There are three known documents in the archives that record the history of the American Academy of Oral Medicine. The first is an unpublished document written by Dr. Abe Reiner in 1988 with the help of Drs. Sheldon Ross, Gunter Schmidt, Robert Eskow and Martin Tyler.
The second written historical account was compiled from archived Academy documents and published in the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Journal that was distributed at the annual Academy meeting in 1995. The National Chair of that meeting, with the help of Drs. Abe Reiner and Sheldon Ross, wrote this brief account.
The third written history is found below; it was written by Dr. Martin Tyler after an extensive interview with Dr. Sheldon Ross in 2004, consultation with Dr. Abe Reiner, and the incorporation of valid existing historical sources. The following is that document and the most recent historical account:
It is generally accepted that, in the United States, oral medicine first received public mention in 1926 by Dr. William J. Gies, the noted biochemistry professor at Columbia University who was interested in dental education, science, and clinical applications. In a well-researched text
funded by the Carnegie Foundation, Dr. Gies recommended that oral medicine should be one of the major topics covered in the dental school curriculum.
When the history of oral medicine in the United States is researched, it is virtually impossible to separate the evolution of oral medicine in the United States from the history of the American Academy of Oral medicine. The reasons for this will become obvious, as we review the history the AAOM and its founder.
Dr. Samuel Charles Miller is the acknowledged founder of the American Academy of Oral Medicine. Dr. Miller was an instructor in physiology when he was a senior dental student at New York University (NYU). After graduation from NYU, Dr. Miller and his colleague, Dr. Sidney Sorrin, were appointed professors in the Department of Periodontology at NYU; this department’s history dated back to 1925. Dr. Miller was keenly aware of the need for interrelating dentistry with medicine, and he introduced curriculum changes by synthesizing medical and dental sciences in his teaching; this approach was revolutionary and led his students to appreciate the value of total patient care. Dr. Miller’s efforts amounted to a new thrust in dental education, and under his leadership, the department at NYU was renamed the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine. He was one of the first dentists in the United States to emphasize the importance of oral medicine in the practice of dentistry.
Dr. Miller was considered one of the most outstanding teachers of his era, and as Chair of Periodontics and Oral Medicine at NYU, he instituted post-graduate courses in periodontics and oral medicine that were the first of their kind. He trained 525 post-graduate students from forty-two countries, including the United States. He authored three textbooks and was an internationally known lecturer and consultant to many educational institutions and to the United States Military.
“When the history of oral medicine in the United States is researched, it is virtually impossible to separate the evolution of oral medicine in the United States from the history of the American Academy of Oral medicine.”
Dr. Miller was one of the earliest leaders in the field of Periodontics, but in his time, because of cultural restrictions, he and others were denied membership in the existing national societies. Coupled with these restrictions and the fact that he felt so strongly that oral medicine should play a bigger role in dentistry, he envisioned the formation of a new Academy, The Academy of Dental Medicine.
Utilizing their leadership skills, Dr. Miller and his colleague, Dr. Sidney Sorrin encouraged the following of about twenty New York periodontists, many who were former students and staff of the University, to join them in forming a new Academy in 1945. Dr. Samuel Charles Miller was the first president. The new Academy had no cultural, gender, or racial restrictions on membership and was open to all students, post graduate students, and graduate trainees who wanted to foster and develop a better scientific understanding between the fields of dentistry and medicine.
The Academy was incorporated in the state of Delaware on 2 February 1946, the first organizational annual meeting of the American Academy of Dental Medicine was held in 1947, and a constitution was written. This first meeting set the precedent for many semiannual and annual meetings that followed. An Auxiliary group, primarily consisting of spouses, was organized and started to function when the meeting sites changed and were held outside of New York. The Auxiliary elected its own officers, conducted organizational meetings, helped in the management of Academy meetings, and played a major role in raising funds for Academy scholarships and awards.
In the 1950’s, membership in the Academy was expanded; professionals of good moral character who had an interest in “dental medicine” were invited to join. In 1955, Drs. Miller and Sorrin felt that practitioners of oral medicine required special hospital training. Dr. Sorrin, who was the Chief of Periodontics at Montefiore Hospital in New York, established a two-year, half time residency in oral medicine on an experimental basis. The program ran from 1955 to 1957 at Montefiore. A summary report on the usefulness of this program was published in the Annals of Dentistry. The first oral medicine resident was Dr. Sheldon Ross, who attended courses once a week; these courses lasted from one to three weeks. Many of the NYU faculty attended the courses. Dr. Ross, its first graduate, joined the Academy and later became president of the Academy and the third editor of the Academy’s journal that was established in 1946.
The founding members recognized the need for an Examining Board to establish uniformity of training for oral medicine residencies and to meet
the demand of dental education for curriculum guidelines in oral medicine. The Academy established the American Board of Oral Medicine in 1956. Dr. Samuel Charles Miller and forty-three additional applicants were granted Diplomate status under a grandfather clause. In contrast to other dental national organizations that had racial restrictions, two of the original Diplomates, Dr. Raymond L. Hayes and Dr. Clifton O. Dummett Sr. were African Americans. Dr.
S. Leonard Rosenthal, who was President of the Academy, appointed the Directors of the Board, and the first Board Examiners were, Drs. Samuel Charles Miller, Lester W. Burkett, Joseph F. Volker, Irving Glickman, Herman M. Becks and Harold R. Gelhaar. The Board continued to function and examine candidates annually.
Membership and interest in the Academy grew rapidly, and the members soon felt that one meeting a year was not sufficient. The number attending the Academy meetings often exceeded 125 attendees. It was thus decided to have semi-annual meetings to supplement the annual meetings, and the mid-annual meetings were held in states where there was sufficient interest in oral medicine.
This decision to meet in states other than New York led to the authorization of local Academy Sections in several states in the United States and one in Canada. The sections of the Academy held sectional meetings and participated in the annual meetings in New York. The Empire Hotel on 57th & 7th Avenue was the site of several annual meetings until the hotel was converted to the Time Share Building. At that time, the annual meetings began to rotate among several cities. Local sections were spread from lower and Upper New York State to chapters in New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, Baltimore-Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, Boston, Rhode Island, and Canada. An academy newsletter was established to facilitate communication.
As the Academy grew and influenced the establishment of oral medicine as a distinct discipline, Dr. Miller encouraged his colleague, Dr. Hermann Becks, a widely published periodontist on the west coast, to join the Academy. Dr. Beck’s inclusion helped to unite those interested in oral medicine on both coasts of the United States. In 1960, Dr. Becks became president of the Academy, and his influence did not go unnoticed. A rising star in the West, Dr. Sol Silverman Jr. came under his tutelage and would one day become not only a president of the Academy but arguably the most accomplished oral medicine educator and clinician of his day. Dr. Silverman would mentor many of the graduates at The University of California, San Francisco and was highly sought the world over to lecture. Scholars came from all over the world for sabbatical research in oncology and infectious diseases with Dr. Silverman.
A long time member, Dr. Gunter Schmidt, also became President in 1962; after his presidency, he soon assumed the title of National Secretary of the Academy and took an active interest in preserving the history of the academy. Dr. Schmidt collected, gathered and stored voluminous documents containing information needed to preserve the history of the Academy. Presumably to be more inclusive, the Academy of Dental Medicine changed its name to the American Academy of Oral Medicine in 1966.
In 1967, Dr. Norton Ross became a Diplomate of the Academy and a member. His training and knowledge in pharmacology led to his appointment as a Board Examiner. For several decades Dr. Ross would devote his masterful organizational skills to the Academy, acting in the capacity of National Meeting Chairman.
Dr. Ross became President in 1972. Acting almost alone, with the trust and confidence of the Board of Trustees and membership, he perfected the skill of negotiating with hotels and resorts for beautiful meeting sites and affordable rates. Because the Academy meetings were nearly always held in highly sought vacation spots, many members brought their families to the annual meetings, and many of the children of members “grew up” in the Academy. Many members looked forward to the annual meeting as their only family vacation each year. Members felt that the Academy was the one organization that exuded an atmosphere of camaraderie like no other professional dental Academy.
Dr. Abraham Reiner, a member from the early days of the Academy, became President in 1972, and through his astute leadership, the Academy gained considerable financial solvency that allowed the perpetuation of Academy goals for many years. He remained an invaluable source of financial advice, history and tradition, for many years. The Academy’s highest award, The Diamond Pin Award, was later renamed in his honor for his many years of able management and devotion to the Academy.
In addition to NYU, two prestigious universities, The University of Pennsylvania and Indiana University, came aboard and were significant by providing training of educators and practitioners of oral medicine. Dr. Lester W. Burket made an invaluable contribution to the evolution of oral medicine. After being graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry, he completed Yale Medical School in 1936 and returned to his alma mater in Pennsylvania. Dr. Burket’s sterling career included forty years of teaching, including twenty years as Dean at his university. His active interest in oral medicine was an obvious influence on the curriculum of dental education, and on one of the
first graduate programs in oral medicine. One of the earliest textbooks entitled Oral Medicine was written by Dr. Burket and published in 1946; subsequent editions of the textbook bearing his name enjoyed wide distribution. The University of Pennsylvania would continue to produce outstanding graduates from its oral medicine program, and its outstanding faculty continued in the stalwart tradition of Dr. Burket in teaching, research and clinical practice. Many of the graduates of the University of Pennsylvania were the backbone of the Academy and of its Board.
Likewise, at Indiana University, Dr. David F. Mitchell, although not a strong supporter of the Academy, was Chair of the Department of Oral Diagnosis/Oral Medicine at Indiana from 1955 to 1975. Dr. Mitchell directed a prolific graduate program in oral medicine; 28 of his 33 graduate students became department chairs at dental schools throughout the world. His textbook and many scientific articles were well received. Graduates from the Indiana program were also important in establishing or directing oral medicine programs or departments at other universities such as at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of Washington, and the University of Montreal. In Canada, the University of British Columbia also initiated a graduate program in oral medicine.
An early link between the Academy and the United States military can be traced to the days when Dr. Samuel Charles Miller was a consultant to the military. Contact was maintained between the leaders of the Academy and branches of the military at prestigious educational institutions such as the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), the postgraduate schools at Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed Army Hospital. All were located in the Greater Washington, D.C. area. The location and access of the military dentists in the Washington,
area benefited the Academy, as they encouraged younger members who were interested in oral medicine to join the Academy. In addition, Academy members lectured in the very popular courses held at the AFIP and participated in rounds at military hospitals in the area. General Joseph Bernier, the Assistant Surgeon General and Chief of the Army Dental Corps, later became the Academy’s 31st president in 1976 and was influential in the formation of training in oral medicine at Walter Reed. Another significant military person in the Academy, Captain William K. Bottomley of the United States Navy, earned an important place in the history of both the Academy, and in oral medicine. He completed his training in oral medicine at the University of Michigan under the tutelage of Dr.
Dean Millard, and returned to the Navy. The oral medicine postgraduate program at the National Naval Dental Center at Bethesda was organized under his leadership in 1970. Captain Bottomley expected all whom he mentored to become active in the Academy, and after his term as president, four of the graduates of the Navy’s program became presidents of the Academy. Two others under his tutelage at Georgetown University also became Presidents of the Academy. In addition to the six Academy Presidents that he groomed, his Navy manual for treatment of common oral lesions became the prototype for the first in the series of the Academy’s Clinician’s Guides’ manuals for chair side use by the dental practitioner.
As the traditional programs in oral medicine continued to train residents, major educational centers in California, and Harvard sporadically trained individuals who were interested in oral medicine. Other postgraduate programs at other educational centers were intermittently involved with training oral medicine residents, and for various reasons were late joining the attempt to make the Academy the focus for sponsoring The American Board of Oral Medicine and a home in which the program directors could exchange ideas and institute uniformity of training. The 1990’s showed significant progress in this effort and resulted in unanimity of curriculum guidelines and examining board content.
The Academy’s Journal was called the Journal of Dental Medicine until 1966, when the name was changed to the Journal of Oral Medicine. The work of the three successive editors, Drs. I. Yudkoff, Alexander Soberman, and Sheldon
J. Ross culminated in a very controversial decision in 1988. The Board of Trustees voted to cease publication and accept the invitation for merger by the Journal of Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, and Oral Pathology. This divisive decision was soothed when it was determined that the job of the fourth editor would be in the Able hands of Dr. H. Dean Millard, an established educator, accomplished teacher, and well published author from the University of Michigan.
The Academy dedicated much effort, in the 1980’s and 1990’s, toward attempting to obtain specialty recognition of oral medicine by the American Dental Association (ADA). Each generation of members of the Academy gave birth to a few individuals who, almost single handedly, carried the hopes of the Academy and were responsible for its survival. During this period of time Dr. Craig S. Miller took an extraordinarily active interest in pursuing ADA specialty recognition–even before his ascendancy to the presidency of the Academy in 2003. Dr. Miller’s report of the preparation, submission of multiple applications, meetings with ADA officials, and subsequent rejection by the ADA are detailed elsewhere. There was unanimous agreement among the Academy members that without Dr. Craig Miller’s leadership, unselfish devotion of time, and sense of purpose, the Academy would have lost
sight of the goal of achieving specialty recognition. Equally important contributions by Dr. Craig Miller were the initiation of several position papers and eventually, at his urging, a viable strategic plan for the Academy was realized and updated.
Dr. Reiner’s unpublished historical account of the Academy in 1988 led to the official charge by President David Lederman at the mid-winter meeting in 1989 to an ad-hoc committee. The mandate from Dr. Lederman was that a brief concise narrative be completed not later than the Annual meeting in 1995 celebrating the Academy’s 50th anniversary. A brief narrative history was published in the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Journal distributed at the annual meeting in 1995.
In 2003, one of the past presidents volunteered to act as the Academy’s Historian and document the Academy’s past presidents and winners of the Academy’s coveted awards. Poster boards were displayed with this historical data for the first time at the 2004 annual meeting, and in all subsequent annual Academy meetings the poster boards were updated and displayed, preserving the record of Academy awardees.
At the annual meeting in 2008, a preliminary pictorial of many of Academy past presidents was displayed at the annual meeting, and in 2009 a permanently framed pictorial of past-presidents was displayed.
At the 2008 annual meeting, the Procedures and Protocol Committee, consisting of Drs. Abe Reiner, Joseph Konzelman, MartinTyler and Robert Eskow, was given the additional duty of maintaining a record of the Academy’s history. The Chair, Dr. Martin Tyler was to act as Historian Archivist.
In 2010 this updated written history of the American Academy of Oral Medicine was completed and submitted to the Academy for review. It is expected to be an ongoing record of the Academy’s activities.