Dr. Charles Willis Gish (DDS’49, MSD’60), professor emeritus, Pediatric Dentistry, passed away on Jan. 24, 2022. Dr. Gish was known for his outstanding work in public health, academia, and clinical dental research. Beginning in 1954, he served on the IUSD faculty for over 30 years and co-chaired the Department of Community Dentistry from 1969 to 1986. Dr. Gish also was Indiana State Dental Director for 23 years, beginning in1962.
“After receiving his DDS degree with honors in 1949, Dr. Gish began a distinguished career in public service that became a life dedicated to improving the oral health of the children of Indiana,” said Dean Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch. “Dr. Gish’s accomplishments in public health are substantial and were achieved through his tireless efforts in several leadership roles, both as a faculty member and department chair at IUSD from the mid-1950s to 1987, and as the director of the Division of Dental Health of the Indiana State Board of Health for more than two decades. Dr. Gish was a proud alumnus and a generous supporter of the Indiana University School of Dentistry. Lecture hall 114 is named after him in recognition of his great impact on the School.”
Dr. Gish’s clinical research brought him much acclaim. He participated in the early Crest studies, where his analysis was instrumental in developing a preventive dentifrice. Dr. Gish and a colleague later developed this product into a self-applied fluoride dentifrice in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Dr. Gish advocated for fluoridating Indiana community water supplies. Under his guidance, the state became known for its robust water fluoridation programs. By the mid-1980s, 93 percent of all Indiana residents with public water had access to fluoridated water. He implemented school water fluoridation units in rural communities where community water fluoridation was not available. He also directed a mobile dental clinic that traveled the state to provide examinations and treatments to school-aged children.
Dr. Gish authored many articles published in regional, state, and national journals. He was the president of the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (ASTDD) and the American Association of Public Health Dentists, now known as the American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD). He received many awards, including the Outstanding Achievement Award from ASTDD; the Distinguished Service Award from AAPHD; the Tony and Mary Hulman Health Award for achievements in preventive medicine given by the Indiana Public Health Foundation; Indiana Dental Association Maynard K. Hine Award in recognition of distinguished contributions to the public and dental profession through a commitment to excellence in dental research in Indiana and nationally; John W. Knutson Distinguished Service Award in Dental Public Health; and the Sagamore of the Wabash Award from Indiana Governor Orr.
An avid mushroom hunter, Dr. Gish would freely tell you how to find morels but would jealously guard any information about where to find them.