Southern Illinois University’s School of Dental Medicine (SDM) is celebrating its opening 50 years ago having welcomed its first class of 24 students on Sept. 11, 1972. SIU SDM was the first dental school to open outside of the Chicago area and helped fill the need for dentists in the central and southern Illinois regions.
The SIU SDM was dedicated on Oct. 3, 1972, with an event welcoming the governor’s wife, state senators and representatives and area dentists to the Alton campus.
At the dedication, the school’s first dean, Frank Sobkowski, DDS, remarked, “Because of the unusual opportunity extended to the faculty of this school and by virtue of the efforts of the graduates of our programs, this school will achieve national eminence and will provide leadership for the future.”
The school’s first enrollee, Dean Drake, DMD, chose to delay his dental school journey just so he could be part of the first class at the SIU SDM. His experience at SIUE as an undergraduate student confirmed that dentistry was the career path he wanted to pursue and only at the SIU SDM.
“One of my favorite pictures I took was on our first day of clinic,” said Drake. “One of my classmates is assisting another by shining a light in the patient’s mouth because the operatory lights had not yet been installed. Those first few years were a little shaky, but it shows how much the school has grown and progressed since those first years.”
Cohorts at the SIU SDM have grown from the original class of 24 students to a larger and more diverse student body of 212 students pursuing their DMD.
“It is important to acknowledge where we are, where we started, and moreover, aspire to where we will go as we continue to prepare and graduate some of the best dentists in the county,” Douglas concluded.
Photos courtesy SIUE News.