Robert B. Shira
Major General, United States Army
Robert B. Shira, 91, a pioneering oral surgeon who was Chief of the Army Dental Corps from 1967 to 1971 and president of the American Dental Association in the 1970s, died of a renal ailment November 22, 2002, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Dr. Shira taught himself oral surgery in an undermanned garrison in the Panama Canal Zone during World War II and went on to become preeminent in the field. Eventually, he was promoted to Major General, in charge of all military dental activities.
He used his folksy charm and uncanny memory of names and faces to spread the necessity of dental care worldwide and warn of the risks of oral cancer.
Dr. Shira, who in 1958 removed a broken molar from the jaw of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in an operation at Walter Reed, later would say that the reconstructive surgery he performed on a 7-year-old girl in war-ravaged Vietnam in the early 1970s was more important than the presidential tooth extraction.
Timothy Rose, a former ADA president who served in the Army under Dr. Shira, called him a "Renaissance dentist" and one of the most influential figures in dentistry in the 20th century.
Dr. Shira commanded thousands of officers at a time of peak staffing for the dental corps, and he stressed training and ethical and moral standards in treatment.
He was born in Butler, Pennsylvania, and raised in Dewey, Oklahoma.
He received a dental degree from Kansas City Western Dental College, and was in private practice in Oklahoma before joining the Army in 1938.
He had lived off and on in Washington since the 1950s and had lived at the Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring since 1993.
Dr. Shira served in Germany and San Francisco and was director of dentistry at Walter Reed when he operated on Eisenhower. In the 1940s and 1950s, he helped establish the Army Dental Intern Program and an oral surgery residency program.
Among his decorations were three awards of the Legion of Merit and the Army Commendation Medal.
After his first retirement, he was dean of the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine from 1971 to 1979. He also served as the university's vice president and provost before retiring for a second time in 1993.
He was author or co-author of six books on oral surgery and held about every major dentistry award. He also served as president of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and of the Pierre Fauchard Academy. He also was an editor of the Journal of Oral Surgery.
His wife, Anne Eileen Shira, whom he married in 1933, died in 1993.
Survivors include three daughters, Sharon L. Swanson of Cincinnati, Mary Ann Irvine of Park Ridge, Ill., and Linda Kay O'Hara of Silver Spring; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
SHIRA, ROBERT B., D.D.S.
Major General, US Army (Ret.)
On Friday, November 22, 2002, MG ROBERT B. SHIRA, D.D.S., of Silver Spring, MD. Beloved husband of the late A. Eileen Anderson Shira; father of Sharon L. Swanson, Mary Ann (Bill) Irvine and Linda K. (Ed) O'Hara. Also survived by eight grandchilden and eight great-grandchildren. Chapel service at Old Post Chapel Fort Myer, Arlington, Virginia, on December 20 at 9 a.m. Interment Arlington National Cemetery with Full Military Honors.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Foundation of the Pierre Fauchard Academy c/o Dr. Kishi, 26 Hillsdale Dr., Newport Beach, CA 2260,for dental scholarships in memory of Dr. Shira.
SHIRA, ANNE EILEEN
DATE OF BIRTH: 09/21/1906
DATE OF DEATH: 03/30/1993
DATE OF INTERMENT: 04/05/1993
BURIED AT: SECTION 34 SITE 435-A
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
WIFE OF SHIRA, ROBERT B - MG US ARMY
SHIRA, ROBERT B
Posted: 30 December 2002 Updated: 18 April 2003 Updated: 16 October 2004 Updated: 12 November 2007
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 23 April 2004