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January 2, 2024
Mourning the loss of former NIDCR Director Hal Slavkin, D.D.S.
It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Harold C. Slavkin, D.D.S. Hal was the sixth director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), serving from 1995-2000. Hal died on December 22 at his home in California; he was 85.
Hal was a pioneer in craniofacial biology and contributed to its emergence as a multidisciplinary field. His efforts led to advancements that have had a profound impact on dental-oral-craniofacial research as well as other scientific disciplines.
Hal arrived at the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) in 1995 from the University of Southern California School of Dentistry, where he was founder and director of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology. His own studies focused on the developmental processes underlying several congenital and acquired craniofacial and oral defects. He also created and chaired the first Ph.D. program in the nation in craniofacial biology.
A true visionary, Hal began long-term planning as soon as he arrived at NIDR. He created a strategic plan that broadened the institute’s research portfolio and led to the renaming of the institute in 1998 to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Under Hal’s leadership, the institute took the lead role in producing the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in 2000. He also oversaw the development of NIDCR’s strategic plan to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities—one of the first of its kind at NIH. Hal later expanded NIDCR’s efforts to reduce oral health disparities for conditions such as childhood caries and oral cancer.
A strong supporter of a diverse and well-trained research community, Hal chaired the NIH-wide committee for recruiting a diverse biomedical and behavioral research workforce.
Among many other achievements during his tenure, Hal created a patient advocates forum, planned for the “FaceBase” database of craniofacial anomalies, and reached out to editors of scientific journals and other media to share the institute’s research advances with the biomedical community and the public.
Hal will be remembered as a brilliant orator who effectively communicated his passion for research, his deep commitment to training future generations, and his fierce advocacy for health equity.
He will be missed by everyone who had the privilege to know him. We send our sincere condolences to his wife, Lois, and the rest of his family, friends and colleagues.
Monica Bertagnolli, M.D., Director, NIH
Rena D’Souza, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., Director, NIDCR