Standing on the shoulders of giants

When Daniel E. Waite, D.D.S., M.S., graduated from dental school in 1953, oral and maxillofacial surgery was a young dental specialty. Over the course of his 40-year career, which included 17 years at the University of Minnesota as professor and chair of oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS), he helped shape the profession. Waite was one of the giants of OMS education at the University’s School of Dentistry and beyond, and he left a legacy that inspired others to learn more, do more and become more.

Today, that legacy is embodied in the hundreds of oral surgeons he helped educate and is annually celebrated at a lectureship named in his honor. Recognized as one of the premier educational events for OMS surgeons, residents and dental students, the Daniel E. Waite Lectureship celebrated its 25th anniversary on March 27-28 when more than 92 participants from across the Midwest convened at the University of Minnesota. The lectureship also drew an impressive roster of speakers. “Like Dan Waite, they’re always giants in the field,” says James Swift, D.D.S. [LINK TO BIO] , professor in the University’s Division or Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and long-time co-organizer of the event.

To celebrate the anniversary event, Daniel Waite himself welcomed the audience. Also attending were Waite’s son, Peter Waite, M.P.H., D.D.S., M.D., and his granddaughter, Elisabeth (Betsy) M. Peterson, D.D.S., both oral and maxillofacial surgeons and University of Minnesota dental school graduates. This year, Peter Waite was a guest presenter on the topic of treatment options for correcting jaw and tooth deformities. He is the current chair of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry. Elisabeth Peterson is a private practitioner in the Twin Cities area.

Also among the featured lecturers was Bruce MacIntosh, D.D.S., clinical professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry, and Peter Larsen, D.D.S., president of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and professor at the Ohio State University. MacIntosh shared his perspectives on the history of discoveries and pioneers of oral and maxillofacial surgery, and Larsen discussed dental implant reconstruction for children who do not have normal tooth development. Presenters Leon Assael, D.M.D. [LINK TO BIO], U-M School of Dentistry dean, and Harold Tu, M.D., D.M.D. [LINK TO BIO], director of the dental school’s Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, reviewed the past and future of OMS education and scientific advancements in the field. Also participating was American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery President William Nelson, D.D.S., who took the stage to answer questions about issues of current interest to the profession.

Says Swift, “I like to think this conference is both a tribute to the contributions and leadership of Dan Waite, as well as a reflection of his legacy of excellence in OMS education and practice.”

In acknowledging those contributions, Swift notes, “Dr. Waite’s motto was ‘excellence comes from excellence’. His blueprint for personal and professional success was a strong work ethic, a lifelong pursuit of excellence and empathy for the patient. His comments were always focused, helpful and challenging. He taught his residents the value of faith, family and profession – in that order – and he treated his students with love, respect and dignity.”

A highlight of the conference for students was the opportunity to meet the leaders of the profession and to interact with residents from other education programs. Twelve OMS residents gave oral case presentations in an environment perfect for asking questions and receiving feedback. Says Swift, “For many of these young professionals, this opportunity to learn from leaders in the field is their favorite academic experience.”

Held annually for OMS residents from the University, Mayo Clinic and Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, Wis., the conference is co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota Foundation and the School of Dentistry’s Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and the Minnesota Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

Dan Waite, D.D.S., M.S., graduated from the University of Iowa Dental School in 1953, completed his oral surgery training at the University of Iowa in 1955, served as chairman of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry from 1967 to 1984, and was appointed chairman of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Baylor College of Dentistry from 1984 through 1991. He retired from full time dental education and practice in 1989 and currently lives in Independence, MO.