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Fifty years of excellence

ADA/DENTSPLY Student Clinician Research Program celebrates golden anniversary at annual session in Hawaii

A half century ago, ADA Executive Director Harold Hillenbrand and Henry M. Thornton, president of The Dentists' Supply Co. of York, Pa. (now DENTSPLY International), established a new program to celebrate the American Dental Association's 100th anniversary.

The joint venture, the Centennial Student Clinic Program, was held Sept. 14-16, 1959, in conjunction with the ADA annual session in New York City. The table clinic program encouraged each U.S. dental school to select an outstanding student clinician for the competition. Students received an all-expense paid trip to the annual session from The Dentists' Supply Co. The program was designed to encourage ADA student memberships, to introduce students to organized dentistry and to encourage clinical and research work.

This year, the 50th Annual ADA/DENTSPLY Student Clinician Research Program will celebrate its golden anniversary Oct. 3 at the Hawaii Convention Center in conjunction with the ADA sesquicentennial celebration in Honolulu.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to 35 countries worldwide and has had more than 5,000 student participants. Former clinicians have gone on to become leaders in dental education, research, organized dentistry and industry.

Participants receive an all-expense paid trip to a national dental meeting for student winners, participation in the poster clinic competition and global recognition for their dental research accomplishments. They then become alumni members of the Student Clinicians of the American Dental Association. SCADA alumni receive the Expressions newsletter, access to the SCADA directory, graduate study financial assistance, networking opportunities and international mentoring.

The inaugural student clinician class was welcomed to the Big Apple with a luncheon Sept. 14, and then students presented their clinics at the New York Coliseum convention center. Winners received accolades from ADA President Percy T. Phillips that evening at a reception at the Biltmore Hotel. After enjoying a free day to attend the annual session, students headed Sept. 16 to The Dentists' Supply Co. for a luncheon, tour of the factory and research facilities and a dinner in their honor.

Representing the University of Puerto Rico in 1959 with his clinic, Advantages of the Right Angle Technique in Dental Roentgenology, Dr. Arturo Santiago presented in three languages—English, French and Spanish. He says he was thrilled to have a chance to participate in the program.

"It was great," he says. "The people who were listening were dental professionals and I was just a student. I was enthused and proud to be able to talk to professionals and to students from other dental schools. And Mr. Thornton was very friendly, making it a point to talk to all of the students. I really admired him."

Before entering dental school, Dr. Santiago was a high school math and science teacher in Orocovis, P.R., then served two years in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. Following dental school, the ADA Life Member was an active educator at the University of Puerto Rico medical and dental schools—even serving as dental school dean. His list of lectures, publications, awards, offices and professional memberships includes hundreds of entries.

"I think I was born to be a teacher," he says. "Once I went to the program in New York, I started getting more and more invitations to present and I became a student advisor."

He and his wife Norma have three children, including his son Dr. Gerardo Santiago, a pediatric dentist in Naples, Fla.

Dr. Santiago plans to attend the Student Clinician's reception and 50th anniversary celebration in Honolulu next month.

Howard University's Dr. Raymond S. Murakami took second place with his clinic, Impression and Restorative Procedures using Rubber Base Materials.

"It was definitely a boost for my career," says Dr. Murakami, who had a busy dental practice in Washington, D.C., for 47 years. "The trip to New York was very exciting. It brings back a lot of memories—the student clinician program was one of the best of those."

Before entering dental school, Dr. Murakami attended the University of California, Berkley, where he met his wife, and served in the U.S. Army as a Japanese interpreter in occupied Japan. He has been active in dental education and organized dentistry, and served as secretary of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation during the building phase of the National Japanese American Memorial in Washington. The memorial was dedicated in 2000 and he is currently on the NJAMF board of directors.

"You give it your best shot, study hard," he says. "If you are fortunate enough, then you give back to dental education. It's essential to give something back to society. We have wonderful SCADA alums that are involved and give back to dental education.

"I tease Gordon Christensen (a fellow student clinician in 1959) and remind him, 'that's the only time I've ever beat you!' It's been a beautiful journey for me."

Dr. Gordon Christensen presented Precision Casting and a Technique for Finishing and Polishing Anatomical Tooth Restorations on behalf of the University of Southern California.

He recalls a very long flight from California to New York on a propeller-type aircraft.

"It was a singular experience for me, coming from dental school to a situation where you can ask questions of your dental colleagues," he says. "For a hick Utahan who left for dental school at age 19, to go to New York City was huge. There were people of every color, shape and language. And it was eye-opening to see the diversity, to talk freely to students from other dental schools. It was enlightening to see close up all the planning and innovation of a large dental manufacturer."

As a dental student, Dr. Niessen said she was encouraged by Harvard dental school faculty to make the mission trip to Honduras.

"They even helped me find donated dental supplies and equipment that I was asked to bring along, plus a small stipend and even the dean's personal camera so I could take photos. That is what a dental school should be about—helping students achieve their goals."

Dr. Niessen is a clinical professor at Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas, and has served as president of organizations including the American Association of Women Dentists, the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, Friends of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and the Dallas County Dental Society.

Looking back on her dental school experience, she says she had a great experience providing needed dental care in primitive circumstances during a month in Honduras, and then later presenting her clinic at annual session. "It was wonderful to be welcomed by dentists as a colleague then, and it's even more fun now, overseeing the program. I know what it means for these students and I know that these are my colleagues—students today who will be leaders in dentistry tomorrow. They are smart, talented, wonderful individuals."

A complete list of this year's student clinician participants is posted online at (click the ADA News Today link) and will be printed in the Official Guide available on-site at annual session.

For more information on the program, log on to the International Association of Student Clinicians, "".