A Rinkle in time

A look back at maxillofacial prosthetics' early years
July 13th, 2017
Dr. Roy Rinkle (left) and Dr. Kenneth Randolph (right) at the maxillofacial prosthetic center's exhibit during the Dallas Mid-Winter Clinic in 1971. Dr. Mack Charles Hughes (center), then a senior dental student, listens to one of the exhibit's tape recordings.

Dr. Roy Rinkle (left) and Dr. Kenneth Randolph (right) at the maxillofacial prosthetic center’s exhibit during the Dallas Mid-Winter Clinic in 1971. Dr. Mack Charles Hughes (center), then a senior dental student, listens to one of the exhibit’s tape recordings.

Maxillofacial prosthodontist Dr. Roy Rinkle ’63 scans the faces encircling the 20-seat conference room table, taking in a who’s who of oral and maxillofacial surgeons, health care administrators and other specialists.

The year is 1971. The occasion: an advisory council meeting of the new North Texas Maxillofacial Prosthetics Rehabilitation Center.

Rinkle is more than a casual observer. An organizer of this gathering, chaired by Dean Kenneth Randolph of Baylor College of Dentistry, Rinkle is fresh back from advanced education at the University of Pennsylvania’s renowned Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic. A prosthodontics faculty member since 1965, he is founding director of the center located at the dental school and adjacent Baylor University Medical Center.

This facility, a cooperative one at Parkland Memorial Hospital and a prosthetics center in Houston, received cancer-designated funds from the Texas Regional Medical Program, part of what was then the federal Health, Education and Welfare Department. In the mid-1960s, then-dean Dr. Harry McCarthy had visited prosthodontics department chair Dr. Joe Lambert about the opportunity. “The dean knew we had access to the grant if we would just apply for it,” Rinkle explains.

For Rinkle, who was teaching the dental materials course and handling denture disasters and related emergencies for Baylor Medical Center patients, the chance to work as part of a medical team to care for cancer patients was a no-brainer.

“Dr. Lambert told me if I went away for a year’s training in intraoral devices in Pennsylvania I could come back and head up the center,” says Rinkle, who completed the specialized curriculum in 1969. “To make it work I figured we needed multiple disciplines represented, and we got the most important folks from the medical and dental communities.”

The advisory council meeting is a case in point. For starters, there’s Dr. Robert Walker ’47, chief of oral surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and Parkland hospital; Dr. Joe Drane of the University of Texas Dental Branch and M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute; and Dr. Lamar Byrd, chair of oral surgery at Dallas’ dental school.

Dr. Billy Aronoff – “daring” head and neck surgeon at Baylor hospital – is present; so are Lambert; Dr. Joseph Amphil, Parkland’s maxillofacial prosthodontist; and Dr. Charles McCall, the regional medical program director.

The group convened before Rinkle was impressive, as was the dramatic case that had launched the center a year or so earlier. Rinkle’s first patient had a “huge” defect in his palate following tumor removal by Aronoff, who was noted for treating challenging cancer cases. Rinkle had inserted a temporary acrylic stint immediately after surgery. Without it, the patient couldn’t talk or drink.

Soon after, Rinkle presented the case for grand rounds at BUMC. When he and the prosthetics technician successfully fitted the patient on the spot with a permanent “bubble insert” of pliable silicone, the reaction was immediate.

“The whole medical staff stood up and clapped,” Rinkle recounts. “After that, the hospital gave us space for a laboratory, operatory, office for myself and a social worker, and a reception area.” The space featured a north-facing window, providing the light by which he and the technician sculpted and colored the prostheses.

The center’s care was ahead of its time, save for M.D. Anderson in Houston and Sloan Kettering Institute in New York, Rinkle says, and referrals brought patients. Communications outreach at medical and dental meetings enhanced awareness.

Rinkle left Dallas for the Northeast in 1974, completed additional prosthodontics training and entered private practice in the Boston area, concentrating on esthetics and implants. He probably also lectured on cleft palate and esthetics to Dean Lawrence Wolinsky, who was a student during a few of Rinkle’s 20 years as a part-time faculty member at Tufts dental school.

Editor’s Note: Dr Roy Rinkle reconnected with the college in 2014 as a volunteer adjunct clinical faculty member.

This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2017 Texas A&M Dentistry magazine.

— Carolyn Cox