more or less important bearing upon the normal' and abnormal conditions of the teeth and of the oral cavity. The questions in histology were confined to the origin and minute structure of the teeth, bones, oral mucous membrane, salivary glands, mucous glands, gums and the tongue.

In physics the questions were simply elementary and composed of the tables of the metric system, the principles of the lever, the screw and the inclined plane; the divisions of matter, the methods of obtaining the specific gravity of various bodies, the differences between atomic and molecular weight, etc. The questions in metallurgy covered similar ground, namely, the classification of metals; the origin, preparation and physical characteristics of the metals employed in dental surgery; their specific gravity, atomic weight and fusing point. The making of dental alloys, solders and gold plate of various carats. The value of platinum, silver and copper as alloys in making gold plate for dental purposes. The principles governing the use of fluxes in melting metals and in soldering, etc. In chemistry the questions were also largely of an elementary character, dealing with those substances chiefly employed in dental surgery, with usually one or two questions on organic chemistry and analysis either of the saliva or of the urine.

In dental anatomy and physiology, dental materia medica and therapeutics, dental pathology and bacteriology, orthodontia, oral surgery, operative and prosthetic dentistry, the questions were comprehensive and searching and intended to thoroughly test their theoretical knowledge of these subjects. The practical examinations in operative dentistry were conducted in an operating room with all the conveniences in furniture, apparatus and instruments that are to be found in a first-class dental office, while the practical examinations in prosthetic dentistry were conducted under equally favorable circumstances.

A less rigid and searching examination than this the Board felt ought not to be expected; in fact, the dignity and honor of our specialty, and the future high standing and efficiency of the army dental corps, demanded that the examinations be as rigid and as thorough as the courses of instruction in our best dental colleges would make practicable. The members of the dental corps will naturally be compared in general education and professional attainments with their brethren of the medical corps, and it is to be hoped.


that in this comparison those of the same age and experience will make a favorable showing.

In order to stimulate the members of the corps to be studious and progressive, a system of examinations and promotions should be established, and doubtless will be, so soon as the value of the corps as a promoter of the health and efficiency of the soldier as a fighting machine is proved. In order to accomplish this the corps must be commissioned and a sufficient number of higher grades established to make the prize worth working for.

The results of the examinations of our Board have shown very conclusively that we need to spend more time upon the theoretical subjects of the curriculum than we are now doing, if we would thoroughly prepare our graduates for army dental practice. This was shown by the fact that nearly all the candidates who failed in their examination were deficient in those subjects which are classed as the fundamentals, and of these the majority failed in anatomy, physiology, histology, physics, metallurgy, chemistry, dental materia medica, therapeutics, dental pathology and bacteriology, and the principles of surgery.

Please do not misunderstand me upon this point, for I make no criticism upon our system of technical teaching, nor would I suggest that one hour less time be spent upon the practical subjects of the curriculum, but I would urge that more time be devoted to laying the foundations of a broad and comprehensive scientific education. This is just as necessary to a successful practice as it is to be an expert finger craftsman. The dental surgeon who knows little or nothing of the sciences upon which his profession is founded cannot by any just claim ask to be classed as a professional man. If he has only finger craft ability he is nothing more or less than an artisan.

This is a practical age and we are a practical people. Our young men and women as a rule chafe under any system of education which does not fit them to earn a livelihood by the time they reach their majority, and this is particularly true in medicine and dentistry. The evil which underlies all this is the ambition to obtain wealth and position by the shortest possible route, regardless of all other considerations. As a result young men in great numbers, with little or no suitable qualifications for a professional life, constantly clamor for admission to our medical and dental colleges,


much to the detriment of the high standing of our profession and of our colleges, for the temptation is very strong when there is a deficit n the college treasury to wink at the meager qualifications possessed by the applicants for admission, and trust to the future to correct this deficiency. Occasionally our confidence in these individuals is rewarded, but more often we are woefully disappointed in them.

Candidates have presented themselves before our Board who were unable to write a sentence of twenty words without misspelling at least one-fourth of them. This is no exaggeration, but a plain statement of facts. Many could neither speak or write without transgressing many of the rules of English grammar. We, however, are not alone in this, for the Army Medical Boards now in session are having the same class of candidates come before them. I need not say that such men did not succeed in passing the examination of the Army Dental Board, for they generally gave up the attempt after trying two or three subjects.

The result of these examinations, it would seem to me, prove very conclusively that there is great need of raising the standard of the entrance requirements of our dental colleges, and of lengthening a course of instruction to four years, so as to be able to devote more time to the theoretical teaching. Our motto in dental education should therefore be “Excelsior.”

Discussion. Dr. B. Holly Smith, Baltimore: It seems to me very appropriate that the president of this Association should have invited the chairman of this army examining board to present to us a record of the work which has been done. Some years ago the presidents of the various universities of this country met in conference, and the president of the Chicago University stated that it was well for the east and west to confer as to methods, etc. The president of Yale said that reminded him of a moose story. Some years ago, when the moose was almost an extinct animal in the east, a man possessing a live one went through the towns of New England exhibiting it. The admission fee was ten cents, and for families twenty-five cents. One day a man with a wife and eleven children came to the show and passed over his quarter. The exhibitor looked somewhat surprised and asked if the entire aggregation belonged to the one man. Upon being informed that it did he handed back the twenty-five cents to the father and said, “Walk in.


It is just as important that my moose should see your family as that your family should see my moose.” Now, I claim that it is just as important that Dr Marshall should be in possession of our views as that we should know his. Without criticising him at all, as I have the highest confidence in his good judgment, and ability, I think the examination has been a very trying one. Invariably those men who have taken it have afterwards presented evidences of physical disability. The board may `have thought this was necessary, but I should call it monstrous. I do not believe that the welfare of or the respect for American dentistry stands today upon the foundation of a knowledge of collateral branches. A dentist is respected when he is a man of honor and a capable practitioner of his own specialty. America leads the world today because of the initiative taken by her young men, not because of the broadening of their culture or their extended opportunities for learning. Enough men will be graduated from universities to protect the interests of dentistry along this line. Above, all things a man should be in touch with the professional life of his community, and I therefore offer a resolution that the secretary of this Association be instructed to request the Surgeon-General not to accredit anyone as an applicant to this board for examination who has not the indorsement of his local or state society. The Surgeon-General assumes the responsibility of receiving the applications and nominating those persons who shall take the examination, and I am sure that he will accept our resolution as a respectful request. I believe it would have been better to have had a conference among examiners experienced along this line, so that the examination might have more nearly approached the usual form, and so that it might have been determined what was a fair and practical test.

Dr. Wms. Donnally, Washington: In justice to the Surgeon-General I must say that he is not responsible for all appointments, as in an informal conversation he asked me to say to the profession that his first and second choices were turned, dawn by the Secretary of War; and that one appointment was thrust on him. Dr. Marshall states that there has been some fault-finding by the friends of a few candidates who failed to pass; and further, it has been charged that the examinations were too severe, too high, too medical, etc. We must expect this, but not be alarmed by it. It was the wish of The Surgeon-General, the board and the profession that only those


men should be passed who were truly representative. I do not believe that the examinations have been too high from a dental standpoint, but I do think that the examination has been “too medical.” At the start Surgeon-General Sternberg stated that there must be a distinct line between the field of the army surgeon and that of the army dentist, and our greatest danger, in my opinion, is in extending into the province of the army surgeon to such an extent as to arouse antagonism and opposition. The dentist as he is in civil practice was declared essential to the army by those at the head of affairs. My idea was and is that the functions of the army dental surgeon should be described in general terms, and should be developed by experience rather than by aggressiveness at the start, always having respect for the limitations and for the well established lines that exist between medical and dental practice in civil life. Dr. Marshall stated that, the board goes into the subject of general therapeutics and general surgery, to determine whether candidates are capable of treating certain constitutional conditions that will come under their observation. This implies the very thing that we thought it was necessary to avoid. All knowledge is valuable, but it would be just as essential to successful practice for the army dentist to know something of engineering. To require a dentist to know how to make analyses of urine in order to determine whether a patient can safely take an anesthetic is carrying theory a little too far. Such a, practice is not carried out nor advised by either physicians or dentists in or out of the army.

Regarding the permanency of the corps, according to the idea that obtained in Congress, in the military committee, and in the mind of the Surgeon-General, this was an act of Congress based on the necessity of providing the army with dental surgeons, and it was not regarded in any sense as an experiment. Commissioned positions are not necessary to permanency. The hospital corps is not commissioned, yet it is permanent, and so the dental corps is permanent.

Some men have complained that so soon as they failed to make seventy-five per cent in such subjects as physics and chemistry they were shut out and not given an opportunity to take an examination on those things which are regarded as essentially dental. The requirements regarded as most essential in practice came later in the examination, those which must be regarded as collateral coming first,


yet Dr. Marshall reports that only three of all those candidates examined failed in the former subjects. Now, if it is right that the army dentist shall he required to pass an examination different from the requirements of any state board of examiners or of any reputable dental college, the law should be changed to make such action legal, but if it is not right the board should be guided by the law as it stands.

I make these criticisms without feeling, except an intense interest for the good of the cause, a cause which has taken much of my time and attention for the past few years. I hope to see every worthy an in the corps succeed, not alone for himself, but for the sake of the profession and the welfare of the army. I want him to demonstrate that we can accomplish all we have promised to do for the army, and I trust to see him help reduce the pension list. I wish to see him demonstrate that he is absolutely necessary to the treatment of certain diseases, but he must do so as an educated dentist, to the credit of dentistry, and not under a pretense made for him which discredits dentistry and the dental profession.

Dr. James Truman, Philadelphia: I heard with regret that part of Dr. Marshall’s paper wherein he criticises the education of those who came up before the examining board. He speaks of spelling and grammatical construction as indicative of education or the lack of it. Now, all educators know that spelling is not a proper test of a man’s education, for there are many individuals who can spell under ordinary circumstances and when not mentally disturbed, but in an examination they cannot think of words, spelling or grammatical construction. Furthermore, many cultivated college-bred people cannot spell correctly: I trust Dr. Marshall will eliminate that portion of his paper before it is published, for as the matter now stands it will go out to the world that a large proportion of the dentists in this country are uneducated men.

Dr. R. T. Oliver, Washington: As a member of the board I would say there were fifteen subjects for examination, and we figured each man’s standing after he had completed a group of three. If he fell below fifty-five per cent we concluded it was hardly possible for him to reach the requisite seventy-five per cent by an oral examination. If his written and oral examination on these three subjects was low the fact was stated to him, and if his rating was below the required percentage it was suggested that he withdraw.


This was done so that the young men might avoid the expense which they would incur by remaining the two weeks which it would take to give them a final rating. If a man passed on the first three subjects the next three were given him; and so on. Every one who was given this permission to withdraw thanked us for the consideration. Let me mention some other points.

Dr. W. C. Barrett, Buffalo: Mr. President, am I not correct in believing that the most of us care very little for the details of this business, being satisfied with the general results?

Dr. Oliver: Just a word in conclusion. Those subjects which seemed to pertain to the practice of medicine were in reality fundamental to dentistry, and the examination was conducted on a high standard because we felt that the dental surgeon in the army should have a standing in his profession equal to that of the medical men in theirs or to that of the field officers in theirs, so as to put them on an equal plane if possible. I did not know that the law defined the standard.

Dr. Donnally: As you have been operating under it for six months I supposed you knew what the law was.

Dr. Marshall, closing discussion: I cannot see any reason for all this talk about the work of our board. When the board first organized we determined that our first duty was to protect the honor and dignity of the profession, and our second was to see that no incompetent men got into the dental corps. This is what the law authorized and what you expected us to do. To the best of our ability, we have tried to do what we thought was right, and when some of you get cooled off I believe you will admit it.


[1] Walter D. Vail, “John Sayre Marshall, Pioneer Army Dental Surgeon, (1846-1922),” The Dental Bulletin 11 (July 1940), 113.