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Dental Tribune U.S. Edition

Dental Tribune U.S. Edition | February 2012XX Dental Tribune U.S. Edition | February 2012A2 News be closed by 2013, a process that comes with numerous challenges, Bachand said. “This transformation will be complex because owing to the closure of Army bases, large numbers of soldiers are mov- ing within Europe. In addition, we’ll try to minimize job losses of our civilian contractors like German dental techni- cians we usually hire from the nearby areas,” he said. Serving for more than 100 years Dentists have always been part of U.S. military forces. Before Congress signed the bill for the establishment of a com- missioned Dental Corps in 1911, dentists and other health care professionals had been working for the Army on a contract basis since the Revolutionary Wars of the 18th century. Full financial and operating autonomy, however, was not achieved until 1977, when the dental command was separated from the medical service, a command structure that was blamed for creating low morale and low reten- tion rates amongst dental officers. Today, the dental service in Europe alone has an annual budget of $18 mil- lion, of which the largest amount is spent on personnel and dental equipment. With supplies, the Army rides the patri- otic train, with all chairs provided solely by U.S. manufacturers such as A-dec and Pelton & Crane. Contractor Henry Schein just closed an exclusive $172 million con- tract with the service for 2012. Most army dentists enter the service through the Health Professions Scholar- ship Program, a competitive one- to four- year paid educational program avail- able for several medical-related posts throughout the military forces. Others are directly recruited by the Army, in- cluding many older dentists, who often are looking for a last opportunity to serve their country. According to Bachand, the Corps is short a few hundred officers worldwide, despite the fact that Army dentists are much on par with their civilian counter- parts and enjoy several advantages, such as paid education or a concise career de- velopment plan. Each year, for example, the Army provides its dentists with 30 hours of continued education and sends specialists back to the States for confer- ences, such as the recent annual congress of the American Dental Association in Las Vegas. Most CE courses in Europe, however, are organized with local providers such as the Kopf clinic at Heidelberg Univer- sity’s Faculty of Medicine, which has col- laborated with the EDRC for many years. "Even more like our civilian colleagues, Army dentists have to stay in touch with the latest technology-driven changes like CAD/CAM or cone-beam computed tomography,” Bachand said. “Compared to when I started in the service over 30 years ago, almost every aspect of our field has now become computerized, beginning from the workload reporting to the scheduling system, diagnosis or treatment.” Despite the more stable lifestyle, switching places with dentists in the ci- vilian world doesn't seem to interest him. “What I like especially about military dentistry is the group practice approach and the possibilities to really focus on the clinical needs of every individual pa- tient. Even though we have to be respon- sible financial stewards, we do not have to worry so much about the business aspects of treatment in regard to specific treatment for patients,” he said. “I would never trade that experience.” often leads to major dental problems, a phenomenon that Army dentists experi- enced in earlier conflicts such as Korea or Vietnam. At the beginning of the last two U.S. engagements in Iraq, for example, statistics showed a 30 percent increase in returning soldiers with signs of rampant caries or gingivitis. Bachand commands more than 20 Army Dental Clinics spread over bases in Germany, Italy and Belgium. World- wide, the U.S. military employs more than 1,000 dental officers in three ma- jor regions in the U.S. and in Europe and the Pacific. Before he took command of the EDRC from Col. Randall Ball last year, Bachand served as the commander of the Pacific Regional Dental Command in Hawaii, a post that was far different in many way than his command in Europe. “In the Pacific you have a smaller population but huge distances to cross between each base and clinic,” he said. “In Europe, everything is conveniently reachable at a driving distance.” Bachand’s scope of duty could soon be- come even smaller, as the U.S. Army sig- nificantly pulls back troops from Europe. According to the latest plans of the De- partment of Defense, more than 4,000 soldiers are to be relocated to the U.S. mainland over the next two years. For the ERDC, this would mean the closure of several clinics and the relocation of den- tal personnel. In Germany, the clinics in Heidelberg and nearby Mannheim will “ WARRIORS, page A1 Ad Before taking over the Europe Regional Dental Command, Col. William R. Bachand commanded the Pacific Regional Dental Command out of Hawaii. The U.S. military has more than 1,000 dental officers. Photos/Annemarie Fischer, Dental Tribune Lt. Col. Cathleen Labate works with a patient at a U.S. Army Dental Clinic in Germany, one of more than 20 such clinics across Europe.