Former NIDCR director remembered for pioneering craniofacial research

Harold C. Slavkin, D.D.S., served as 6th director from 1995-2000

Dr. Slavkin

Harold C. Slavkin, D.D.S., the sixth director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, died Dec. 22, 2023, at his home in California at the age of 85.

A pioneer in craniofacial biology, Dr. Slavkin was director from 1995-2000 after founding the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC in 1989 and later served as dental school dean from 2000-08. His research focused on the developmental processes underlying several congenital and acquired craniofacial and oral defects, and he created and chaired the first Ph.D. program in the country in craniofacial biology, according to a message posted on the National Institutes of Health website.

During his tenure at NIDCR, he expanded the institute’s research portfolio, leading to its being renamed the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research from the National Institute of Dental Research in 1998. Under his leadership, NIDCR took the lead in creating the first Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in 2000.

Dr. Slavkin was also committed to addressing health disparities and a lack of diversity in the research community. According to the NIH message, he oversaw the development of an NIDCR plan to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities and later expanded those efforts to reduce oral health disparities in childhood caries and oral cancer. He also chaired an NIH committee focused on recruiting a diverse biomedical and behavioral research workforce.

While at NIDCR, Dr. Slavkin created a patient advocates forum, planned for a database of craniofacial anomalies and shared the institute’s research advances with the biomedical community and the public.

Dr. Slavkin was also the 22nd president of the American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research from 1993-94. In 2009, he received the ADA Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Dental Research, which honors individuals who have helped advance the dental profession or improve the oral health of the public through basic or clinical research.

He is survived by his wife, Lois, and other family, friends and colleagues. 

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