Tribute to our Pioneers – Focus on Austin Carbone: by Duffy Malherbe

The profession has been blessed with devoted Trailblazers who led with conviction, dedicated to their calling to convince governments that denturists be legally recognized, to practice professionally without supervision so that patients can exercise their freedom of choice. The integrity displayed and the standards they set, have been significant factors in achieving the level of professionalism and status that we as denturists enjoy today. The IFD acknowledges our history and pioneers and we selected Austin Carbone to start off a Gallery of Giants!

Austin Carbone B.Sc. B.Ed. DD LD has the distinction of being the only denturist to hold the position of President of two national associations (DAC and NDA) as well as President of the IFD. He is the only denturist endorsed with honorary status by the DAC. Austin was ordained with honorable members of the ‘Brotherhood of Sterkenburgers” and he received the Pieter Brouwer Award of Merit (the highest IFD accolade, reserved for individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary and exemplary service to the profession internationally). Previous illustrious recipients were Pieter Brouwer himself (Netherlands), Michael Vakalis (Canada), and Chris Allen (UK), and more recently Paul Levasseur (USA), Eric Engelbrecht (Netherlands), Tony Sarrapuchiello (Canada), and Gerry Hanson (Canada).

Austin originates from Greenport, New York and like many denturists, began his career as a dental laboratory technician. He achieved the Diploma in Denturism from George Brown College in Toronto, after he already completed university degrees from Fitchburg State University and Newfoundland Memorial University.

Austin joined the Newfoundland Denturist Association and proceeded to become seriously involved in the denturist movement during the 23 years he lived in that province. He served as Association Secretary, Education Coordinator, and Newfoundland’s delegate to the Denturist Association of Canada (DAC). After the Newfoundland and Labrador Denturist Act was proclaimed in 1984, Austin was appointed as Registrar of the Regulatory Board. During the mid-1980s, Austin Carbone took a more active role and interest in the national scene of denturism and was elected to positions on the Executive of the DAC. In succession to Ben Sweet, William Buxton (Sr), John Browne (Sr), Grant Barrick, and Brain Monk, Austin Carbone was elected the 6th President of the DAC in 1990, a position he held for three, two-year consecutive terms until 1996. During this time the Canadian Accreditation Committee was formed. Austin teamed up with Mike Vakalis and Bill Buxton (Sr), promoted and participated in the development of the International Denturist Education Centre (IDEC) formed in 1992 at George Brown College in Toronto. This program was instrumental in establishing denturism education and legislation in various provinces and states. Austin Carbone and Tony Sarrapuchiello met with the Minister of Health in Ottawa and negotiated a seat for the DAC on the Board for Non-Insured Health Benefits, which is for indigenous people of Canada, as well as several other programs.

Austin also represented Canada at the IFD and served as President of the Federation. He encouraged the acceptance of the Baseline Competency Profile by the IFD. This document was based on the Baseline Competencies Profile for Canadian Denturist Education, developed by the Canadian Council of Denturist Educators during the late 1980s, and the George Brown College IDEC UK Denturist program. These two documents were merged by Chris Allen, then executive officer of the UK CDTA Association and an IFD Board member, to develop the Baseline Competencies for UK CDTs, for the promulgation of the UK legislation in 2006. This document was implemented by the IFD as the “Baseline Competency Profile and Examination Criteria for the Education and Training of Denturists”.

Austin also brought to the IFD a workable membership fee formula, and the trademark right for use of the designation ‘DD’ for denturists. He personified that Canada and the IFD were willing to have a solid relationship with the rest of the denturist world, a position that had not been fully realized up to then. Amongst many unique triumphs, despite not being an EU citizen, but on the merits of his international stature and expertise on professional OH matters, he addressed the European Union Professions Committee in Brussels, Belgium.

In 1997 Carbone and his wife Shirley decided to return to the USA and settled in Gray, Maine, to become the first licensed denturist in that state. Austin served on the Maine Dental Practitioners Board for 10 years and chaired the Denturist subcommittee. Very soon Austin became involved with the National Denturist Association (NDA), using his experience to the benefit of US denturists, and soon found himself serving as national President. He held teaching positions at the Nova Scotia School of Denturism and at the IDEC, but also applied his tutoring skills at the New England School of Dental Technology in Maine. Austin regularly attends continuous professional development (CPD) courses and Symposiums to keep his education current. After attending the recent 10th World Symposium, Carbone reflected that the IFD is doing well, with far more member nations now than 20 years ago. “I am pleased to see the IFD is keeping an eye on its Baseline Competency profile as a standard for the education of denturists worldwide. IFD should always be the place where denturism hangs its hat.” Austin said. ‘In the old days I could make a denture for a patient on a handshake, but that is no longer possible. We are now part of the dental health profession and held to comparable standards. I support this wholeheartedly” he said. Austin feels that despite normalized scopes of practice and the addition of modern implant and CAD\CAM technology, most of the principles of denture provision have fundamentally remained the same, including oral examinations, impression-taking, and the widely used procedures to process dentures.

Austin continues to be a mentor and much-appreciated friend to countless colleagues locally, nationally, and globally. His humor and assistance remain steadfast as a rock. Thank you, Austin, Shirley, and your family for your expertise, determination, and support to shape and build strong foundations for us to follow! SALUTE!