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USPHS Dental Corps Celebrates Centennial

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For more than 200 years, men and women have served on the front lines of our nation’s public health in what is today called the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). The Commissioned Corps traces its beginnings back to the U.S. Marine Hospital Service, protecting against the spread of disease from sailors returning from foreign ports and maintaining the health of immigrants entering the country. 

June marked the centennial of the USPHS Dental Corps. On June 14, 1919, Ernest Eugene Buell became the first commissioned dental officer in the USPHS. 

USPHS dentists serve in a variety of roles. They provide clinical care to underserved populations on reservations and in federal prisons, border facilities and impoverished areas of the country. They also prepare Coast Guardsmen and Guardswomen for military service; conduct research into dental products and technologies; and lead dental public health programs.

Commissioned Corps officers are, an essential component of the largest public health program in the world, involved in health care delivery to underserved and vulnerable populations, disease control and prevention, biomedical research, food and drug regulation, mental health and drug abuse services, and response efforts for natural and man-made disasters.

Rear Admiral (Upper) Timothy Ricks, D.M.D., M.P.H., currently serves as the USPHS Chief Dental Officer as well as Assistant Surgeon General. In this role, Dr. Ricks oversees dentists serving in various federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Health Service Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, Indian Health Service, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Health Resources and Services Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He also serves as the Surgeon General’s spokesperson on oral health and interacts with chief dental officers from other countries. He is currently leading the development of the second Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health.

Adapted from content on the USPHS website.

Published on July 10, 2019

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