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Dentistry residency program returns to Keesler

Col. (Dr.) Michael Wajdowicz, the two-year Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program director, second from right, observes resident Capt. (Dr.) Aaron Hayes, left, as he prepares a patient for surgery Sept. 4 with the aid of dental technician Staff Sgt. David Reimer, right. Maj. (Dr.) Nicholas Duvall, the program’s training officer, watches the procedure and asks Hayes questions related to patient care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Steve Pivnick)

Col. (Dr.) Michael Wajdowicz, the two-year Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program director, second from right, observes resident Capt. (Dr.) Aaron Hayes, left, as he prepares a patient for surgery Sept. 4 with the aid of dental technician Staff Sgt. David Reimer, right. Maj. (Dr.) Nicholas Duvall, the program’s training officer, watches the procedure and asks Hayes questions related to patient care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Steve Pivnick)

by Steve Pivnick, 81st Medical Group Public Affairs

– KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. — The two-year Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program returned to Keesler July 1.

Col. (Dr.) Michael Wajdowicz arrived the last week of June from Joint Base Lackland-San Antonio, Texas, to become AEGD residency director. He served as the training officer for the AEGD two-year program there.

“This is my second time here,” the colonel said. “I actually did my training here from 1998 to 2000 and enjoyed Keesler very much. I’m excited to be back.”

He explained, “The program was resurrected because Lackland’s AEGD two-year program was competing with the other dental specialty residencies for patients.

“Also, the class size – 10 residents – made it more difficult for each resident to receive one-on-one staffing or clinical oversight. With the revival of Keesler’s program, Lackland’s class size has decreased to eight residents. With the six we train here, the Air Force Dental Corps sees a net increase of four.”

Wajdowicz continued, “Recently both AEGD two-year programs became affiliated with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Postgraduate Dental School allowing graduates of the programs to be awarded a master’s degree in oral biology.”

Discussing the rationale for the training program, the colonel said, “(It) is to train general dentists in each of the dental specialties. Program graduates are so well trained that, should they be assigned to a base that does not have an oral surgeon, the graduate can serve as the de facto oral surgeon. This is true for the additional specialties. After I graduated my program here in 2000, I was assigned to Langley Air Force Base, Va., where I served as the root-canal specialist.

Wajdowicz noted the specialties taught here are comprehensive dentistry (diagnosing and treating all of a patient’s needs), restorative dentistry (“drill and fill”), prosthodontics (crowns, bridges, dentures), implants, periodontics (gum surgery), endodontics (root canals), orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, orofacial pain (TMD-temporomandibular disorders), dental radiology and oral surgery.

“In addition to didactic and clinical training in these specialties, residents learn about statistics and research,” he said. “One of the program’s requirements for awarding of a master’s degree is for the resident to design and complete a dental research project, present the results at the International Association for Dental Research’s annual meeting and/or have their research published in a peer-reviewed dental journal.”

The colonel continued, “Facility limitations are the reason for six residents per year here. I personally believe that having six residents per year is ideal. It allows for more clinical experience and more one-on-one mentoring with the dental specialists on my staff.

“Although there have been some recent dental school graduates accepted into the program, it is designed to train dentists who have been in the Air Force for at least a tour or two,” he pointed out. “In fact, many residents apply to the AEGD two-year program after having done one-year AEGD program in the past.”

The one-year AEGD program is designed to expose a recent dental school graduate to advanced clinical procedures that may not have been taught in dental school.

“The rationale is that these residents will learn procedures that will make them valuable assets at their gaining bases,” Wajdowicz noted “In fact, graduates of the AEGD one-year program leave the program being credentialed to provide intravenous conscious-sedation. No other branch of the military allows general dentists to provide sedation.

“Having the AEGD two-year program goes well beyond an AEGD one-year. Residents learn concepts and procedures that are normally only taught to dental specialists in addition to dental research,” he added. “Residents in the two-year program are eligible and encouraged to seek board certification by the American Board of General Dentistry.” Wajdowicz said Keesler and Lackland offer the only Air Force AEGD two-year programs. The Navy has a similar program at Bethesda (Md.), and the Army has three programs: Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Trippler Medical Center, Hawaii.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Patrick Sculley, senior vice president for USUHS university programs, visited the 81st Dental Squadron Aug. 5 to present a plaque recognizing the affiliation of the AEGD two-year residency and the Keesler endodontics residency with the university’s Postgraduate Dental College. Graduates of these postgraduate programs are considered specialists in comprehensive dentistry and endodontics, respectively. Sculley, former Army Dental Corps chief and executive dean of the Postgraduate Dental College, also toured the dental clinic and met with the AEGD teaching staff and the six current AEGD residents to discuss the relationship between the training programs and the university.

Sculley also outlined future plans for the university to affiliate with other military medical education programs throughout the Department of Defense. As a result of the USUHS affiliation, graduates of both Keesler dental training programs beginning with the class of 2015 will be able to earn a master’s degree in oral biology from the university, and members of the teaching staff will hold faculty positions in the Postgraduate Dental College.

AEGD residents are Capts. (Drs.) Jason Garner, Christopher Gillette, Aaron Hayes and Robert Wake and Majs. (Drs.) Marcus Kropf and Tequilla McGahee.

Faculty members are: Majs. (Drs.) Sarra Cushen, Nicholas DuVall, Jeffrey Ford, Stephen Gasparovich, Dana Jensen and Mark Roberts; Lt. Cols. (Drs.) Richard Buck, Michael Gardner and David Hall; and Cols. (Drs.) Paul Deveau, Sara Dixon, Timothy Kirkpatrick, Scott Malthaner and Howard Roberts; and retired Col. (Dr.) Thomas Beckman.

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