BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo School of Dental
Medicine established the first Department of Oral Biology in the
U.S. in 1960. Three years later, UB created the first PhD program
in oral biology in a dental school.
The UB School of Dental Medicine’s graduate program in
oral biology will celebrate its golden anniversary with current and
former faculty and students at an informal dinner and evening of
reminiscing, and a two-day symposium featuring the research it
helped to pioneer: research on the relationship between oral and
The conference, titled “Oral Microbiome, Immunity and
Chronic Disease,” will have scheduled presentations on June
13-14 at the Hotel Lafayette and is sponsored in part by an
educational grant from Sunstar Americas Inc.
Frank A. Scannapieco, DMD, PhD, professor and chair of oral
biology, who is working on a brief history of UB’s Department
of Oral Biology to be published in the Journal of Dental Research,
is also a proud alumnus of the program.
“Our PhD program has produced a large cadre of oral health
researchers, many of whom have gone on to major contributions to
dental research and education,” said Scannapieco.
Those alumni include Lawrence Tabak, PhD, ’81, who served
as the director of the National Institute of Dental and
Craniofacial Research and is now deputy director of the National
Institutes of Health; Mark Herzberg, PhD, ’78, past editor of
the Journal of Dental Research; and many others who have served as
deans and associate deans of dental schools and present and former
chairs of academic departments.
A video about the history of oral biology at UB is available
One of the most important research findings ever to come out of
the UB School of Dental Medicine, Michael Glick DMD, and UB dental
school dean says, has been the research from oral biology that
specifically addressed the connection between oral health and
“Dr. Robert Genco and his co-workers were at the forefront
of elucidating what the relationship is all about and now
it’s reverberating all over the world,” Glick said.
Opening remarks on the first day of the symposium will be made
by Robert J. Genco, DDS, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor,
director of the UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and
Economic Outreach (STOR) and UB professor of periodontics and
endodontics, who in 1976 became the second chair of oral biology
and served in that position for 25 years. Genco will share his
reflections on the origins of oral biology and how far it has
Genco joined the faculty in 1968 after receiving his DDS
training in Buffalo and PhD training in immunology at the
University of Pennsylvania. He established a productive research
program in oral immunology and microbiology that focused on the
development of periodontal disease. He was also one of the first
investigators to associate gum disease with systemic diseases such
as diabetes and atherosclerosis.
“I was chair for 25 years,” Genco says smiling.
“I enjoyed it and I hope others enjoyed it too. The
department worked as a whole, we were like one big
family—over 130 people including staff and faculty—not
always agreeing but being agreeable, which is important.”
Symposium presentations will be organized into general
categories: microbiology, immunology, saliva, periodontal medicine,
periodontal biology and bone biology. They will include
“Genomics/metagenomics of periodontal bacteria,”
“Is there a role for passive immunity in the treatment of
periodontal disease?,” “New approaches to treat
salivary gland dysfunction” and “Periodontitis and
cardiovascular disease: systemic and genetic
Scannapieco notes that when the UB Department of Oral Biology
was established in 1963 it was the first such dental department in
the U.S. dedicated to the conduct of basic research, graduate
biomedical education and provision of basic oral science education
for the DDS curriculum.
It is easy to overlook what a dramatic development this was, he
says, because research in dental and medical schools seems second
nature to us now. But making the leap from teaching and providing
only clinical experience to incorporating research, required a
major paradigm shift.
“Historically, both medicine and dentistry were not
research-based disciplines,” Scannapieco says. “In 1926
a report by William J. Gies, a professor at Columbia University,
urged dental schools to become fully integrated with their parent
universities and to increase full-time faculty, promote research
and graduate study while grounding the practice of dentistry in
science and investing in research infrastructure.”
The 50th anniversary celebration also will be attended by two
luminaries who have made major contributions to the UB Department
of Oral Biology:
- Solon “Art” Ellison, DDS, who was selected as the
first chair of the department and served from 1963 to 1976.
- Ernest Hausmann, DMD, PhD, the first and only full-time
researcher on the faculty in 1960. Hausmann later developed
computer-assisted measurement systems to measure alveolar bone
height in periodontal disease, an essential component in
determining whether the disease was advancing.
For more information regarding the festivities and the
symposium, contact Annamarie Phalen at 716-829-2320 or by email at