O’Donnell practiced in Peterborough, Ontario. He is the first secretary of the ODA and the second ODA president in 1968 (Shosenberg, 1992). In addition to practicing dentistry in Peterborough, he was in the piano and sheet music business (ODA, 1967). He played an important administrative and decision making role in the first few years of the ODA. In his role as secretary, there was much correspondence involved, which O’Donnell had to write by hand. Minutes had to be recorded and preserved for all the meetings, which he did meticulously (ODA, 1967).
O’Donnell gave back to the profession by being a faculty member of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons (RCDS) when it first opened in 1869, a role which he filled by travelling from Peterborough on a regular basis. After some disputes and divisiveness within Ontario dentists, O’Donnell decided to withdraw from ODA and RCDS in 1871 (Shosenberg, 1992). He passed away in 1898 in Peterborough with no official recognition of his services (Shosenberg, 1992). His support to Day and Chittenden to open a school with skilled faculty is important and contributed to the overall development of the profession.
Ontario Dental Association (1967). Centennial Flashback: Dr. John O’Donnell: the conscientious and efficient First Secretary of the Ontario Dental Association 1867. The Journal of the Ontario Dental Association 44(8):22-23
Shosenberg, J. W. (1992). The rise of the Ontario Dental Association: 125 years of organized dentistry. Toronto: Ontario Dental Association