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ICD: A Glimpse of History


“Dr. Louis Ottofy”: A Tribute​

It is with a feeling of pride and a deep sense of belonging that we identify ourselves with the recognized ” Father of the International College of Dentists…DR. LOUIS OTTOFY”. Unknown to many and possibly a surprise as well, is the fact that he left a legacy in Philippine Dentistry, specifically in the fields of licensure, dental public health, and dental education.

The relevance of his contributions to the growth and development of the profession in our country deserves “a place in the sun”.
No history of Philippine Dentistry will be complete without mention of this great man, Dr. Louis Ottofy.

In 1899, Dr. Ottofy moved to the Philippines at the age of 39 years old and stayed in Manila for 21 years, until the year 1920. The writer deems it appropriate therefore, to cite some highlights of Dr. Ottofy’s life during his stay in the Philippines, as a token of our nation’s grati­tude and esteem.

A facet of the life of this worthy man of science will serve as a fitting introduction to the history of an equally worthy dental organization in this part of the world.The International College of Dentists, Philippine Section!

Dr. Louis Ottofy was very active in all fields of dentistry that he could well be dubbed as “MR. DENTISTRY” during his time. The first recorded contribution of this man in Philippine Dentistry was his active participation in the organization of the first association of dentists in the Philippines in 1908. Together with other active Filipino dentists at the time, they organized the “Sociedad Dental de Filipinas”. They worked for the accreditation of dental schools to make dentistry truly a professional calling. The people of Manila owe him the establishment of an institution which catered to their dental needs. It was on August 13,1912 when he recommended the creation of the Dental Infirmary of the Philippine General Hospital. Little did Dr. Ottofy realize that this would develop into a premier government hospital that would eventually serve both as an educational and a service institution. The dental infirmary he created is now a full-fledged department of the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital Medical Center and serves the country as it’s premiere teaching, training, service and research center. Many of the dentists both in government and in a private practice passed through the portals of this institution.

Another feather to his cap was the founding of the Department of Dentistry of the College of Medicine and Surgery, University of the Philippines on February 8,1915. He was the first head of this department and the first director when it became a School of Dentistry under the wings of the College of Medicine during the school year 1917-1918. This school is now an autonomous College of the University. It is the only state supported dental school in the Philippines. Its graduates have gone far and wide all over the world, sharing in the upliftment and recognition of dentistry and sowing the seeds which Dr. Ottofy has planted.

Together with the private dental schools in the Philippines, they have all been pooling their resources to give our country the best that the art and science of dentistry can offer. As Director of the School of Dentistry, University of the Philippines, Dr. Ottofy was given a salary of (P8000.00) pesos per annum. A former student wrote that with this salary, he offered full scholarships in every high school for the study of dentistry. He was given the rank of full professor and was also engaged in the training of a few dentists, who served during World War I. It was said that there was no formal course of instruction when the School of Dentistry, Universi­ty of the Philippines was opened. Dr Ottofy was the lone member of the faculty and was at the same time, the administrator of the school. He would give informal lectures to the class for less than an hour and would leave after, for his other duties. When he would give examinations, he would just write the questions on the board and then would announce to his students to adopt the honor system. He would then leave and give instructions to take the finished ex­amination papers to his residence. It was also said that the office of Dr Ottofy was situated along the pas­ sage, from the amphitheater of the College of Medicine and Surgery leading to the main hallway. His office consisted only of an old desk with a skull and his chair. This made some faculty members and students make jokes about his office.

The dental infirmary of the Philippine General Hospital was the clinical dentistry training venue of the school. It was also Dr Ottofy who was in charge and who gave instructions as well. At the time, Novocaine capsules were not yet known and Cocaine injection of 1/2 was used in the infirmary for tooth extraction pro­cedures. Fainting was a common occurrence, but Dr Ottofy demonstrated his skill and many fainting spells were prevented. It was said that he demonstrated how to remove broken roots of anterior teeth in rapid suc­cession that before the patient could scream, the roots were already taken out.

On February 5, 1915, Act No. 2462 was enacted by the Philippine Legislature. This placed dental edu­ cation under state regulation. Both private dental schools and colleges including dental departments of uni­versities became subject to rules and regulations of the Board of Dental Examiners. As Secretary-Treasurer of this Board and Head of the investigating body, he did not recognize UST and PDC. Thru the effort of Dr Ottofy, the Board approved and recognized the UP School of Dentistry as the first Dental School in the Philippines. The dean at that time was Dr Gregorio Mateo. Dr Ottofy made extensive inspections of existing dental schools and departments of dentistry and made recommendations to uplift the standard of education and dental Public Health Service. He did not hesitate to censure substandard dental institutions and recommend their closures if it so warranted.

The year 1925 saw the emergence of another dental organization due to inactivity of the Sociedad Dental de Filipinas. This was the National Dental Association and it worked for the betterment of the quality of fac­ulty members of dental schools and colleges, as well as the increase from three to four years for the course of dentistry. Dr Ottofy was again an active participant in this innovative and progressive endeavor and was one of the original founding members. The two organizations, the Sociedad Dental de Filipinas and the National Dental Association eventually closed ranks and became what is today, THE PHILIPPINE DENTAL ASSOCIATION.

The life of Dr. Louis Ottofy in the Philippines served not only as an inspiration but a promise for better den­tistry. His memory will live as long as dentistry exists in the Philippines as long as there are men who will take over where others have left off. There will always be Filipino dentists and Filipino dental organizations to carry on the challenge and maintain the standard of excellence in dentistry.

The International College of Dentists, Section IX, Philippines is committed to carry on and meet the “challenges of learning what progress our profession is making in all parts of the world”, as Dr Louis Ottofy put it during that November 1920 farewell dinner held in his honor in Japan, after coming from the Philip­pines. The Philippine Section hopes to learn… hopes to give it’s share to the dentists, the patients, the country and the profession.