Outstanding Dental Service Award

ScheelsJohn L. Scheels, D.D.S., Dent ’75
Wauwatosa, Wis.

John Scheels cared for thousands of adults and children in 42 years of solo dental practice in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. But he has another set of patients who are a bit more exotic. Since 1981, Scheels has provided dental care to animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

This work began when he read a magazine article about zoo dentists and volunteered his services to the Milwaukee County Zoo. Since 1981 he has treated more than 90 species, from pygmy marmosets to rhinos, gorillas to polar bears, and has consulted at zoos around the country.

Scheels lives the Jesuit principle of discovering and sharing knowledge. He founded the veterinary dentistry program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine and organized and co-chaired the first International Zoo and Exotic Animal Dentistry conferences. He developed instruments now widely used in veterinary dental procedures and has educated zoo staff about dental pain in animals. He created an extensive skull collection at the Milwaukee County Zoo that is an important teaching tool. And his website, exoticanimaldentistry.com, is a popular resource for zoo dental consultants.

Although he is known as one of the top zoo dentists in the world, Scheels is famously modest. “John is among the humblest dental alums I know,” says his friend Kenneth Waliszewski, Dent ’71, Grad ’74, who notes that Scheels accomplished all this while maintaining a busy dental practice for humans. “I am amazed that one person could accomplish so much and provide such significant service.”

Fun Facts:

Name someone you’d like to have dinner with.
Winston Churchill and Elon Musk.

What is one of your favorite Marquette memories?
The class of 1975 was eclectic. We were composed of Vietnam veterans and war protesters, pharmacists, successful entrepreneurs, and parents, some bold characters and some timid ones. We studied together, played together, and eventually coalesced into a solid group that supported one another during those challenging years.