Sara Kincaid // Fall 2015
For some people, numbers hold a lot of meaning and for Dr. Victor Wood, the number three keeps popping up in different places in life.
Wood graduated from the Kansas City-Midwest Dental College in 1943, completing the program in three years. He served three years as a dentist in the U.S. Navy during WWII, and he and his wife, Lavinia, have been married for 73 years and enjoy doting on their three grandchildren.
Like numbers, dentistry also holds a lot of meaning for Wood. Dentistry became an important part of his life at a very young age, initially, because he required a lot of dental work.
“My parents owned a general merchandise store in Nixa, Mo., and I was raised behind the candy counter of that store. I paid the penalty. I had lots of dentistry done,” he says.
But it wasn’t the fact that he visited the dentist frequently that drew Wood to the field of dentistry.
“When I was in high school, I remember reading a vocational book on dentistry,” he says. “That inspired my first thought about becoming a dentist. Then my brother-in-law wanted to go to dental school but couldn’t. He encouraged me to go. And then my own dentist in Springfield encouraged me. And that was about all it took.”
Wood says he chose the Kansas City-Western Dental College because his dentist had graduated from there.
The Kansas City-Western Dental College was the result of a merger of the Kansas City Dental College and the Western Dental College in 1919. When Wood was in school, the Kansas City-Western Dental College was located at the corners of 10th Street and Troost Avenue. In 1932, the Kansas City-Western Dental College became part of the University of Kansas City and later the University of Missouri-Kansas City after joining the University of Missouri System.
Wood in 1943, and like many young men of his time, he joined the military to help with the war effort.
“I joined the Navy because it was just the normal thing to do,” he says. “I joined the V-12 Navy College Training Program the last six months of my senior year, so I got in early. Everybody was going either into the Navy or the Army.”
The V-12 program was initiated in 1943 by the U.S. government in an effort to generate a large number of officers for the Navy and Marine Corps during WWII. Wood received a junior rank when he joined, and after completing his service three years later in 1946, he had achieved the rank of senior lieutenant.
Working as a dentist during the war was a busy job. He was first sent to Naval Station Great Lakes located in Northern Illinois and then to Naval Training Center in San Diego.
“At Great Lakes there were 500 dentists and we were seeing 1,500 boats a day,” he says. “We were going full blast. We ran three ships up there. We ran all the time. It was a big chore, but we got it done.”
During his time in the Navy, Wood also served on two separate tankers. The first tanker was the USS Schuylkill (AO-76), a fleet oiler named after a river in Pennsylvania. The second was the USS Nantahala (AO-60), a fleet oiler named after a river in North Carolina. Both ships were assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. Wood serviced patients while on board each ship and says that there weren’t dental offices on board, so he was issued field equipment.
“Serving on a ship was different. But I don’t think it was particularly difficult. I had to cut the end of my shoe out so I didn’t mess up my toes. Other than that, it wasn’t so bad. But you were doing dentistry seven days a week. The crew was really wonderful and they needed to see a dentist. They hadn’t seen a dentist in three or four years,” he says.
After his service ended, Wood returned to the Midwest and planned to practice in Springfield, Mo. Unable to find an available private practice, Wood and Lavinia returned to their hometown of Nixa, Mo., where Wood opened his own practice.
“I put my office in the projection room in the old theater of Nixa, “ he says. “It was concrete and steel, a pretty crude office. I didn’t intend to stay there. I got busy and saw I wasn’t going to move. In 1950, I built a really nice bungalow dental office and I worked in it until 1973. Then, 10 of us — dentists that were solo practitioners — built the Parkcrest Dental Group in Springfield. What an experience. We had the largest dental clinic in the state,” he says.
Since retiring, Wood enjoys being active in the dental community. Earlier this year, the Woods attended the Midwest Dental Conference, an annual event organized by the UMKC Dental and Dental Hygienists’ Alumni Associations. While there, Wood was awarded the Rinehart Medallion, named for Dr. Roy J. Rinehart, Dean of the School from 1928-1957.
“It was an exhilarating experience being a dentist,” he says. “There’s nothing better than being a dentist.”