Tufts Dental School Honors Trailblazers

Posted on December 16, 2016

BOSTON (Dec. 16, 2016)--Two legends in the Tufts and dental medicine communities will be honored with Dean's Medals from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine at a ceremony today. The medals celebrate the contributions Hilde H. Tillman, DMD, and Esther M. Wilkins, RDH, DMD, both Tufts alumnae and faculty emeritae, have made to the Tufts and dental medicine and education communities.

Tillman is clinical professor emerita of public health and community service and a leading champion of geriatric dentistry. She graduated from Simmons College in 1945, and from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in 1949 and was a member of the Tufts faculty for more than 50 years. She has devoted her career to dental education and was instrumental in developing Tufts' geriatric dentistry program, which has grown to become a unique educational model, blending academic knowledge and community outreach to effectively serve a diverse aging population. Today, Tillman continues to serve Tufts in conjunction with the City of Boston's Elderly Commission to provide free dental screenings for the elderly and disabled in the greater Boston area.

Wilkins, who passed away this week at the age of 100, was clinical professor emerita of periodontology and a world expert on dental hygiene. She graduated from Simmons College in 1938, received a certificate from the Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene in 1939, graduated from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in 1949, and went on to establish the Dental Hygiene Program at the University of Washington School of Dentistry. In 1959, she published what has become the definitive text on dental hygiene, Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist, now in its 12th edition. She returned to Tufts in 1966, where she stayed until her retirement in 2011. Wilkins received the American Dental Education Association's William J. Gies Award for Achievement by a Dental Educator in 2012 and the International College of Dentists Distinguished Service Award in 2013.

"Drs. Tillman and Wilkins enrolled in dental school when not even 2 percent of practicing dentists were women. Now, more than 50% of the dental students at Tufts are women," said Huw F. Thomas, BDS, MS, PhD, dean of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. "Drs. Tillman and Wilkins have been leaders in dental medicine, at Tufts, in their communities, nationally and internationally."

"Dr. Tillman's ongoing work with the school and our local communities exemplifies the leadership principles of passion and humanitarianism that we embody in our students," he continued. "And Dr. Wilkins was a true pioneer, a devoted educator and a friend to everyone at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine."

Established in 1996, the Dean's Medal recognizes individuals who have demonstrated loyalty, service and generosity. It is the highest honor bestowed by the dean of a school at Tufts University and is awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions to their school and the greater community.

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