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50 years later

Class of 1963 Class Tour

Dr. Zoel Allen and members of the Class of 1963 observe a demonstration of the college's digital technology now used in
dental anatomy and histology courses.

 Media Resources/Steven Doll

The Class of 1963 returns to campus to get a firsthand look at what’s changed at TAMBCD. Has anything stayed the same?

If the Class of 1963 could agree on one thing, it’s that there are no more “Jack Rabbits” to be found at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry.

Dr. George Richards organized the 50-year reunion and describes with fondness the belt-driven drill.

“We used to have a handpiece attached to a belt that went up and around to an engine. We had a foot pedal to drive it,” he says. “The further we pushed, the faster the engine would drive to turn the handpiece. We didn’t sit down. We stood up.”

That’s not to say that change wasn’t on the horizon. Richards did use a high speed handpiece before he graduated dental school — once, his senior year.

In some ways, the Class of 1963 picked the perfect day to tour the dental school. On Jan. 18, the clinics were closed so students and faculty could attend the Southwest Dental Conference. This meant that the 20 alumni and spouses got to take an unhurried, in-depth tour of campus, seeing much of the dental school that has so changed over the years.  

They visited the Dental Simulation Laboratory, Lab 30, Lecture Hall 6, Oral Diagnosis, Oral and Maxillofacial Imaging Center, central sterilization area, a practical laboratory, the Third Floor Clinic and Advanced Technology Clinic along with a few impromptu detours.

“We had to call our own patients. If they didn’t show up,
then we had to carry our 20-pound black case back to the lab and do something else.”

—Dr. Nick Baziotes

Dr. Jim Lowe returned to the college from Oklahoma City for the first time in 30 years and admits that while the Hall Street entrance location is still in the same spot, its appearance is completely different from what he remembers.

“It just blows your mind,” Lowe says.

Another notable change: the basement atrium. “They didn’t give us any chairs or water,” he jokes. “The only water was in the men’s room.”

The building isn’t the only thing that has transformed. So, too, have student instruments and technology.

Like the toolboxes dental students would carry to and from campus each day. Seems there was a love-hate relationship with those familiar black cases, especially for Dr. Nick Baziotes, who went on to graduate from the college’s orthodontic program in 1967.

“We had to call our own patients,” Baziotes says. “If they didn’t show up, then we had to carry our 20-pound black case back to the lab and do something else.”

Back then, the instruments in those cases underwent cold sterilization — a far cry from the substantial autoclaves and stringent sterilization processes used today.

Gloves and masks were not required, patient records were written with pencil and paper instead of stored in an electronic system, and discussion of digital X-rays was not even on the horizon.

Luckily, before the alumni left for the day, there was one familiarity to be spotted: “They still have the same Buffalo Knives we used,” exclaimed Lowe as the group left the Sim Lab.

According to Dean Lawrence Wolinsky, there are some other assets that remain constant throughout the decades.

“You spent most of your time doing what you do best: hands-on, restorative dentistry,” Wolinsky told the group. “It comes back to the basics of dentistry. It all comes down to your hands, your mind and the instruments.”

D4 Betty Springer served as one of the tour guides and says getting to speak with the 1963 alumni as her own graduation approaches helped put her career in perspective.

“I loved seeing dentists that graduated so long ago who are still so passionate and enjoy what they do,” Springer says. “It makes me look forward to beginning my career in dentistry.”

Class of 1963 Class Tour

The Class of 1963 in the Third Floor Clinic

Media Resources/Steven Doll