KSLA Salutes: Barksdale trains new dentists in advanced program

Barksdale Air Force Base is home to a unique dental program

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (KSLA) -Capts. Melissa Ratliff and Joel Gobble are hard at work in the dental clinic on Barksdale Air Force Base.

These two make up are a part of the six Air Force captains completing the 2nd Dental Squadron’s advanced educational program in general dentistry.

Barksdale is one of 10 Air Force bases that offer this dental residency program. For one year, dental school graduates spend their time learning more knowledge about things like gum and bone disease, surgical procedures, extractions and sedations.

“I had no idea what to expect," Ratliff said. "I honestly thought this was just going to be a review of what I learned in dental school. And I was quick to find out just how little I knew.”

Both Ratliff and Gobble agree the program exceeded their expectations.

Capt. Joel Gobble works in the lab at the dental clinic on Barksdale Air Force Base
Capt. Joel Gobble works in the lab at the dental clinic on Barksdale Air Force Base

“I thought I would maybe take some of my skill sets that I had learned within dental school to practice dentistry," Gobble said.

“But let me tell you what, residency blew my expectations out of the water.”

Lt. Col. Michael Einhron, the program’s deputy director, works to help new dentists perfect their skills.

“When they first get here, they’re very green; they don’t have a lot of experience," he said. "So, therefore, you get to see them transition and mature as a new officer where they can then go and serve as leaders at other clinics throughout the Air Force.”

Since 1983, a little more than 200 airmen have graduated from the program. Each class averages around four to six graduates a year.

With their year finally complete, Ratliff and Gobble know this program has helped them grow.

“I just feel like in this one year I’ve probably learned about 10 years worth of dentistry," she said. “And I’m sure that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but just the wide array of skills I have to take with me.”

Gobble said: “They’ve honed what you’ve learned in dental school, and then they take you to that next level so that one (day) you can provide the care that your patients deserve specifically within the Air Force and help develop the mission as a whole.”

Both are excited to use their new skills to help other airmen have the bite to fight.

Ratliff and Gobble graduated from the program July 26. Ratliff has been assigned to Goodfellow Air Force Base at San Angelo, Texas, while Gobble will be heading to Royal Air Force Alconbury, an RAF base in Huntingdon, England.

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