December 21, 2017
Dr. Daniel M. Laskin, MS Oral Surgery ’52, who served as Head of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) from 1973 to 1983 and is an internationally known clinician, researcher, lecturer, and author, has made a generous gift to create the Dr. Daniel M. Laskin Faculty Fund. This fund is the precursor to an endowed professorship in Dr. Laskin’s honor within the department.
“Winston Churchill said, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,’” Dr. Laskin noted. “I’ve always adopted that philosophy. I’ve always been thankful for the help that enabled me to advance in my career, and I feel if I can do something to help other people achieve the things I did, I’d like to.”
Dr. Laskin sees the future endowment as being used for faculty support. “I find the active research activity occurring in the department impressive,” he said. “I’d like the fund to support someone in the department who has the ability to do more advanced research and obtain more grants, which would open up new opportunities for the residents to be involved in more significant research.”
The College is actively seeking additional donations for the current Laskin Faculty Fund so that it can enhance the value and impact of the future Dr. Daniel M. Laskin Endowed Professorship in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. The more that can be secured through donor support for the principal of the fund, the more of an impact it will have in the future.
An endowed professorship is one of the most prestigious academic honors a faculty member can receive. Not only do endowed professorships attract and help retain outstanding faculty, they promote and solidify a College’s expertise in a particular research area. In an endowed professorship fund, the principal (the original gift amount) is invested in perpetuity and only a portion of the investment’s earnings is spent in support of the scholarly activities of the individual holding the position, typically 4% of the fund’s market value. The rest of the earnings are returned to the fund so that the endowment grows—and has increasing impact-- over time.
“This will allow us to recruit the best and brightest faculty in OMFS without complete reliance on State support and clinical revenue,” said Dr. Michael Miloro, Head of OMFS.
Along with Dr. Bernard G. Sarnat, ’40, MS Histology ’40, Dr. Laskin is considered a co-founder of the residency program in OMFS at the College. In 1963, Dr. Laskin established the College’s Temporomandibular Joint and Facial Pain Research Center. He left the College in 1984 to become Chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the Virginia Commonwealth University Schools of Dentistry and Medicine—yet has remained loyal to and active with UIC.
“I spent 35 years here—in a sense, this is where I grew up, where my mentors such as Dr. Sarnat were,” Dr. Laskin said. “I learned from Dr. Sarnat how to organize things; he got me interested in research; and he was an excellent teacher and helped me develop my skills in that area. It’s always been a great opportunity to be able to do those things, and I learned them here.”
He considers the years he spent at the College “a great time in the development of this dental school,” Dr. Laskin said. “The teachers here were the outstanding people in dentistry in the United States.”
Considered an international leader in the study of temporomandibular joint issues, Dr. Laskin recalled his introduction to the field.
“Dr. Seymour Yale [‘45] was Chair of Radiology and wanted to go for a grant with faculty Dr. Allan Brodie [MS ’34, PhD ‘40], Dr. E. Lloyd Du Brul, and Dr. Milton Engel [’38, MS Orthodontics ‘40],” Dr. Laskin explained. “I was a young faculty member and they wanted a person to be a bridge between the researchers and the clinicians—I was working in Dr. Engel’s lab doing research, but I was a clinician, too. So I became the Co-Principal Investigator.
“Less than a year later, Dr. Yale became Dean and I was left in charge of the project, so that’s how I became involved in the TMJ field,” Dr. Laskin said. “I had 12 residents and research money, and our research efforts really took off.”
One of the many OMFS residents Dr. Laskin taught, Dr. Louis G. Mercuri, MS OMFS ’75, recalled that, “We all knew Dr. Laskin was a tough teacher. At the time, however, many of us did not realize just how excellent a teacher he was, and an even better role model. We do now.
“Dr. Laskin did a terrific job of teaching us the basics,” Dr. Mercuri continued. “Because he knew that oral surgery was constantly changing, he wanted to give us a great foundation. He even said, ‘If you think you are going to practice oral and maxillofacial surgery in the future the way I’m teaching you now, you’re not going to have much of a practice.’ Point well taken!”
Dr. Mercuri served as Head of OMFS for both Michael Reese and the UIC College of Dentistry, and also developed the Oral Health Center at Loyola University Chicago after its dental school closed.
Residents in the certificate program in OMFS at Cook County Hospital (CCH) also were taught by Dr. Laskin. One of them was Dr. Steven J. Traub, Cert. OMFS CCH ’81.
Dr. Traub noted that at CCH, Dr. Herbert Anthony Potts, who established the OMFS department there and invented the Potts Elevator was “one of the greatest oral surgeons in history. Dr. Laskin is as important to OMFS history as Dr. Potts.
“I was thankful for the time Dr. Laskin spent with me, because he gave me the confidence and the foundation to learn what I needed to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, and to have a great career to this day,” Dr. Traub said.
Dr. Laskin gained his confidence and foundation at the College, and always enjoys visiting. “It’s like coming home when I come back to the College,” Dr. Laskin said.
Dr. Miloro always is happy to welcome Dr. Laskin “home.”
“Since becoming Department Head in 2008 and creating the Daniel M. Laskin Lectureship at the College in 2009, it has been my privilege and honor to meet with the man who was my predecessor as Department Head more than 30 years before my arrival,” Dr. Miloro said.
“Dr. Laskin is a giant in our specialty of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and an inspiration to generations of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons who he has trained over the years and with whom he has interacted and served as a role model,” he continued. “Dr. Laskin continues to work each day and he travels extensively to national and international meetings as a keynote speaker.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have become a close friend and colleague of Dr. Laskin, and words cannot express my sincere appreciation for the gift that he has bestowed upon our department and the University,” Dr. Miloro said.
Dr. Laskin noted that he considers it a privilege to contribute to the College, and feels that others should welcome the opportunity as well.
“I think people have to look at their own careers—what has helped them in life to become a professional, to be able to make a good living,” Dr. Laskin said. “We all should be grateful for that, and to be willing to give the next generation the same opportunity if we have a chance to do so.”
Dr. Mercuri agreed. “Dr. Laskin has dedicated his life to education and research, and that legacy should be carried on at the College and its Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery—which provided us with the education that allowed us to have great careers, and perform the research that helped make the breakthrough changes in OMFS that Dr. Laskin predicted.”
So did Dr. Traub. “Dr. Laskin, through his teaching, his research, and his editorship of the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, has always stood for doing the absolute best for the patient.” Dr. Traub said. “He is the man in oral surgery education, unquestionably, and we can help memorialize his legacy of education and research.”