Our School of Dentistry traces its roots back to 1909 with the formation of the Dundee Dental Club to provide treatment for the local poor. Four years later the city’s Lord Provost Sir James Urquhart chaired a public meeting to consider establishing a clinic – and this led to the Dundee Dental Hospital opening in a four roomed flat at No.4 Park Place.
Since it’s founding in 1916 and the first dental students enrolling two years later, the Dundee School of Dentistry has changed beyond all recognition.
Back then, the Park Place premises comprised of the flat at No.4 plus the neighbouring house, No.2, which Mr. William Rettie generously equipped in memory of his son Philip who died in action at the Battle of Loos.
The School still occupies the old buildings, plus a 10 storey high tower block. The student count is now 400 there are 25 researchers 78 academic and support staff plus 100 NHS Honorary Staff. Dundee is recognized internationally for the quality of its dental education and research; it is ranked among the top dentistry schools in the UK.
In 1929, St Andrews University assumed responsibility and this was followed by further expansion to the real estate, including building on No.2’s back garden.
Over the next five years, the student number rose to 54 and it was clear that the School needed full time lecturers.
With a gift of £17,500 in 1939, Dr. William Boyd endowed a Chair in Dental Surgery – and the Senatus recommended that the Professorship should bear his name.
The first occupant was Professor H. Gordon Campbell, who succeeded his brother, the first Dean, Dr. W. Graham Campbell.
With the passing of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act, the old Dental Hospital and School was handed over to the Eastern Region Hospital Board for redevelopment while the University set about building the first phase of a new Dental School.
Aquarium and Aviary
The two houses were connected by a block with a central entrance hall plus a new Conservation Department was built under a Mansard roof - with sloping windows running along the whole length of the building that directed daylight into the mouths of patients seated in the dental chairs.
In a thorough modernization, the main ground floor waiting area was re-planned and used the existing oak paneling and oak furniture – all complemented by a tropical aquarium; while an aviary was installed In the Children’s Department.
The University set about building a Dental School on the land next to the hospital – but this had to be done in phases because, in between the hospital and the school, sat six old houses that were still occupied. Construction was limited to two storeys and contained students’ rooms, a museum, classrooms, a small research laboratory, teaching labs and a staff room. It opened in 1954 with plans to educate 35 students in each year of study.
By the 1960’s, with requests for dental student intakes to increase to 50 per year, the University and the Health Board had to consider relocating the Dental Hospital and School – possibly to the site, under construction, of Ninewells Teaching Hospital and Medical School. But this would have meant moving far away from Dundee’s main population centre, so the idea was rejected.
Once it was possible to acquire the six old houses, work on a new building began in 1962 to build the 10 storey high tower block to house clinics, teaching areas, laboratories and offices. The extended Hospital and School now had 115 dental chairs; building and equipment cost was £900,000. It was finally opened by Her Majesty the Queen Mother in 1968. The Dental School was by then part of the new University of Dundee.
Many distinguished alumni have passed through Park Street. They include former President of the General Dental Council (1989-1994) Professor Sir David Mason, who graduated in 1951 and Professor Jimmy Steele, well known for his work on the Steele Review of NHS Dentistry (2009), a graduate in 1985.
The Dundee School of Dentistry turned 100 years old in 2016.
*sources: from the Dental School archives, including:
“Opening of the Dental School Queen’s College Dundee and re-opening of the Dundee Dental Hospital after extensions and modernisation” Rector of the University, Earl of Crawford & Balcarres, 1954.
“Dundee Dental Hospital and School, Thursday October 17th 1968, To commemorate opening by Queen Mother (Chancellor of Univeristy of Dundee and Patron of the Dental Hospital)”
Authored by Eastern Regional Hospital Board and University of Dundee.