Edgar D. Coolidge Endodontic Study Club

By Dr. Michael A. Heuer

Long held in esteem by his colleagues, Edgar D. Coolidge was acknowledged as the preeminent spokesman for Endodontics when he presented a paper entitled “Past and Present Concepts of Endodontics” at the October 1959 Centennial Meeting of the American Dental Association (ADA). The American Association of Endodontists (AAE), of which Dr. Coolidge was one of the nineteen founding members, had held its fifteenth Annual Session just prior to the February 1959 Midwinter Meeting of the Chicago Dental Society. At this AAE meeting Dr. Coolidge was elected Honorary President of the AAE. He held this position until his death at the age eighty-six in 1967. He is the only individual to have held this office in the AAE.

Like the majority of specialty organizations in dentistry, the AAE was organized when dentists with similar interests got together at the time of a February meeting of the Chicago Dental Society. The year was 1943 and for the next eighteen years, the AAE scheduled its Annual Session in Chicago just prior to the Midwinter Meeting. By February 1961, the AAE recorded 718 members nationally and internationally of which less than ten percent were in the limited practice of endodontics. For several years there had been a growing concern about traveling to Chicago in February of each year and an increasing interest in holding the Annual Session in other locations away from the inclement weather in Chicago. At the 1961 Annual Session, a Site Selection Committee was appointed, which subsequently made the decision to meet in Miami, Florida the following year.

From its inception the AAE encouraged the development of local and/or regional endodontic study clubs and a number were active in 1961. Of particular note were the Philadelphia Endodontic Study Club organized in 1945, the Southern California Endodontic Study Club and the Southern Endodontic Study Club each of which had organized and presented Endodontic programs at ADA meetings and were influential in the AAE’s decision to move its annual meeting from Chicago (three years later the time of the AAE Annual Session was changed from February to April). In Chicago, there had been little incentive to form either a local or regional Endodontic study club as long as the AAE Annual Session was held in conjunction with the Midwinter Meeting.

Increasing numbers of AAE members, as well as non-member dentists, were limiting their practices to endodontics in the1950’s and 1960’s and the AAE having organized the American Board of Endodontics (ABE) in 1956 was actively seeking recognition of Endodontics as a special area dental practice from the ADA. Illinois in 1953 had become the first state to license and recognize Endodontic specialists. Recognizing the eventuality of recognition of Endodontics as a specialty as well as the reality that AAE Annual Sessions were not likely to be held in conjunction with the Midwinter Meeting on an annual basis, the four Illinois licensed Endodontists considered the formation of a regional endodontic study club based in Chicago a necessity.

Following the 1961 Annual Session of the AAE, Harold Epstein, James Best, Harold Gerstein and Michael Heuer met at Dr. Epstein’s home in Lincolnwood, Illinois to discuss the organization of an Endodontic study club. Following this initial informal meeting it was decided to form a regional study club based in Chicago, open to all members of the AAE not limited to members in limited practice nor limited to residents of Illinois. As a consequence Henry Kahn and Charles Maurice were invited to subsequent meetings. Dr. Kahn, a founding member of the AAE, as well as a former student and colleague of Dr. Coolidge, was enthusiastic about the proposal. Dr. Maurice, Chair of Endodontics at the University of Illinois, was interested but somewhat skeptical about the future of such an organization. Dr. Best was the former Chair of Endodontics at Loyola and successor to Dr. Coolidge in that position. Drs. Gerstein and Heuer had organized Endodontic education at Northwestern in 1959 and were Co-Chairs of the new division there. Dr. Epstein was the first dentist in Illinois to be licensed as an endodontist and the first in the state to limit his practice to endodontics. In a series of meetings throughout the spring and summer of 1961 held in Dr. Epstein’s basement recreation room, a proposed constitution and bylaws were developed, pro-tem officers were selected (Drs. Epstein as President, Best as Vice-President, Gerstein as Treasurer and Heuer as Secretary) and a preliminary plan of action developed. A name for the club, the Edgar D. Coolidge Endodontic Study Club, was proposed by Drs. Best and Kahn and was adopted unanimously. They subsequently met with Dr. Coolidge and were given approval by him to use his name, as well as an enthusiastic endorsement of the proposed study club.

An announcement of an organizational meeting of the Edgar D. Coolidge Endodontic Study Club to be held at the Chiselers Club in the Pittsfield Building in Chicago was sent to all AAE members in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin along with copies of the proposed constitution and bylaws and an invitation to attend.

Dr. Vincent B. Milas was elected president of the AAE in 1962 having served as AAE Secretary for nine years (1952-61) and appointed its Historian in 1960. Dr. Milas, a founder of the AAE, was extremely helpful in stimulating interest in the organizational meeting of the study club. At this evening meeting approximately 35 AAE members, including eight who were founding members of the AAE, were in attendance. The proposed constitution and by-laws were adopted and the pro-tem officers were elected as charter officers for the coming year. A decision was made to hold a formal inaugural dinner meeting of the Edgar D. Coolidge Endodontic Study Club in the fall of the year to which all regional AAE members would be invited. That dinner meeting was held at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago with the Deans of the three Illinois dental schools as guests of honor (Drs. William Schoen of Loyola, George Teuscher of Northwestern, and Issac Schour of the University of Illinois). Dr. Coolidge gave the opening address and officially inaugurated the study club named in his honor. With notification to the AAE of its formation the Edgar D. Coolidge Endodontic Study Club began.

Dr. Harold Epstein (center), co-founder and the Coolidge Club’s first president receives a plaque of appreciation from Dr. Peter Paesani (left) and Dr. Edward Osetek.

Co-founders of the Coolidge Club (L to R): Drs. Harold Gerstein, Michael Heuer and James Best at the 25th anniversary dinner dance commemorating the founding of the organization.