In celebration of Veterans’ Day, we asked many GDA members with military service to share a little about their experience. Their reasons for entering the U.S. Armed Forces are many—some found inspiration because family members served during previous wars. Some worked to hone their skills and learn more about their chosen profession before choosing their path. Others found relief from dental school debt and felt called to keep men and women in the military healthy. We thank all of you who have served our country in uniform and are proud to share some of your stories.
Dr. Brian E. Bergeron
US Air Force
(May 1990–September 2013)
Offutt AFB Omaha, NE; Aviano AB, Italy; Moody AFB, GA; Wilford Hall Medical Center, San Antonio, TX; Elmendorf AFB, Anchorage, AK; Keesler Medical Center, Biloxi, MS
“Treat every patient in your care, regardless of status, like a General Officer, because each of us deserves your best.”
I commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserves at the University of Florida when I was senior dental student. I wanted the opportunity to serve my country, see some of the world, and train in a military general practice residency. Ultimately, it was a real opportunity to serve others who wore the uniform and gave much more than I for the protection of this country.
One of the most memorable parts of my career was when I was flown to the Northeast on 9/11, the evening of the terrorist attacks, and set up medical field units for potential burn victims rescued from New York. A few short days later, I was redirected to the USAF Mortuary at Dover AFB, DE where I joined a team who spent approximately two weeks with the solemn task of identifying the Pentagon victims.
I had the unique opportunity to establish a second residency in endodontics for the USAF while on active duty at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS. Teaching quickly became my calling, and I was fortunate enough to translate that into a second career in academics as an Associate Professor and Residency Director for the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University.
Dr. Kimberly Williams Chubb
(September 1997–April 2003)
“Serve with honor in the
military and bring the same
honor to the civilian sector.”
I completed my dental residency at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC. I served at Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan, Naval Air Station Atlanta, and Naval Supply Corps School Athens, GA. I chose to be commissioned into the United States Navy because I always wanted to serve. I was in the JROTC unit at Northeast High School in Macon, GA. It was so impactful that I knew I wanted to join the military. My parents encouraged me to go to college and fulfill my dream of becoming a dentist. They told me that if I truly wanted to serve, I could do so once I became a dentist. So, that’s what I did!
The most important thing for me was providing dentistry for my fellow military men and women. Military people put their lives on the line day in and day out for this country! It was important for me to make sure that I did my part to fully restore their oral health.
One memorable moment was being deployed to the Philippines while being stationed in Okinawa, Japan. The operation was a joint effort among branches to provide healthcare to poverty stricken areas in the Philippines. I was blown away by the areas because I had never seen people as poor as they were, even here in the US. It changed my life—material things aren’t important to me anymore. I focus on things that are needed.
After leaving the military, I started my private practice in Newnan, GA in 2004. Practicing in and out of the military have more differences than similarities. I have enjoyed the best of both worlds and would not trade either experience.
Dr. Heather Marie Duffy
US Navy (August 2010–August 2016)
Marine Corps Recruit Depot,Parris Island
USS OAK HILL (LSD-51) (Virginia Beach, VA)
“If you are up for an adventure and want a great way to kickstart your dental career, then the military is definitely worth a look.”
My father served for 24 years in the U.S. Navy and was a huge influence on my decision to commission. I loved being a “military brat” and although hard at times, I really enjoyed moving every few years and living in different areas of the world. His service brought us to Spain, Italy, England, and
various locations in the United States. Commissioning was an easy decision for me. Not only was I accustomed to the military lifestyle, but the Navy helped pay my way through dental school, and was an organization that I was proud to serve.
My first duty station was MCRD Parris Island, “boot camp” for Marines on the east coast, where the motto is, “We Make Marines.” Although, as a dental officer you are not directly training marine recruits on combat and survival skills, you are “making marines” in a completely different way. Some of the recruits had never seen a dentist or had never been taught proper oral hygiene and would come into our clinic with rampant decay. In the 13 weeks they were in training, we would transform their mouth, while teaching them the skills they need to maintain a healthy oral cavity. For some, this would be a total mouth makeover and when their families finally got to see them at their graduation, they not only got to see the changes resulting from their Marine Corps training, but also the visible changes we would make.
The two years I spent serving as the Dental Officer onboard the USS OAK HILL (LSD-51) will always hold a special place in my heart. I was the only dentist onboard a ship of 400 sailors and as many as 400 Marines, so it felt like a small town. You quickly learn how to perform dentistry while the ship is rocking. It was during these two years, including one short deployment, that I felt like I was part of a much larger organization and really gained my appreciation for all who serve their country.
Dr. Allen and the staff at Godley Station Dental helped me easily make the transition out of the NavyThe biggest change for me was having my days consist just of dentistry. As a dental officer you are also a naval officer, which meant you were required to take on tasks outside of dentistry, including leadership development, administrative work and collateral duties. As an associate in private practice, I am able to use the leadership training that I received in the military to help enhance the practice, while also
being able to focus more heavily on my chairside skills.
The military lifestyle isn’t made for anyone, but if you are up for the adventure and want a great way to kickstart your dental career, then it’s definitely worth a look—you never know where it will take you! Navy scholarships are very competitive nowadays, so if you’re a predental student, I’d recommend getting in touch with your local recruiting office to get a head start on the process. Although I chose to later head towards private practice, many of my coworkers and mentors found themselves joining for the four years and making it a career.
These profiles were first published in the November/December 2017 issue of Action. We will publish further installments online in the coming weeks.