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Former editor of JADA remembered for research that included linking oral with systemic health

Dr. Marjorie K. Jeffcoat dies at 69

November 25, 2020

By David Burger

Haverford, Penn. — Marjorie K. Jeffcoat, D.M.D., past editor of The Journal of the American Dental Association and former president of both the International Association for Dental Research and American Association for Dental Research, died Nov. 21.

She was 69.

 Dr. Jeffcoat
Dr. Jeffcoat
Dr. Jeffcoat was JADA editor from 2001-04, president of the AADR from 1995-96 and president of the IADR from 2000-01. She was also a former president of the Academy of Osseointegration.

“The dental community will remember Marjorie Jeffcoat as an academic dentist par excellence, memorable teacher, skilled practitioner, productive researcher and effective administrator,” said her husband, Robert L. Jeffcoat, Ph.D. “Marjorie had a fearless approach to research.  She never confined herself to the familiar and comfortable, instead going after questions that she felt deserved a fresh look. More often than not, she invented and perfected brand new ways to get to the answers.”

At the time of her passing, she was professor emeritus and dean emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Dental Medicine after having been dean of the school.

“Dr. Jeffcoat will be remembered fondly by all at Penn Dental Medicine,” said Mark S. Wolff, D.D.S., Ph.D., Morton Amsterdam Dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. “During her tenure as dean, she enhanced our curriculum, faculty and research initiatives while also expanding experiential learning and service to our west Philadelphia community. Her research linking oral and systemic health during her career was likewise extremely impactful for the general public.”

On top of her tenure at JADA, Dr. Jeffcoat also contributed to the editorial boards of a variety of professional research journals for more than 30 years, and served on numerous advisory committees and commissions at the state, national and international levels.

“She thoroughly enjoyed her years as JADA editor,” said Robert Jeffcoat, Ph.D. “She worked hard to attract good articles from notable authors, and felt she succeeded. Writing editorials to be both relevant and readable was an agreeable challenge of the position.”

With more than 200 peer-reviewed publications — covering a wide range of topics, including novel instrumentation and analytical techniques, clinical periodontics, scientific study design, osseointegration and oral-systemic links — Dr. Jeffcoat specialized in clinical trials, with a focus on the relationships between dentistry and medicine, her husband said.

Among her most recent research included the discovery that relatively simple and inexpensive periodontal therapy can lead to substantial improvements in systemic health, notably in pregnancy outcomes, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A periodontist by training, she also found a genetic marker that is strongly correlated with the success of such therapy in treating periodontitis.

Prior to joining the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Jeffcoat was professor and chair of the department of periodontics at the University of Alabama School of Dentistry. Previously, she was an associate professor at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, where she earned her dental degree.

Nico Geurs, D.D.S., Weatherford/Palcanis Endowed Professor and chair of the department of periodontology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry, said that Dr. Jeffcoat was a “pioneer in periodontal research and is the foundation of the UAB research programs as they exist today.”

“Her research is interdisciplinary and leveraged the excellence of UAB and solidified the prominent position of the School of Dentistry on the UAB campus,” Dr. Geurs added. “Her collaborations included investigators from the Center for Women’s Research, optometry, preventive medicine, endocrinology, rheumatology, nursing, pediatrics, engineering, public health and many others … Dr. Jeffcoat has inspired and encouraged countless students to pursue research and academic careers. As president of the AADR, in 1996 during her opening remarks of the annual meeting, she called on everyone to contribute to the future of dental research by turning a twinkle of interest in the eye of a student into a fire of passion. Her mantra to open doors and facilitating the success of others should serve as an example. Many of her students and mentees have achieved recognition on their own. Her legacy reaches beyond dentistry to human kindness.”

“As a human being, Margie was unfailingly cheerful, unpretentious, kind, forgiving, unselfish, and easy to know,” her husband said. “A good and loyal friend, and a
wonderful, loving wife.”