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Scott’s Dental Residency Program sculpts Air Force’s dental experts

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jodi Martinez
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Scott Air Force Base is home to one of 11 Advanced Education in General Dentistry Programs across the Air Force responsible for training residents in advanced treatment concepts to become supreme dental health officers and masters of expediting dental care for deploying members and medical beneficiaries.

Since 1961, the one-year program has prepared 298 dental residents to receive hands-on training in nine specialties: complex operative dentistry, oral surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, prosthodontics, pediatric dentistry, oral pathology/medicine, and orofacial pain.

 “They graduate the one-year program not only with greater experience and confidence but with superior skills that enable them to function independently in a deployed environment,” said Tech. Sgt. Jon Fleming, AEGD Program’s flight chief at the 375th Dental Squadron, where he began his dental career nearly a decade ago.

Residents receive daily, one-on-one training with eight specialty chiefs, rotating through each field throughout the year.  In addition, Fleming coordinates visits with dental consultants from all over the country who, according to Fleming, are renowned in their respective fields.  

 “It is a privilege to learn from the years of expertise of our attending specialists,” said Capt. Rachael Sells, one of the residents in the AEGD Program.  “At three months into the program, it is evident that the more we learn, the more we realize we need to learn.”

Currently, Sells is one of four dental residents who are registered in the program, which began in August. The other three residents, Capt. Gregory Chaffin, Capt. Song Lim, and Capt. Thomas Woolf, have made great impressions on Sells.

“Each one is extremely gifted and motivated to excel,” said Sells. “It is an honor to walk through this journey together. We are able to learn from each other’s experiences so that we can each be better clinicians.”

As for Sells, this residency program is another step to a life-long dream.  While volunteering with a Guatemalan dentist in a remote village a decade ago, she found her purpose and meaning in life.

“Seeing the extraordinary need and desiring to be equipped to care for these people sparked an interest in dentistry that has compelled me to dive into dentistry as a profession,” said Sells.  “I want to have a lifestyle of servant hood while gaining experience and speed through practicing dentistry with the Air Force.” 

The residents’ path to the program was a competitive one that involved a multi-layer process.  During their third year of dental school, they submitted an application to the program’s director at the nearest base with an AEGD Program.  Following a face-to-face interview with the director, their package was sent to the Air Force Personnel Center.  In mid-October, the AEGD Program board met to finalize their selections, where they accepted the four dental students and assigned them to Scott AFB.

Due to Scott AFB’s large military and retiree population, it is a perfect place to house the AEGD Program.  Larger bases often require more specialties and allow residents to receive extended training.  While these specialty billets help train residents, they also benefit the Scott population too. 

“Residents proudly support community efforts both off and on the installation to include oral cancer screenings, the Bundle for Babies program, health fair seminars, and continuing education opportunities for local area dentists and hygienists,” said Fleming.  “Residents are able to treat select cases within our retiree population and other eligible beneficiaries, saving them thousands of dollars in dental care.”

Following the completion of the program, the residents will disperse to other bases across the Air Force, including smaller bases and bases overseas that benefit from their expertise. For Fleming, it is an honor to see the development of each resident throughout the program. 

“I am very proud to now serve as the flight chief for the section that started my career almost 10 years ago,” said Fleming.  “I really enjoy working with and molding the future of our Dental Corps in the United States Air Force.”