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Meet Dr. Gary Badger: New Chair, Pediatric Dentistry

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - 3:02pm

Gary Badger, DDS, MS

Gary R. Badger, DDS, MS

As he envisions the future for the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston, new chairman Gary R. Badger, DDS, MS, sees strategic advantages everywhere, beginning with state-of-the-art facilities in a world-class medical center. What’s needed now, he believes, is leadership – and that’s a role he’s been preparing for all his life.

Badger became chair of the department on Nov. 1, but he has been on the UTSD faculty since 2008 as a volunteer, teaching two days per month in the pediatric dentistry residency program while maintaining a private practice in College Station. He sold the practice earlier this year and will soon make his home in Houston.

A native of Auburn, Maine, Badger earned a bachelor’s degree from Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, followed by a DDS from Georgetown University School of Dentistry in Washington, D.C.  He entered the U.S. Army as a general dentist in 1970 and retired as a colonel in 1993, picking up a master’s degree and training in pediatric dentistry along the way. 

For four years during the Vietnam War, Badger was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, providing care for wounded soldiers in a complex with other health-care providers, including an oral surgeon, physical therapists and – down the hall – a pediatric dentist. When Badger wasn’t busy with his own patients, he often went to watch the pediatric dentist care for children of active duty military personnel.

“I found out I really like working with kids,” he said. “Everybody wants to make an impact on their patients, and with a child, you have a chance to do that by providing a pleasant experience and having fun. With adults, you don’t always have that chance. They tend to have anxiety and apprehension.”

Badger was also interested in the technical aspects of the work.

“He was doing functional appliance therapy, and that was really in its infancy,” Badger recalled. “I liked what he was doing, and he showed me how to it. When he left, his patients were turned over to me, but he told me I’d need more training if I really wanted to pursue it.”

The Army sent Badger for that training and then to a postgraduate program at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, where he earned a master’s degree in pediatric dentistry. After that, whatever his post, he made a point to seek out the nearest dental school and join the faculty. His academic appointments in Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland reflect the frequent moves of a military career.

Badger founded the pediatric dentistry residency program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., moving the program to Fort Meade in Maryland before heading back to Germany for command assignments.

In 1993, needing a more stable environment for his family, Badger retired from the military to become chief of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at Scott and White Clinic in College Station, eventually volunteering for the UTSD faculty.

He is a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and a member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, as well as the Pierre Fauchard Academy and Delta Sigma Delta. He is a fellow of the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentistry.

Badger’s mission now is to build on the solid foundation UTSD can offer its residents – not just new facilities – but a chance to work with and learn from experts in every aspect of pediatric health care, from emergencies to medically complex cases involving hemophilia, cardiac anomalies and much more.

As he sees it, Houston is a place for leaders in the profession. “And that’s where we want to be,” he added.