Boston native Dr. Robert E. Morris, author of the Kuwait/Gulf War memoir, 120 Days in Deep Hiding, is internationally recognized for his life´s work in international health and research. In 2000, he received the Centennial Award of the Federation Dentaire International at its World Congress in Paris. As a team leader, his award-winning accomplishments include the development of two dental schools, a school of dental hygiene and another of dental nursing. He has also been hailed for the community-based health programs he set up in 14 countries. The World Health Organization-type disease prevention program established in Kuwait remains the only program of its kind in Asia. Currently, he is writing a series of papers and articles and consulting independently in Boston.
A 1961 graduate of historic Boston Latin School, Dr. Morris went on to the College of the Holy Cross where he majored in the classics and pre-medical studies. He then attended the University of Maryland´s Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, receiving his dentistry degree in 1969.
Upon graduation he was commissioned as a full lieutenant in the United States Navy and was ordered to report to the Fifth Marine Division at Camp Pendelton, California. He was assigned to the Camp only for the time it took the Corps to teach him the rudiments of military service and Marine Corps history and traditions.
In November 1969, he received his orders for Vietnam but was granted leave to enjoy Thanksgiving at home in South Boston. That done, he then took the network of circuitous routes developed by his predecessors to delay their arrival in the Far East.
From San Francisco, he flew to Honolulu and on to Okinawa where he took a flight out to DaNang, Vietnam. He arrived on Christmas Eve in DaNang with Bob Hope who was there to entertain the troops.
Dr Morris served for the next several months deep in the mountains west of DaNang on Marine Hill Stations 10, 21 and 55 and then went on to a Republic of Vietnam base hard by the 54th parallel and North Vietnam. His last assignment took him to the Marine Base at Marble Mountain on beautiful China Beach, an area teeming with enemy soldiers.
At the end of his tour, he was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for his outstanding professionalism and humanitarianism services to the Vietnam people. During his overseas service, he was able to travel to Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, India, Nepal and Turkey.
Dr. Morris was discharged from the service in 1971 and entered private practice in San Francisco. First, though, he and two Marine Corps pals made the Grand Tour of Europe. Wheeling about in an antiquated VW camper purchased in an Amsterdam flea market, the trio picked up an assortment of stray travelers along the way.
In 1972, Dr. Morris undertook a health services research project under the auspices of the University of Maryland. Three years later he became a trainer/educator for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the United Nations Development Programme.
In this position and then as a private policy consultant, he traveled and worked for the next 25 years on three continents and in some 15 countries. His initial assignment was Trinidad and Tobago as a project manager for a school of dental nurses. This project alone involved 13 countries over a seven-year period, and for the first time guaranteed the region´s children oral health care on a regular basis.
Not long in Trinidad, Dr. Morris met Jill Dopson, a native of the Caribbean island who had just returned home after traveling and studying in Canada and the United Kingdom. The couple married in 1977 and later became the parents of two daughters, Anna and Tricia.
After completing a PAHO/WHO assignment in Guyana to upgrade its oral health care system, the Morris family settled in Boston in 1985 while he attended the Harvard School of Public Health as a Kellogg Fellow. The move only came after they visited Trinidad, Brazil and Europe on holiday. Dr. Morris received his MPH with a concentration in Health Policy in 1986.
The following year he obtained an independent contract from the State of Kuwait to upgrade the nation´s oral health care system. With a team of national and international experts, he developed a prevention and oral health care system for Kuwait´s children that was equal to that of the leaders in the field, the Scandinavian countries.
The Morris family was to live in Kuwait for 13 years, their sojourn interrupted only for a time by the Iraqi invasion and subsequent Gulf War. Jill, who holds a master´s degree in Special Education, established the first program of its kind in Kuwait to mainstream Kuwait´s special needs children. She and Dr. Morris consider those years in Kuwait as the most rewarding in their professional careers.