History of the School of Dentistry at Loma Linda University

The School of Dentistry at Loma Linda University has a long and prestigious history dating back to 1953.

Loma Linda University (LLU) is a health sciences university that was established in 1905. The School of Dentistry at LLU was opened in 1953 with the goal of teaching a modern dental curriculum, inspiring the next generation of dentists, and setting standards for technical excellence in dental care and education. Dental students can seek a doctor of dental surgery degree as well as a bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene. In addition, the school offers a number of advanced certification programs, including anesthesia, endodontics, implant dentistry, oral surgery, orthodontics, and pediatric dentistry.

How the School of Dentistry at Loma Linda University Began

A group of scientists gathered in 1943 in Grand Ledge, Michigan. Their goal was to convince the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church to support a dental school in which students could learn the dental profession within the context of their religious beliefs. This is how the National Association of Seventh-day Adventist Dentists (NASDAD), which is still active and influential today, was formed.

The group was led by Dr. J. Russell Mitchell—who would become the first president of the NASDAD—and he helped them shape the concept of a Christian-oriented dental school. Over time, the NASDAD expanded its membership and did so largely through the efforts of Dr. C. C. Ray. Dr. Ray traveled throughout the United States in search of other SDA dentists who wanted to join the cause.

Dr. M. Webster Prince became the president of the organization in 1948. He organized a meeting in San Francisco in 1949 where the members voted unanimously to support the school. Later that year, at a meeting in Illinois, the members pledged strong financial support in order to make the school a reality.

The momentum from those two meetings persisted into the 1950s. The then-President of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists—W. H. Branson—requested that Dr. Prince conduct a feasibility study. The success of that analysis encouraged Branson to establish the School of Dentistry within the School of Medicine at Loma Linda University in California.

Dr. Prince served as the first dean. He had relevant prior experience serving as the chair of the American Dental Association Council on Dental Education and as the president of the Michigan Dental Association. The inaugural class in 1953 comprised more than 40 students.

The school added a dental hygiene curriculum in 1959. This would become the bachelor of science dental hygiene program that exists today. The curriculum was established by Dr. Gerald A. Mitchell. Violet Bates was named the department chair, and its first dental hygienists graduated in 1961.

Between the school establishing its hygiene curriculum and graduating its first dental hygienists, Dr. Charles T. Smith was named dean. This was a period of great growth for the school, and it added many additional fields of study, including a program for dental assistants in 1968. Those students earned an associate’s degree, and the first of them graduated in 1969.

The school also established a dental auxiliary utilization program at that time, and that program expanded the educational possibilities for dentists as well as dental assistants, nurses, hygienists, therapists, and so forth. It added postdoctoral programs, including endodontics, oral pathology, oral surgery, orthodontics, and periodontics. Dean Smith was integral in establishing a dental clinic in 1966 that supported the local Navajo communities.

During the 1960s, the school had been evolving into one of the premier dental schools in the country, and this status became fully realized in the 1970s. Dr. Judson Klooster was named dean in 1971, and he was crucial to an expansion of Prince Hall that was finished in 1976. That expansion doubled the clinical units and added research laboratories, classrooms, seminar rooms, amphitheaters, and office space for professors and support staff. The surgery clinic was also remodeled during this time, and the school added an outpatient surgical center for those patients requiring general anesthesia.

This time period also saw the School of Dentistry become integral to the local community in providing dental care to children and adults with developmental disabilities. The school also built a laboratory for biomaterials research, and this opened the door for other advanced curriculums: dental anesthesiology, implant dentistry, pediatric dentistry, and prosthodontics.

In 1985, the school added a new program that educated internationally trained dentists. There was a high number of international dentists seeking an American education at the time. There were many that wanted to practice in the U.S., but there were many others that wanted to bring that education back to their home countries. The International Dentist Program is still available today and allows international dentists to get a DDS degree in 24 months. There is also a six-month certification program aimed at dental missionaries who want to update their education in order to continue their efforts.

In 1994, LLU named Dr. Charles Goodacre dean, and he would serve in the role for nearly 20 years. Dr. Goodacre was invaluable in advancing the school in regard to electronic learning materials as well as all of the computer-related technologies that were becoming available at that time, such as 3D computed tomography and computer-aided manufacturing.

In 2000, Prince Hall was expanded once again, this time by more than 15,000 square feet, and both the pediatric and special care clinics were relocated in order to take advantage of the additional space. The school added another student laboratory, and it expanded the clinic for predoctoral students, which now boasted an additional 36 operatories.

In 2008, the school upgraded a preclinical lab into a simulation lab, which featured computer monitors that provided access to the clinical management system and faculty presentations. In 2010, the school opened the LLU Center for Dentistry and Orthodontics about 3 miles from the main campus in San Bernardino. This three-story building combines education, research, and treatment in a single facility, and it continues to be the Inland Empire’s most robust oral health care center.

In 2012, the school opened the Hugh Love Center for Research and Education in Technology. This 3,000-square-foot building provides an open clinic and six operatories and allows students to treat patients using the most advanced dental technologies while under the supervision of their instructors.

Robert Handysides, DDS, is the current LLU School of Dentistry Dean and accepted the position in 2018. Previous to this appointment, he had served as associate dean since 2013. As associate dean, he oversaw the planning and implementation of the curriculum and clinical training, which are both integral to the continuation, advancement, and integrity of the school. Dean Handysides is dedicated to professional and academic excellence and to shaping an administration and faculty that are prepared to guide students as they realize their dental educations in the 21st century.

The motto at the School of Dentistry is service is our calling. The school continues to be among the leading options for students who want to pursue a dental career as well as postgraduates who want to enhance their skills and add new ones. This is an exciting time in dentistry with great advancement, and the school continues to revise and expand itself as it moves forward.

A Loma Linda University Family

David P. Clark, DDS, graduated LLU and went on to practice for 40 years in Fresno, California. Every year, David gives back to the school that helped build his career. Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, followed in his father’s footsteps and graduated from LLU as well. Jeff opened his practice in Scottsdale, Arizona, and has now served that community for more than 20 years. In addition, Shane Witherow, DDS—David’s nephew and Jeff’s cousin—graduated from LLU as well and has been a practicing orthodontist in Nashville, Tennessee, for more than 15 years. All three dentists share the same core values that Loma Linda University represents:

  • Belief in God
  • Respect for the individual
  • Empathic care
  • Compassion and integrity
  • Commitment to service
  • Dedication to excellence in all endeavors
  • Analytic thinking
  • Dedication to excellence and innovation in patient care
  • Honoring the dignity, diversity, and worth of all

David, Jeff, and Shane give back to their communities by providing dental care to the underprivileged. They have each provided these services to less fortunate people around the world as dental missionaries. Dr. Jeff sets aside several weekends every year to provide dental care to people in the Greater Scottsdale area who cannot afford it or would otherwise not have access to it.

Dr. Jeff has also donated to Smile Train every year his private practice has been open. Smile Train is a wonderful nonprofit organization that provides corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates. The latest statistics estimate that Smile Train helps more than 120,000 kids each year.

Healing Hands—A Grateful Patient Program

Dr. Jeff recently got some great news. A representative from LLU arrived at his office to inform him that a patient had made a donation in his name. The representative honored him with a lapel pin and gave him a special message from the donor. The patient thanked Dr. Jeff for exceptional care and told him that he was motivated by that to make a donation in his name to his alma mater.

Healing Hands is a program established by Loma Linda University Health. LLU Health is a philanthropic organization, and Helping Hands lets grateful patients give back. People can donate in the name of a doctor, a support staff member, a volunteer, or even a family member—anyone who has had a positive effect on their lives. These donations are used to fund leading-edge research, purchase new equipment, enhance patient care, and so forth.

Experience the LLU Difference Firsthand

Everything Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, learned at LLU has been integral to establishing and evolving his practice. Dr. Clark believes that his patients deserve nothing less than exceptional dental care, and his lifelong commitment to continuing education is a reflection of that. You can experience this dedication for yourself whether you require a routine checkup or are in need of restorative or cosmetic treatment. Schedule your appointment today by calling Scottsdale Cosmetic Dentistry Excellence at 480 585 1853.

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