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Dr. Robert J. Genco leaves behind legacy of leading periodontal research

March 07, 2019

By David Burger

Photo of Dr. Genco
Dr. Genco

Buffalo, N.Y. — Dr. Robert J. Genco, Ph.D., one of the world's leading periodontal researchers and a pioneer in advancing the study of how oral health affects overall health, died March 6 at the age of 80.

Dr. Genco received many awards throughout his accomplished career, including the ADA's 2003 Norton M. Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research and the ADA Gold Medal for Excellence in Dental Research in 1991.

According to a 1991 ADA News story, when Dr. Genco accepted the Gold Medal at that year's annual meeting, he said, "I am proud of the research that drives the dental profession. We face serious challenges in the dental profession — and science is the answer."

Dr. Genco and his colleagues were among the first to report a connection between gum disease and heart disease and stroke, according to the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine's website. His most recent position was director of the UB Microbiome Center at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, which conducts research on the microorganisms living in and on the human body, according to the school's website.

Some of Dr. Genco's recent studies included examining the link between periodontitis and chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity, as well as searching for clues that oral health in pregnant women may affect fetal health, according to the school's website.

Dr. Genco previously served as director of the University at Buffalo Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach, where he successfully commercialized the research of faculty and students, and was a State University of New York Distinguished Professor. He was chair of the oral biology department for 25 years.

Dr. Genco also served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Periodontology and Annals of Periodontology from 1988 to 2006, and in his career published more than 395 scientific papers. He is a past president of the American Association for Dental Research and the International Association of Dental Research.

A 1963 graduate of the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Genco earned a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1967 and returned to his dental alma mater to begin teaching periodontics and endodontics that year.

"Dr. Genco was a world-renowned scholar, educator, mentor, innovator and entrepreneur who was exceptionally committed to our university throughout his long and distinguished career," University at Buffalo President Satish Tripathi said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to Dr. Genco's wife, Frances, his son, Robert, and his daughters, Julie Alford and Deborah Powell; to all of his colleagues in the School of Dental Medicine and across the university; and to the countless students whose lives he touched over more than five decades at UB. Dr. Genco was always an invaluable source of support, perspective and leadership to me personally, and to our entire university community. I know I speak on behalf of our entire UB family when I say that he will be sorely missed."

"Dr. Genco was a legendary figure in dental research known throughout the world," said Joseph J. Zambon, dean of the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine. "He will be remembered for his towering intellect, for innovative research that transformed the scientific basis of dental practice, and most of all, for his exceptional humanity which he generously shared with his many students and colleagues."

The ADA and American Academy of Periodontology sent out a joint news release March 7 memorializing Dr. Genco. According to Dr. Kenneth Kornman, Ph.D., current Journal of Periodontology editor, 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 ground-breaking research that may positively affect the overall health of millions."

A funeral service is scheduled for March 9 at 1 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Buffalo.