Meet Brigadier General Shan Bagby — the Army’s top dentist, and a Baylor Bear
Here’s a question most of us don’t think to ask, but is intriguing once it’s considered: Who takes care of our military members’ teeth while they serve? The answer is the U.S. Army Dental Corps, and its leader — the Army’s top dentist — is a Baylor Bear.
Brigadier General Shan K. Bagby, MHA ’11, serves as chief of the U.S. Army Dental Corps. Both roles — brigadier general and chief — represent rare honors requiring years of experience and leadership to attain. Bagby, the first African-American dental officer promoted to brigadier general, combined excellence in dental training and military service (including overseas tours) to ascend to his position.
The two dual tracks came together in the late 1990s. Having finished oral surgery training, Bagby found himself missing the structure of the Army, where he had served for eight years prior in the U.S. Army Reserves. Shortly thereafter, he was stationed at the renowned Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., teaching oral surgery and running its oral surgery clinic. A surgical fellowship brought him to Texas, where he eventually matriculated to Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio. San Antonio is the home of a hidden Baylor gem — the Army-Baylor Graduate Program in Health Administration — but Bagby didn’t end up there right away.
Duty called him to Germany and then to Iraq after the start of the war in the Middle East. He was selected for command, a rare opportunity. “For a dentist,” says Bagby,” that doesn’t happen all that often.” He served in Iraq for 15 months from 2005-07 and, while there, commanded eight dental facilities.
Shaped by those experiences, Bagby returned home and pursued a new calling in military-medical leadership. He enrolled in the Army-Baylor Graduate Program, a joint partnership between Baylor and the U.S. Army, and there earned a master’s degree in health care administration in 2011. He’s since advanced to his current responsibilities, which includes a role as deputy chief of staff of support for the surgeon general of the U.S. Army. But he has remained engaged with Baylor, returning to speak to his former program as recently as this spring.
“I don’t think most people understand how much opportunity there is in the military. We do more than fight wars,” Bagby says. “There are wonderful people who will mentor you, and I think that you learn not just about dentistry, but about yourself; and you learn something about leadership. The best people that I’ve ever met have been people that I’ve served with. Not just because they wear the uniform, but because of the ideals that they uphold.”
Sic ’em, Brig. Gen. Shan Bagby!