The Early Years at McGill
The new department of Dentistry in the Faculty of Medicine was headquartered in the Strathcona Building and established a dental clinic in the Montreal General Hospital.
Sir William Osler, long gone from McGill but still a guru, argued frequently and publicly that small medical schools could not survive in the 20th century. So McGill offered to absorb Bishop’s Faculty of Medicine. In 1904 when McGill’s Faculty of Medicine acquired Bishop’s medical professors and students, it acquired a Department of Dentistry as part of the package.
“But as with so much else at McGill,” writes Stanley Frost in his book, McGill University: For the Advancement of Learning, “it was a question of money. In the absence of either a wealthy donor or public funding, the dental department had to be operated as economically as possible.” The McGill dental department chairman, Dr. Peter Brown, who had been Dean of Dentistry at Bishop’s, had a part-time appointment. So did all the instructors. And an article of the 1904 agreement stipulated that the dental teaching staff were to be collectively and individually responsible for the financial affairs of the department, including any debts contracted in its name. It was all part of the job.
At McGill, dental and medical students took the first two years of their four-year program together with the last two years spent learning how to become more specialized in their chosen fields. In 1908, clinical training moved downtown to the Montreal General Hospital, and in 1910, dental classes moved into the new Strathcona Anatomy and Dentistry Building. By 1913, there were ten dental students in the Faculty of Medicine which, by the end of the First World War [Wartime Dentistry], was undergoing significant administrative changes. In late 1919, a Faculty of Medicine subcommittee led by Dr. A. W. Thornton, chairman of the Dental Executive, recommended “that the resolution of the Dental Executive in favor of a separate Faculty of Dentistry be approved, provided that such action does not involve any change in the present teaching relations existing between the Department of Dentistry and the Faculty of Medicine.” What happened next would be a fundamental shift in Dentistry at McGill [Dentistry becomes a Faculty].