From MMC to Marquette

From MMC to Marquette: The evolution of dental education in Wisconsin

Did you know Marquette University School of Dentistry was not the first dental school in Wisconsin?

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The first dental school in Wisconsin was a division of the Milwaukee Medical College (MMC), which was built in 1883 to address the need for medical and dental education in Wisconsin. The dental department opened Sept. 26, 1894 with nine faculty members and 30 freshman students. The dental clinic consisted of 16 chairs and a technique laboratory. Three years later, the National Association of Dental Faculties investigated MMC, elected it to membership and recognized it as a reputable school.

In 1899, a second dental school opened in Milwaukee. A dental department was added to The Wisconsin College of Physicians and Surgeons which had been in operation since 1893. P&S struggled with the NADF to be recognized as a reputable school. In 1902, the school was finally recommended for NADF membership, thus establishing its reputation. P&S became a department of Carroll College from 1908 to 1912.

At times, the strong, competitive rivalry between P&S and MMC hurt development of both schools.

They competed fiercely for faculty and even competed physically during extremely spirited football games.

The daily schedule at P&S was similar to that at MMC. It consisted of six days a week with a lecture at both 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., except the second lecture was omitted on Saturdays. Clinic and laboratory hours extended from 9 a.m. to 12 Noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. during each of the six days.

P&S was never able to achieve the enrollment levels of MMC and sustained financial hardships for many years. The two schools eventually merged with Marquette College, a liberal arts college in Milwaukee at the time. MMC was first to affiliate in 1907. Its four departments – dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, gave Marquette university status. P&S merged with Marquette University in 1913. Medical students were concentrated in the P&S building, while pharmacy, dental and nursing students remained in the larger MMC building.

Dr. Henry Banzhaf, dean of the MMC dental department, became dean of the newly merged dental school. Dr. Banzhaf, a prominent Manitowoc dentist, also became business manager of the dental, pharmacy and nursing schools. He was appointed university business manager in 1921.

One of Dean Banzhaf’s most significant actions came in 1921, when he secured permission to build a new dental building at the cost of $320,000. This building was built on West Wisconsin Avenue and 16th Street in Milwaukee. The new building was finished in 1923 and initially featured a dental clinic with 150 chairs, an X-ray laboratory, an exodontia room and pathology-histology laboratory, anatomy, pharmacy and chemical and microscopy laboratories.

When the clinic expanded to 167 chairs, it earned a notation in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the largest dental clinic under one roof.”

The clinic’s diagnosis laboratory was a major innovation at the time. It was also one of the first laboratories of this type to be established in connection with a dental clinic and was praised as a pioneer effort of great significance in the history of dentistry.

Information for this article was taken from Frank Campenni’s History of Dentistry in Wisconsin, Charles Koch’s History of Dental Surgery and Robert Haukohl’s History of the Marquette University School of Dentistry. Thank you to Dr. Peter Jacobsohn at Marquette University School of Dentistry for providing additional information and research resources.

Dental school tuition fees

1899 – Wisconsin College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S): $75 per year per student.
1906 – Milwaukee Medical College (MMC) and P&S: $100 per year per student.
1912 – P&S and MMC: $150 per year per student.
1916 – Marquette University: $170 per year per student. In addition, books for a four year education cost $130 and instruments and supplies cost another $560.

Dental school admission & graduation requirements

1901 – A “good English education” (e.g., eighth grade graduate)
1902 – Two years of high school
1907- Three years of high school
1910 – Four years of high school
1924 – “Two-three graduate” dental education mandatory (i.e., Two years of pre-dental college studies required with three years of dental studies desired. Students could also pursue one optional year of graduate or advanced studies for a degree of Master of Science or a Bachelor of Science.)