Prisons oral surgeon says 'Open
for more than 40 years
By Pamela Walker
RALEIGH- For more than 40 years, Dr. Durant Bell has been seeing dental patients in the oral surgery clinic at Central Prison at least one day a week. He not only treats patients, but has become a well-respected teacher and role model to many.
Bell started working at the prison in 1957, about the same time he opened a private oral surgery practice in Raleigh, and even though he retired from his practice in 1994 he says heís still enjoying treating inmates. "Iíll keep doing it as long as theyíll have me," said Bell.
Bell drives from Washington, N.C. to Raleigh once a week and sometimes more when another surgeon is out. The staff at Central Prison say theyíre lucky to have him. "Heís not only a terrific surgeon, but heís also a terrific person," said Frankie Peele, office assistant.
The head of Centralís dental department agreed. "He makes everybodyís job easier because heís always willing to go the extra mile and take the most difficult cases," said Dr. Norman Grantham.
When heís not working, Bell keeps busy with a variety of hobbies. For 40 years, heís been running with a group for older men at N.C. State and likes to play tennis and golf. But his favorite hobby may be his garden. "Iím most proud of my 35 rose bushes," said Bell, who also grows potatoes, squash, butter beans, string beans and just about any other vegetable you can imagine. He is married, has four sons and six grandchildren.
Bell has traveled worldwide treating patients in need of dental care. From 1975 until 1992, Bell represented the Rotary Club by making lengthy visits to refugee camps in the Philippines, Hong Kong, South Korea and Brazil. He said being president of the West Raleigh Rotary Club and president of the Lionís Club enabled him to travel quite a bit.
Bell has also traveled quite a few places during his military service. He delayed his college studies temporarily during World War II to join the U.S. Navy where he served from 1942 to 1946. A few years later he joined the Army National Guard and served 31 years. In 1950, his unit was activated and he served in the Army in Germany for three years.
So when did Bell realize his lifeís work was in dentistry? "I knew I wanted to study dentistry when I was in high school and then when I was in college I decided I wanted to be an oral surgeon," said Bell. He started his studies in 1938 at Appalachian State University, transferred to Wake Forest University and received his degree in dentistry at the Medical College of Virginia. In 1957, Bell received his graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and did an internship and his residency in oral surgery at Geisinger Memorial Hospital and FOSS Clinic in Danville, Pa.
According to Larry Ray, correctional dental director, Bell is more than just a good surgeon. "He has always been willing and even encouraged general dentists to visit the oral surgery clinic to observe, assist, or perform complex exodontia cases under his direction," said Ray. "I have the utmost respect for him as a professional and as a person. Thanks Dr. Bell for doing so much for so long with such a positive and cooperative attitude."
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