Colonel Priscilla Hamilton is commander of DENCOM, the U.S. Army’s dental care system, which she likens to overseeing a large dental group practice that employs more than 5,000 dentists, hygienists and dental assistants globally.
Priscilla joined the Army 29 years ago. Her father, who was in the U.S. Navy during World War II, set the example for serving in the military. He also had wanted to be a dentist, and though he did not take that path, his daughter did, earning her DMD at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine.
Priscilla says the role of a comprehensive dentist in the Army is similar to what an internist does in medicine.
“We’re kind of a super general dentist,” she said. “We’re trained to do about 80 percent of more routine specialty care procedures.”
Dentists are currently serving in theaters of war and Priscilla says they need to be able to perform a wide range of functions in austere environments. In her current managerial role, Priscilla, who is based at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, said her job is to remove impediments, such as adequate staffing or renovating aging facilities, so chairside dentists can be more effective.
A challenge, particularly when she was starting her career three decades ago, was proving how effective women can be as dentists and soldiers.
“At that time, only about 5% of the Army Dental Corps officers were women.
You had to prove yourself to be a credible Army officer, and a highly clinically competent dentist,” she said.
The part of her job she likes best is connecting with the soldiers who serve at 147 dental clinics across the globe. “It’s a great honor to take care of America’s sons and daughters.”