Robert J. Genco, DDS, PhD, a pioneer in periodontal research and a leader in the broad recognition of the perio-systemic link, died on March 6, 2019, at the age of 80.
Dr. Genco earned his dental degree from The State University of New York (SUNY) Buffalo School of Dental Medicine in 1963. He went on to simultaneously pursue both specialized periodontal training and immunology at the University of Pennsylvania where he was mentored by periodontist D. Walter Cohen, DDS, and immunologist Fred Karush, PhD. Dr. Genco received his certificate in periodontics and doctorate in microbiology and immunology in 1967.
As a result of this unique educational background, Dr. Genco would go on to become an internationally recognized expert in oral biology. He was one of the first researchers to connect periodontal disease with other diseases (such as heart disease and diabetes), and his more than 370 scientific papers are regarded as some of the most important work establishing a link between periodontal health and systemic health.
Dr. Genco’s research earned him many awards, including the 1991 Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Dental Research and 2003 Norton M. Ross Award from the American Dental Association (ADA), and the 1993 Gold Medal Award and 2012 Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP).
Dr. Genco was also a seasoned educator, serving as chairman of the University at Buffalo Oral Biology Department for 25 years and being named Distinguished Professor of Oral Biology, Microbiology, and Immunology in 1994.
Dr. Genco’s contributions to the specialty of periodontology have been significant. For more than 18 years, Dr. Genco served as editor-in-chief of the AAP’s Journal of Periodontology (JOP). In addition, he served on many AAP committees and supported several AAP initiatives, most notably its efforts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish a mechanism to measure the prevalence of periodontal disease in the US adult population.
Current JOP Editor-in-Chief Kenneth Kornman, DDS, PhD, believes that Dr. Genco’s legacy will continue to inspire future generations of periodontists. “There are few periodontists who have impacted dentistry like Bob Genco,” Dr. Kornman said. “His significant and numerous contributions to periodontal science have paved the way for even more groundbreaking research that may positively affect the overall health of millions.”
“The ADA and the entire profession of dentistry lost a giant in Bob Genco,” said ADA Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, DMD, MPH. “Bob had a tremendous impact on patient care and the dental research community, and he supported the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs through many years of contributions through his research. He was a man of integrity and a brilliant scholar, and he will be greatly missed.”