GRAND BLANC TWP. — Dick Shick’s community work is going global this week, when as president-elect he takes the helm of the International College of Dentists.
It’s an honorary group representing just 3 percent of U.S. dentists, he said. And while the group began as a way to disseminate developments and advancements in dentistry, its hallmark today is humanitarian and public health projects.
The retired periodontist promoted fluoridation of drinking water in Flint in 1965. He recalled how it was an uphill battle.
“Oh it was a bitter fight,” Shick said. “Those opposed to it said it was a Communist plot, people would end up walking around like zombies. (In reality) it’s one of the most researched and successful health measures. It made a monumental change in dental health in Flint.”
Through the international college, fluoridation is being promoted in developing countries around the world. In places where adding fluoride to drinking water is logistically unfeasible, tablets can be provided, but it’s less effective, he said.
Shick, 78, who is past-president of the U.S. section, based in Rockville, Md., was named president-elect during the ICD’s annual meeting in Mexico City. Among other duties he’ll oversee planning for the 2009 meeting in Tokyo, where the group was conceived in 1920.
Shick recalled how U.S. dentists had to grapple with political history when deciding to bankroll a public health dentistry program to improve a country’s future. That country was Vietnam.
“What better way to promote peace than by assisting your enemy and improving the quality of life among its people?” Shick said.
In 2001, under Shick’s leadership, the U.S. section sponsored a two-year pilot program in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, to train 17 public health dental specialists. The program continues and the ICD is sponsoring similar programs in Cambodia and Africa.
“We extend care to many more people than if a dentist was sent to a country to help,” he said.
Shick worked in downtown Flint for 23 years before moving his practice to Flint Township, where he retired from dentistry in 1995.