James W. Hilty

The Kornberg School of Dentistry that we know today started when Temple accepted the offer of the Philadelphia Dental College to merge. After the merger, Temple officially reincorporated as Temple University on December 12, 1907.

Dental School Building, North Broad Street X Allegheny Avenue
Students in class in 1913. The legend (lower left) reads: Student's Day. Phila Dental College, Jan 23rd, 1913. Prof. CN Russell Operating.

The Philadelphia Dental College retained its name until 1913, when it became the Temple University School of Dentistry. Founded in 1863 and the second-oldest U.S. school of dentistry, the Philadelphia Dental College and its Garretson Hospital for Oral Surgery (founded in 1878 and the first facility devoted exclusively to oral and maxillofacial surgery) were located in a cluster of buildings at Eighteenth and Buttonwood streets near Spring Garden Street (adjacent to the current location of Philadelphia Community College).  Because the main building (erected in 1897) was relatively new, modern, and spacious, the Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy also moved there, followed in 1915 by the School of Chiropody.

In the early twentieth century, American dental schools went through a torturous period of assessment and accreditation similar to that of medical schools.  In 1910 the American Dental Association (ADA) joined the Dental Education Council of America, the national organization of dental faculties, to collaborate in unifying standards for the educational requirements of dentists and the accreditation of dental schools. The rating and assessment of dental schools done by the ADA’s Council on Dental Education began in 1917. Temple received a B rating. Seven years later, William J. Gies conducted a comprehensive study of American dental education (Dental Education in the United States and Canada) sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Gies hoped to strengthen educational standards for dental education as Abraham Flexner had done for medicine.

Although Temple’s dental school was one of the largest and seemingly most successful, it received a B rating from Gies and the Council on Dental Education in 1924. They cited overcrowding, an inadequate library, a lack of faculty research, and the absence of a graduate program as the school’s major shortcomings. Temple had forty-seven teachers, five of whom were full-time faculty, to instruct 600 students. Salaries were low, however, and the huge student demand, combined with the school’s limited financial resources, forced Dean I. Norman Broomell to teach several courses himself.

Broomell’s years of service from 1918 to 1941 brought advancements in the quality of instruction and a substantial increase in the number of graduates who passed the State Board examinations. He and the dental faculty also anticipated national trends by requiring students to have at least two years of pre-dental college instruction and extending the dental curriculum itself to four years. The American Association of Dental Surgeons insisted that the “two-four” plan be in place by 1937, but Temple endorsed the plan in 1932 and put it into effect in 1935. As a consequence, Columbia University and Temple were among the elite to receive Class A ratings in 1934.

The Dental School hit a low point in its history in 1943. Ten years earlier it had received a Class A designation, but in the interim the aging facilities at Eighteenth and Buttonwood deteriorated beyond repair and the Council on Dental Education rated the Dental School’s plant in the lowest tenth of all physical accommodations for dental colleges in the country. The new dean, Gerald D. Timmons, who had been the executive secretary of the American Dental Association, inherited a seemingly insurmountable task. But, with the assistance of Provost Millard Gladfelter and university trustee James A. Nolen, he persuaded the university to acquire the Packard Building on Broad Street just north of Allegheny Avenue, only a block from Temple Hospital.

Dental School Building, North Broad Street X Allegheny Avenue
In 1947, the School of Dentistry moved to the Packard Building on Broad Street, just north of Allegheny Avenue.

With $2 million in university funds, space was now provided for classrooms and labs, operating rooms, offices, and storage ample enough to accommodate both the Dental School and the Pharmacy School. They moved into the building in October 1947, permitting the Dental School to reacquire good standing and ending the health sciences’ forty-year presence at the Eighteenth and Buttonwood campus.

In 1962 Dean Charles L. Howell succeeded Timmons as dental school dean. Howell instituted a number of advanced education programs in areas such as oral pathology, oral pediatrics, orthodontics, and periodontics, which were put in place within five years. He also emphasized a closer correlation of basic sciences and oversaw a 50 percent expansion of the clinical facilities, affording an increased program of community service. A new Department of Community Dentistry furthered education in dental health, dental epidemiology, ethics, and jurisprudence.

for the next three decades continued to focus on the preparation of dentists for service as general practitioners, first under Dean Howell and then Dale F. Roeck, who succeeded Howell as dean in 1976. The larger facility allowed a greater emphasis on community health and clinical services to its North Philadelphia neighbors. However, with the passage of time, technological advancements, and new demands on the dentistry profession, Dean Roeck and ADA accreditors came to express grave concerns over the status of the clinical training facilities.

Renovating the old structure (originally constructed in 1925) would satisfy only a portion of the dental school problems and likely not appease ADA accreditors, who warned the school that its accreditation was at risk if new facilities were not forthcoming. Roeck succeeded in gaining the Wachman administration’s support for a new clinical teaching building and the commonwealth agreed to support the construction costs. Roeck also won university support to add new faculty and to change the name of the degree awarded dental graduates from Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) to Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD), beginning in 1984.

Dental Clinic, Temple University School of Dentistry, circa 1950
Dental Clinic, Temple University School of Dentistry, circa 1950.

Dr. Martin F. Tansy, professor and chairman of the Physiology Department, was appointed as Temple’s twelfth dental school dean in 1986. He immediately urged moving ahead with Roeck’s proposals to construct a new clinical facility. However, with the introduction of fluoride in the 1970s, fewer dentists were required and several dental schools, including Georgetown and Emory, had closed in the 1980s. Moreover, Temple’s provost raised serious doubts during the ten-year academic planning process concerning the high costs of dental education and the meager research productivity of Temple’s dental faculty, questioning whether the school ought to continue. To answer those concerns President Liacouras assembled a Blue Ribbon Committee of dental educators to assess the school’s future.

Dean Tansy persuaded the Blue Ribbon Committee of the critical importance of the Temple dental school to the citizens of Philadelphia and Southeastern Pennsylvania. He also provided new direction for the school, eventually establishing an implantology clinic, teaching cosmetic dentistry, and expanding dental research. With the committee’s favorable endorsement construction proceeded on the $36 million clinical facility, funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and private gifts. The new facility, constructed as an annex to the existing building, opened in 1990 with over one-hundred individual dental operatories and advanced clinical and pre-clinical training facilities.

Subsequent external reviewers and accreditors praised the state-of-the-art quality of Temple’s dental education programs and gave the clinics their highest commendations. Every seven years, each of the nation’s 56 dental schools is visited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (ADA-CODA) to review the school’s accomplishments and suggest ways it could improve. The most recent ADA-CODA accreditation review occurred in 2004 and the Kornberg School of Dentistry received a perfect score, along with an unprecedented thirteen commendations for particular areas of excellence.

Current Dental School Building, North Broad Street X Allegheny Avenue
Aspect of the current Dental Building in a picture taken when it was opened, in 1990.

One of the Kornberg School of Dentistry’s excellent features is its pre-clinical training laboratory. Before dental students work with real patients, they spend two years practicing with plastic teeth, jaw and head mannequins to perfect basic dental skills in the preclinical laboratory. In 2006 the school of dentistry fittingly dedicated theDr. John and Joan H. Ballots Preclinical Laboratory in recognition of the Ballots’ generous scholarship support of Temple dental students. Few Temple loyalists have ever matched the pride and spirit of Joan Ballots (B.S. Ed 1953).  A University trustee and a faithful follower of Temple athletics, as well as a generous donor to the basketball program, she has demonstrated unflagging support of Temple over several decades. Her late husband, Dr. John Ballots (DDS 1957) was a stand-out basketball player for Temple, as well as a dental school graduate with a highly successful family practice.

The long, distinguished history from which the Kornberg School of Dentistry evolved has been on display since 2003 in a dental museum featuring the school's unique collection of dental artifacts and presenting the history of dentistry in America. Displays include a richly varied collection of photographs, instrument displays, and the personal possessions of former students, faculty, and alumni. Here one can trace the beginnings of dentistry in America through three generations of dentists from Josiah Flagg’s Revolutionary War-era practice to his grandson J. Foster Flagg, who in 1863 was one of the founders and a member of the faculty of the Philadelphia Dental College – the second oldest dental college in the country -- which merged with Temple in 1907. Temple’s dental school history is evoked in museum depictions of dental educational techniques, photographs of student laboratories, clinics, and operatories, highlighting the contributions of Temple alumni and faculty to the advancement of dental education and to the growth of the dental profession.

Proud of its distinguished past and mindful of its noble obligation to educate dentists for general practice, the Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry and its 500 students and 130 faculty members provided more than 300,000 patient procedures in 2009, attesting to the school’s unshakable commitment to community health. Additionally, seven research laboratories and collaborative research projects currently focus on HIV/AIDS, oral cancer, and the impact of various factors on oral healthcare.

Martin Tansy retired in 2008 and a new dean, Dr. Amid I. Ismail, was selected to lead the Kornberg School of Dentistry. Coming to Temple from the University of Michigan, where he was professor of health services research and cariology in the School of Dentistry and professor of epidemiology and director of the program in dental public health in the School of Public Health, Dr. Ismail brought substantial expertise and a passionate advocacy for the delivery and improvement of dental health care for the underserved in urban areas. Under Dean Ismail’s leadership the Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry remains committed to excellence in dental education and to fulfilling its mission of serving the community’s dental health needs.


Reprinted by permission of Temple University Press from the Temple University: 125 Years of Service to Philadelphia, the Nation, and the World by James W. Hilty. For more information about the book and to purchase a copy, please visit Temple University Press's website.