Thursday, January 11, 2024

Former NIDCR Director Passes Away...


In the late 1990s, early in my career, I had the opportunity to visit NIDCR.  I was but a wide eyed youngster with a dental degree, suddenly surrounded by some of the smartest minds on Earth.  A good friend of mine, Dr. David Dodell, had arranged the visit for a group of dentists from the Internet Dental Forum which was an early online tech discussion group. 

We were welcomed to NIDCR by the director, Dr. Harold Slavkin.   At the time of the visit the facility/organization was called the National Institute of Dental Research or NIDR.  That name was changed due to the efforts and research of Dr. Slavkin who was considered one of the minds that was out front in the field of craniofacial research.  He was a very gracious host and escorted us around the campus and gave us an amazing tour of the facility.  It was *impressive*.  The thing I remember the most about the tour was the Visible Human Project which was just wrapping up.  Dr. Slavkin showed us some of the images from that work and it was nothing short of incredible to me.

The other thing I will always remember about that visit was how Dr. Slavkin treated us.  The group I was in was a hodgepodge of dentists... most of us very young and just starting our careers.  We were not high powered or well known researchers... we were just everyday practitioners.  Yet, he treated us like equals.  He was very proud of the work being done at NIDCR, that was plain to see.  He was excited about the future.  A person of his rank and stature could easily have treated the group like the tourists that we were.  However, instead he treated us as peers.  He seemed genuinely glad we were there and tolerated all of our questions.  He made the trip really special for me.

Dr. Slovkin served as Director of the center from 1995-2000.  I remember he talked to us about research that was being done to potentially use stem cells to actually regrow teeth in extraction sites.  He was smart and enthusiastic about what the NIDCR could accomplish.

So I was saddened to hear the news that Dr. Slovkin passed away on December 22, 2023.  The profession has lost a brilliant mind.

The ADA News has a nice article detailing his career and I truly feel it is worth a read.  Head over to the ADA News website to read it.  I also feel the obituary from NIDCR is definitively another really honoring tribute.   

Rest in Peace, sir.  You will be missed.

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