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2023 Excellence in Dentistry

Sponsored by The San Diego County Dental Society.


Serving San Diego Dentists for 136 Years!

If you’re from San Diego, or if you’ve spent more than five minutes in the airport, you can’t help but see symbols of this city’s history scattered throughout its landscape (no, craft beer isn’t our historical legacy, although that may be the impression from the inside of terminal 2…. I digress).  Sure, San Diego is basically an infant when compared to ancient cities like Tikal or Rome, but San Diego has a rich and modern history that goes far beyond the tales associated with sugar cubes and popsicle sticks that made up our problematic 4th grade Missions projects. The history of San Diego is illustrated by its people.



As a native to America’s finest City, I can point to the names of people who were touted as change makers in our city all throughout my education and I can assure you that none of them were dentists. Many moons later, as the proud Executive Director of the San Diego County Dental Society, I find the omission of this piece of our city’s history to be a lost opportunity (no disrespect to my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Lundberg, if you’re reading this). The role that dentistry plays in the creation of a modern city is a story of its own. Stories of dentistry in San Diego history include people who brought ingenuity and promise to a burgeoning town through their dedication, skills, and compassion.  As some of the City’s first entrepreneurs, San Diego’s earliest dentists broke through racial barriers, improved the quality of life for their fellow San Diegans and established professional standards that remain today.

Old Town wasn’t always known for its margaritas. In 1858 you might have been looking for someone to extract your aching tooth and Dr. Frederick Painter would have been your man to do it. According to the book San Diego County Dental Society 1887–1987, by Dr. Thomas Baumann, the period between 1821–72 heralded innovations including the first gold filing, nitrous oxide, ether, and porcelain teeth. Without these critical treatments we can only imagine what would have become of the many people who helped build America’s Greatest City.



A few years later in 1895, another great advancement occurred when Emma Read applied to become a licensed dentist, only to be told that it was useless for her to take the exam because it would establish an intolerable precedent. Not one for taking no for an answer, she persisted and passed the exam, and went on to become the President of the San Diego County Dental Society for five terms. Dr. Read paved the way for many women who would eventually enter dentistry. Side note: according to the American Dental Association, as of 2021, dental school enrollment is a 50-50 gender split. Thanks Emma!

In 1935, Dr. Jack Johnson Kimbrough hitchhiked to San Diego after hearing of a lack of black dentists in our town.  He went on to become the President of the NAACP and an activist who fought to end racial prejudice. He was reported to have organized a sit-in at the U.S. Grant in 1948 to protest segregation. He was credited for helping to organize Time Saving and Loan Bank to facilitate loans for increased home ownership in all parts of San Diego by all races and was recognized by President John F. Kennedy in a reception honoring outstanding leadership.

Fast forward past dozens and even hundreds of other inspiring stories to 2023.  The San Diego County Dental Society is in its 136th year. With a membership base of nearly 70% of the dentists in San Diego and Imperial Counties, a robust program of continuing education, advocacy, social events, and day-to-day support for its members, the SDCDS has a marked place in San Diego’s history and its future. Many of our leaders in dentistry are nominees seen in this issue. It is my hope that their stories and many more of accomplishment, compassion for others, fortitude and dedication to the advancement of the profession will become shared stories for others to learn from. The stories that make up the past and future of dentistry deserve to be told, and perhaps even have a place in terminal 2 (Commission for Arts & Culture, are you reading this?)


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