A BRONSON TALE
In 1962, Dr. Fred Bronson graduated from Howard University College of Dentistry and returned to the Cincinnati area where he was born and raised. He spent a couple of years providing dental care for children in the Cincinnati Public Schools and then opened his own private dental practice.
Dr. Fred Bronson joined organized dentistry (American Dental Association, Ohio Dental Association and the Cincinnati Dental Society) in 1964 and has been a member ever since. While Dr. Fred Bronson was one of the first African American dentists in the Cincinnati area, the ADA had a mixed reputation regarding race at the time. In fact, in 2010, the ADA published an open letter of apology recognizing its past failures regarding race relations. The ADA acknowledged it did not take a strong stand on race during the civil rights era of the 1960s and had a past history of discriminatory practices. That history, however, did not deter Dr. Fred Bronson from joining and trying to help lead change from within the dental association.
Fred and his wife, Barbara, have been married for more than 60 years and raised six children together. At a very young age, one of their children, Mark, remembers his father attending dental meetings. Mark said “I remember my dad being gone to attend dental society meetings certain nights and I remember wondering what that was all about.” Then, several years later, Fred summoned Mark to come home from Hampton University for the weekend, which Mark said was “extremely unusual.” It turned out that Dr. Fred Bronson was being sworn in as the Cincinnati Dental Society’s first African American president that weekend in 1982. Mark recalled “that dental society event was really eye-opening for me and had a significant impact on my eventual decision to enroll in dental school following graduation from college.”
Dr. Fred Bronson, who recently retired from the full time practice of dentistry, has had a long and distinguished career within organized dentistry – not just as president of the Cincinnati Dental Society but also within the ODA and the ADA, serving in various volunteer leadership capacities. Dr. Joe Crowley, a past president of the Cincinnati Dental Society, Ohio Dental Association and American Dental Association, recalls that Dr. Fred Bronson was a humble but effective leader within organized dentistry despite often times being the only African American in a room full of dentists at dental society meetings. According to Crowley, “Dr. Fred Bronson has always been a true gentleman and a man of God (Fred is an ordained minister as well as a dentist).” Crowley concluded that “Fred made our profession and our association better through his work and servant leadership.”
Following his graduation from The Ohio State University College of Dentistry, Dr. Mark Bronson returned to Cincinnati and joined his father’s dental practice. Mark remembers packing up to leave following a long day of doing dentistry during his first month with his dad. His father asked where he thought he was going. “Home,” replied Mark. His dad immediately responded “No, you’re not. We have a dental society meeting tonight. I will introduce you around to everyone.” And so it began for Mark – following in his father’s footsteps yet again – this time within organized dentistry. According to Mark, “my dad instilled in me at a very young age, the importance of belonging to organized dentistry and a willingness to do the work to make the dental profession better. He always said that whatever you do, make sure you make it better than you found it.”
After serving on various committees and councils, in 2007, Dr. Mark Bronson became the second African American president of the Cincinnati Dental Society – 25 years after his father served as the first African American president of the CDS. Mark went on to serve with distinction in various leadership capacities at all levels of organized dentistry including as ODA president and chair of the ADA’s Council on Government Affairs.
Last month in an address to the ADA House of Delegates, Mark honored his father noting that “much has changed since my father began his journey as a trailblazing dentist more than 50 years ago.” Mark acknowledged that he has benefitted “from the advancements we have made as a profession and a country” over the last several decades.
Mark also lauded the ADA for its recent commitment to be a more diverse and inclusive organization. He noted that a commitment to diversity and inclusion is not intended to create an entitlement for anyone but is a commitment to ensure that all dentists have an equal opportunity to serve in any capacity at the ADA if they are “willing to do the work.” And he noted that by being a more welcoming environment, with leaders that reflect the growing diversity of the dental profession, the ADA can truly be said to represent ALL dentists.
On October 16, 2021, the ADA House of Delegates elected Dr. Mark Bronson to the office of ADA vice president – fulfilling the legacy envisioned by his father more than 50 years ago.