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School of Dentistry

When the Southern Dental College was founded in Atlanta in 1887, as a department of Southern Medical College, no other dental schools existed in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, or the Carolinas. In 1915, when the medical college became the Emory University School of Medicine, the Southern Dental College went its separate way until, two years later, it merged with its younger rival, the Atlanta Dental College (founded in 1892) to become Atlanta-Southern Dental College, in a building next to Grady Memorial Hospital.

old dental school buildingIn 1926 the college moved to a new building at the corner of Courtland Street and Forrest Avenue (now Ralph McGill Boulevard), where it remained until moving to the Dental School Building on the Druid Hills campus in 1969.

Exerting a strong influence in the Southeast, Atlanta-Southern produced an influential body of alumni who introduced modern dental science throughout the Southeast. Dr. Thomas P. Hinman (1891 Southern), the first dean of Atlanta-Southern, was elected President of the National Dental Association in 1922 and left a lasting impact on the profession. In 1925 Lambda chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon, national honorary society of dentistry, was installed at Atlanta-Southern, and in 1926, the first president of Atlanta-Southern, Sheppard W. Foster, served as President of the American Dental Association and presided over the meeting of the World Dental Congress.

In 1931 through the estate of Dr. DeLos L. Hill, a graduate and professor of the school, the Atlanta-Southern Dental College established the South's first program in children's dentistry, organizing a clinic in memory of Dr. Hill's son, who had died in childhood.

Despite earlier efforts to affiliate the dental college with Emory, it was not until 1944 that Atlanta-Southern Dental College became the Emory University School of Dentistry. One of the early graduates of the new School of Dentistry, Mary Lynn Morgan, herself a pediatric dentist, would become only the second woman to serve on the University's Board of Trustees.

By the mid-1980s, a diminished need for dentists nationwide and increased competition from state dental schools founded in the neighboring states of Florida and Alabama led the University to phase out the D.D.S. program. Other universities—notably Washington University in Saint Louis but half a dozen others as well—had begun to close the doors on their own dental schools. At Emory, the trustees and the administration took a bold and imaginative step to focus the dental program more intensely on research, transforming the dental school into the nation's only school devoted exclusively to postgraduate dental training. The last class of D.D.S. graduates received their degrees in May 1988. Two years later, the school ranked first in per capita research funding.

But the school could not make it with the resources available to it, and the noble experiment soon began to fade. When Emory graduated its last class of new dentists in May 1988, the University was subsidizing the school with a million dollars a year from the general budget, and in October 1990 the trustees approved the administration's recommendation to close the school. The last dental master's degrees were awarded in 1992.

Source:  Hauk, Gary S.  Legacy of Heart and Mind: Emory Since 1836.


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