Winter 2012 Update

School of Dentistry

Dr Lou TerklaA moment with Lou Terkla, DMD '52 and Dean Emeritus:

Q: Why did you decide to become a dentist?

A: In high school, I thought that I wanted to become a physician. Then World War II broke out, and after graduation, I became a U.S. Army infantryman fighting Germans in Italy. By the time that I got out of the war, I had changed my mind and thought that dentistry would be more akin to my interests and skills. I was mechanically skilled and it seemed like a better fit.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories from your time at the dental school?

A: My fondest memory is having met my wife, Phyllis, on the first day that I set foot into the dental school. For the past 63-plus years, she has been my best friend and companion, largely responsible for whatever success that I have enjoyed in what I consider a joint career.

Another memory that comes to mind is when I finished the freshman year and sought the advice of the professor who would be teaching oral histology in the sophomore year on how to prepare for my red-green color blindness in reading dyed tissue slides. Instead of answering my query, he gave me a lecture on how there was no place in dentistry for a colorblind dentist. I was quite upset, made it through his course and continued on to graduation after which I accepted a faculty appointment, eventually becoming dean of the school with that same professor still the chairman of the anatomy department!

Q: You have a very unique perspective on dental education in Oregon. Can you share your thoughts on how things have changed in the last 60 years and how the new building will have an impact on the future?

A: Dental education is always changing and improving; it always will be. The dean before me, Dean Harold Noyes, was a true pioneer with regard to curriculum changes. He played a critical role initiating what is known as the vertical curriculum. Most dental schools at the time taught basic sciences the first two years and clinical practice the last two. The vertical curriculum integrates everything beginning in the first year. This was of course adopted by most schools around the nation and is common practice today.

In my time as dean, one of my main objectives was to integrate dentistry with the other health care disciplines being taught at the university, especially in health care delivery, and it was an incredibly difficult task. We faced resistance from physicians who either felt there wasn't a need to integrate dentistry or felt there would be competition over patients, specifically between oral and maxillofacial surgery and plastic surgery. It took me 14 years to get dentistry in the hospital.

This new building is a giant step forward as we integrate with other disciplines and recognize what kind of a contribution each can make to the overall health of the patient. The new facility will foster such integration which bodes well for the future of all disciplines.