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A Salute to Military Dentistry Part IV

Profiles of GDA member dentists who served in the US Armed Forces
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 ashley millerDr. Ashley Miller
(CPT Ashley Ann Pinkard when Active Duty)
U.S. Army (May 2009–September 2011)

Fort Carson, Colorado and deployment to Tallil, Iraq
I joined to serve my country and continue my education in comprehensive dentistry. The integrity and honor instilled as an officer and a dentist in the U.S. Army was important to me.

Deployment and the values associated with comraderie make up my most memorable experiences. One team one fight!

After my service I continue to encourage Army values amongst colleagues in private practice. I tell others, the Army will grow with you as you develop as a provider and you’ll gain a life-long network dental of colleagues to reach out to.

dr diane penningtonDr. Diane Manning Pennington

U.S. Air Force (1993–1996)

Offutt Air Force Base and Robins Air Force Base My father was my inspiration to join the U.S. Air Force. He was a career Air Force officer and pilot. He served in the Vietnam War and was a role model for hard work and perseverance.

I did my part for this country I love and met many interesting people and mentors. Some of the most memorable moments in the Air Force were officer’s training and combat training. They both were challenging both mentally and physically. After finishing my time in the Air Force, I began my training in oral & maxillofacial surgery.

I believe the Air Force AEGD program is a great way to explore all aspects of dentistry with intensive training in each specialty. I would recommend the military to anyone
able to serve. It is a life-changing experience.

dr helen sempiraDr. Helen N. Sempira
United States Navy (1992–1997)

Camp Pendleton, CA Okinawa, Japan Camp Fuji,
Japan Virginia Beach, VA Norfolk, VA

“The military gives you the opportunity to practice in a remote area that can really test your skills and stretch you and help you grow—fast.”

Having taken the Northeast Regional Board Exam, I had the option to practice in 13 different states. Starting out in the military gave me the time to investigate where I wanted to practice.

Right out of dental school in my general practice residency I was on my first night of
taking call at the hospital. A soldier was brought to the dental clinic with a gunshot wound to the head that had blown out multiple teeth as well as part of the palate. In a panic, I called the director asking for help as I had never admitted a patient. His response was, “That’s why you’re there, Lieutenant,” and hung up. So, I pulled out the manual and started at page 1, paragraph number 1. It took from 7 pm until 3 am to complete all the documentation and procedures. And I was back up at 6:45am with a legal team on hand to meet with the director, where I was promptly chewed out for not informing the director of the severity of the problem. That was the start of an interesting five years in the Navy, which also brought deep friendships and connections that exist to this day.

After completing a general practice residency and spending several years as a general dentist, I was able to make the decision to go into endodontics without the pressures of
already being invested in a private practice.

For anyone going into the Navy, I recommend applying for a general practice residency. It can give you the opportunity to practice in a remote area that can really test your skills and stretch you and help you grow—fast.

These profiles were first published in the November/December 2017 issue of Action. We will publish further installments online in the coming weeks.