Dr. James Vaden

Dr. James Vaden is the recipient of the 2023 Ohio Dental Association Callahan Memorial Award.

Dr. James Vaden is dedicated to teaching orthodontics and advancing the profession. In recognition of his efforts, he will receive the 2023 Ohio Dental Association Callahan Memorial Award on Friday, Sept. 22 at the Callahan Celebration of Excellence, held in conjunction with the 157th ODA Annual Session.

“Dr. Vaden is committed to teaching the next generation of orthodontists, regularly traveling hundreds of miles from his home to do so,” said Dr. Joseph Mellion, chair of the Callahan Commission. “He is also the author of numerous peer reviewed articles and has lectured nationally and internationally. He has been a chair of the University of Tennessee Orthodontic department, has served as president of the American Board of Orthodontics, and has received numerous awards from the American Association of Orthodontics for his longtime involvement in the orthodontic specialty.”

Vaden said he is humbled and honored to receive the Callahan Memorial Award.

“The Callahan Memorial Award is given to recognize excellence in the profession,” he said. “I have never thought of myself as being excellent in the profession. I have always tried to do the very best for my patients and for the students whom I have had the privilege to teach, but I don’t know if excellent is the word that characterizes my abilities nor my contributions. To receive the Callahan Award is something that makes me want to pinch myself and see if it is really true. I must say that I represent all of the people out there in our profession of dentistry who have worked hard and tried to do the very best for their patients. I am sincerely grateful to the Ohio Dental Association for its trust in me. I will do my best to uphold the standards of the Callahan Memorial Award.”

Vaden earned his DDS degree from the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry in 1969. While there, he served in the United States Navy Reserve Dental Corps and intended to enter active duty in the Navy upon graduation. However, one of his teachers, Dr. James Andrews, who was known to be a strict teacher that many students avoided, encouraged Vaden to consider orthodontics. He decided to follow that path and earned his M.S. in orthodontics from the University of Tennessee in 1972.

Upon graduation, Vaden was scheduled to go into active duty with the Navy, but at that time the Navy only had six orthodontists. The disbursement officer at the Pentagon called him and suggested he stay in the Navy Reserve and go into private practice. So he moved to the small town of Cookeville, Tennessee, which had zero orthodontists and only eight practicing dentists at the time, he said.

In 1976, Vaden completed the Tweed Study Course, which is the oldest continuing education course in dentistry in the world, started by Charles Tweed in 1941. In 1979, he began teaching the Tweed Course. He has served as the secretary/treasurer of the Charles H. Tweed International Foundation for Orthodontic Research since 1984.

In 1980 he began teaching at the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry, where he taught the standard edgewise appliance to students once a month on a rotating basis with four other teachers, which eventually increased to twice per month.

In 1993, Dr. Lysle Johnston, one of Vaden’s heroes in orthodontics, asked him to teach at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. In 1998, another of Vaden’s heroes, Dr. Rolf Gordon Behrents, chose to leave the chair of the Department of Orthodontics at the University of Tennessee for another position and Vaden was invited to serve as chair, which he did from 1999-2010. After that, he continued teaching once per month until COVID.

“My teaching was intimately involved with research,” Vaden said. “I have a farm and I constructed a storage barn so that I could keep every record of every patient I treated. These records became a repository for many, many students who were working on Master’s thesis. Approximately 25 articles that have used patients ‘from my barn’ have been published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, The Angle Orthodontist, and The International Journal of Orthodontics. I have been actively involved in a lot of this research.”

In 2013, the University of Tennessee dedicated the James L. Vaden Orthodontic Clinic in his honor.

Vaden said he thinks teaching is extremely important.

“Unless we have good teachers who can teach fundamentals and stimulate students to think, our profession is in trouble,” he said. “The greatest thing that a teacher can do is teach students fundamentals of a discipline and how to think. Without these two things, our profession will die. Teaching is the lifeblood of our profession of dentistry.”

Vaden said he has two favorite parts about being a dentist: “I love the interaction with patients and I love to see the results of their hard work and my work. As a teacher I love to see the student grow in skill and in self-confidence,” he said.

Vaden is very involved with organized dentistry and has served on many councils and committees with the Fourth District Dental Society (where he served as president in 1984), the Tennessee Dental Association, the Tennessee Association of Orthodontics, the Southern Association of Orthodontists, the American Board of Orthodontics (where he served as president in 1999-2000) and the Midwest Component of the E.H. Angle Society.

He has also served as a site visitor in the specialty of orthodontics and a commissioner and chairman of the Orthodontic Review Committee for the Commission on Dental Accreditation with the American Dental Association.

“Organized dentistry is very important. Unless our profession sticks together and has a unified voice in the matters that concern our patients, the patient will suffer,” Vaden said. “Now more than ever organized dentistry must remain true to its task of lobbying for the benefit of our patients. There are so many laws and regulations that can adversely impact our patients and the care that we are able to give them that we must remain ever vigilant. The American Dental Association, and my specialty organization, The American Association of Orthodontists, are working very hard with efforts to maintain a very high quality of patient care. This is difficult in today’s world when it seems that many people want something for nothing and there are many fly-by-night scams that can harm our patients in both general dentistry and in all the specialties. Organized dentistry is more important now than it probably ever has been.”

Additionally he has served on the editorial board of the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics and Seminars in Orthodontics.

He has also written several book chapters and journal articles as well as given several lectures.

Vaden has received many awards, including the Louise Ada Jarabak Memorial International Teachers and Research Award from the American Association of Orthodontics Foundation, the Albert H. Ketcham Memorial Award from the American Board of Orthodontics, and the American Association of Orthodontics James E. Brophy Distinguished Service Award.

Outside of dentistry, Vaden is a farmer who enjoys collecting antique John Deere tractors. He has also been a certified tournament ski boat driver, along with many other hobbies.

Vaden would like to thank his mother and father, who instilled in him a desire to work hard and serve others.

The Callahan Memorial Award Commission was established in 1920 by the ODA to honor the work of John Ross Callahan, one of Ohio’s noted dental researchers and a leader in organized dentistry. Since its establishment, the award has continued to grow in prominence in the dental profession. Past Callahan Memorial Awardees include such luminaries as George Paffenbarger, Wendell Postle, Lindsey Pankey, P.I. Branemark, Arthur Dugoni, Gordon Christensen and Linda Niessen.

The Callahan Memorial Award recipient receives a $5,000 gift via the ODA Foundation to be donated to a charity of their choice.