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Dr. Hehn, former ADA second vice president, dies at 91

December 31, 2013

By Kimber Solana, ADA News staff

Dr. Roger Hehn 
St. Augustine, Fla.—Dr. Roger Hehn, a former ADA vice president (1982-83) and regarded humanitarian, died Nov. 20. He was 91 years old.

A specialist in oral and maxillofacial surgery, Dr. Hehn not only used his skills at his private practice in Jacksonville, Fla. but also to treat hundreds of poor residents in a rural town of Ometepec, Mexico.

“I've told others this but he was one of the most proficient and efficient surgeons I've ever worked with,” said Dr. Earle Williams, who practiced with Dr. Hehn for about 30 years. “He had good hands, a good heart and a good mind. We're all privileged to have known him.”

Dr. Hehn, along with a volunteer dental-medical team, began his medical missionary work in 1970. For a week each April, they repaired cleft palates and cleft lips, conditions with high rate of incidence in the rural town 100 miles east of Acapulco. The medical missionary work treated dozens of residents each year for about 25 years.

“About 90 percent of what we do is surgery to repair cleft palates and cleft lips,” Dr. Hehn told ADA News in 1982. “When I first went down there, I never thought my visits would last so long. I'm hooked now and will continue to go down there.”

Born in Flint, Mich., Dr. Hehn graduated from Northwestern University Dental School and began practicing oral surgery in 1946 in Jacksonville. After he was called to active duty in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, he returned to Jacksonville to establish his practice in oral and maxillofacial surgery.

While growing his practice and leading the medical missionary work trips to Mexico, Dr. Hehn began serving in local, state and national dental organizations. He served as president of the Florida Dental Association (1972-73) and president of the Florida Society of Oral Surgeons. He also served as past chairman of the ADA Council on Dental Care Programs—now the Council on Dental Benefit Programs—before he was elected second vice-president of the ADA in 1982.

He was a member of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Dental Society of Anesthesiology and the American College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. He was a fellow at the American College of Dentists, International College of Dentists and the Pierre Fauchard Academy.

He retired in 1992.

“In everything that he did, he loved to combine his love for travel with a lot of good will. He loved to use his talents and skills as a surgeon,” said Deborah Hehn, daughter.

A memorial service for Dr. Hehn was held Nov. 26 at Riverside Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville.

Dr. Hehn is survived by Thomas G. Hehn, his son, of Edgewood, Ky.; daughter Deborah Hehn of St. Augustine, Fla.; one grandson; one step-grandson; and three great grandchildren.

Donations may be made in his memory to the Alzheimer's Association, The James Hehn Memorial Endowment Foundation, or the outreach mission of Riverside Presbyterian Church or Christ the King Anglican Church in St. Augustine.