For 40 years, Gerald Graser, DDS, MS, has been influencing the people around him.
“There is not a single day that goes by that I don’t think of something that he taught me,” said Izchak Barzilay, DDS, MS, a 1986 graduate of the EIOH prosthodontic program and now runs a successful practice in Toronto.
“Dr. Graser displays the most fundamental traits of ethical behavior, hardworking attitude and team-building character,” said Konstantinos Chochlidakis, DDS, (Prostho ‘13) assistant professor in the Kornberg School of Dentistry at Temple University. “His leadership, dedication and experience have inspired his students for years.”
“Jerry Graser is my greatest role model,” said Carlo Ercoli, DDS (Prostho ‘96) who replaced Dr. Graser as chair and program director of the EIOH Prosthodontic Division. “He believed in me as a young applicant, and has always supported me in my career as a young faculty and now as a colleague.”
For these reasons and many more, Dr. Graser has been named the 2015 recipient of the American Prosthodontics Society’s highest honor, the Golden Medallion Award, for his outstanding service and contributions to the dental profession and prosthodontics.
The award especially recognizes leadership, service to the profession and the APS, teaching and research at academic and continuing education levels, and promotion of excellence in Prosthodontics at a national and international level.
“From the time I first met Dr. Graser, he not only taught me clinical and technical prosthodontics, but he taught me how to treat people,” Dr. Barzilay said. “This was not only how to treat patients, but how to treat my fellow co-workers, my staff, my friends and all those around me. I used him as an example for most things that I did. He has had such a huge impact on so many people, but he has done it in such a gentle way—he’s a true gentle giant.”
Dr. Graser’s former students agree. “His teaching style is that he never says that you must do something, but rather makes suggestions in a gentle and classy way about a direction to take,” said Dr. Ercoli.
For others, it was Dr. Graser’s smile that had the most impact.
“When I think of Dr. Graser, I see his smile, which was always a source of strong encouragement for me, especially during the hard times,” said Heeje Lee, DDS, a 2007 EIOH graduate and now a prosthodontist in Coppell, Texas. “I met him as a teacher, but now I feel like he is my father. When I see him at conferences, he always asks how I’m doing and would express his pleasure with my professional growth and give me sincere advice for my future. I truly wish his smile could last forever so that the miraculous power could affect many more people just like it has done for me.”
After earning his dental degree at State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dentistry, Graser earned his prosthodontics certificate at Eastman Dental in 1972, followed by his master’s degree from the University of Rochester in 1975. Since then, his unwavering dedication and commitment to his students, the profession and research has been steadfast.
On the world stage of prosthodontics, he has held virtually all top leadership posts and has had a huge impact on the profession,” continued Dr. Barzilay. “I am proud to tell other prosthodontists who my mentor is and how he has affected me. Dr. Graser is truly a legend.”
“Jerry has influenced countless generations of prosthodontic residents at Eastman, but his influence reaches way outside of Eastman, too,” said Dr. Ercoli. “His leadership nationally and internationally throughout his career is unprecedented.”
He is a former president of the APS, the Academy of Osseointegration, and the Academy of Prosthodontics. He is a fellow of numerous professional organizations including the American College of Prosthodontists, The American College of Dentists, The International Team of Implantology, the Society for Geriatric Dentistry and The Pierre Fauchard Academy. He has published and lectured extensively about overdentures, dental materials and osseointegrated dental implants. He served as chairman and program director of the EIOH Prosthodontics Division from 1977 to 2006 and program director from 1977 to 2001, before passing the baton to Dr. Ercoli. He continues to teach part time at EIOH.
“Dr. Graser exemplifies the spirit of excellence that Eastman Institute for Oral Health embodies,” said EIOH Director Eli Eliav, DMD, PhD. “The positive impact he’s had on our residents and on our program is immeasurable. We are very grateful for his contributions past and present and congratulate him on this well-deserved honor.”
Dr. Chochlidakis said that Dr. Graser’s approach to teaching was so effective, it inspired him and many other EIOH Prosthodontic graduates to pursue academic careers. To that end, the Graser Fellowship Fund was established at EIOH in 2003 to pay tribute to Dr. Graser’s legacy and to address shortages of dental school faculty, encourage the recruitment of young, qualified dentists to dental faculty positions and promote help people interested in pursuing a dental academic or administrative position with the Prosthodontic dental specialty. A quote from James William, as shown on the Graser Fellowship plaque at Eastman Dental, captures it best: “the best use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts life.” Dr. Gerald Graser’s leadership, teaching and influence among his peers and students will do just that…outlast life.
Dr. Graser will receive his award at the 87th annual meeting of the American Prosthodontic Society being held in Chicago February 26-27.