J. Daniel Subtelny, DDS, a pioneer in the field of craniofacial orthodontics and longtime chair and faculty member at URMC’s Eastman Institute for Oral Health, passed away Sept. 17 at the age of 92.
His esteemed 60-year career and dedication to orthodontics, Eastman Dental and his students are unparalleled. Widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost educators in orthodontics, he founded the Cleft Palate Team at the Eastman Dental Dispensary and incorporated the diagnosis and treatment of patients with craniofacial anomalies into his orthodontic curriculum. Many other orthodontic programs around the world followed suit.
“Dr. Subtelny’s influence and impact on the profession and his students are immeasurable,” said Eli Eliav, DMD, PhD, director, Eastman Institute for Oral Health. “His passing leaves a permanent void, but his legacy will live indefinitely.”
Hundreds have benefited from his teaching style and leadership. Widely known and admired for the Hot Seat, a series of highly stressful classes where one resident takes direct questions from him for hours about every aspect of orthodontics. Many credit the Hot Seat experience for building confidence, knowledge and leadership unlike any other.
“Hot Seat makes you aware that you don’t know it all and that there is more than one way to approach a problem,” said Michael Spoon, DDS (Ortho ’91). “What Dr. Subtelny uniquely contributed is an historical perspective and knowledge base that is shared by almost no one else. You won’t find what he knows in Pub Med or on the internet.”
“Hot Seat is about how you should look at things—it’s about how to make things happen effectively or how to prevent them from happening,” said Jeremiah Juson, DMD (Ortho ’13). “It is a learning experience that I will be proud to pass on to the next generation.”
“The extensive knowledge and the positive effectiveness of Dr. Subtelny’s leadership as a teacher is exceptional,” said Len Fishman, DDS (Pedo ’59, Ortho ’61).
Edward Sommers, DMD (Ortho '78) added that Dr. Subtelny's tremendous love and passion for orthodontics strongly influenced the alumni, faculty and residents to have the same love and passion. "He continually gave residents the stimulation and ability to learn and improve over the course of their careers and lifetime," he said. "He can never be replaced."
Dr. Subtelny hosted a holiday party each year in his home for the residents, and always took the time to get to know them and their families beyond the classroom. “He taught so much more than orthodontics,” said Cristina Incorvati, DDS, (Ortho ’93), a sentiment shared by many. “He taught me how to pursue my goals with great passion, energy and perseverance.”
“We have lost a teacher, a mentor and a friend,” said Natalie Parisi, DDS, (Ortho ’95) “He will be greatly missed but never forgotten. Of all the things he taught me, possibly the most important was to enjoy life with vigor.”
In 2000 the Eastman Orthodontic Alumni Association and the University of Rochester established the J. Daniel Subtelny Endowed Chair and Professorship to preserve his educational legacy. This professorship will not only serve as a legacy for Dr. Subtelny, but will recognize the achievements of future EIOH Orthodontic Department Chairs and provide vital financial support to assist them with the division’s educational and research programs into perpetuity.
In 1997, the Orthodontic clinic at Eastman Dental was renovated and named in his honor. The same day, the Mayor of Rochester, NY, and the Monroe County Executive presented him with a Joint Proclamation stating that June 20, 1997, be named the J. Daniel Subtelny Day. This was in recognition for his years of treatment of children with craniofacial needs.
Subtelny is the only individual to date to have received all four of the following highest honors in the orthodontic profession:
• American Association of Orthodontists’ research honor, the Milo Hellman Award (1959)
• American Association of Orthodontists’ honor for teaching, the Louise Ada Jarabek Memorial International Orthodontic Teachers and Research Award (1993)
• American Board of Orthodontics – Albert H. Ketcham Memorial Award (1996)
• AAO’s James E. Brophy Distinguished Service Award (2006).
He was also presented the New York State Dental Association’s highest honor, the Jarvie-Burkhart Award, in recognition of the great service rendered to mankind in dentistry.
He has lectured on six continents, trained hundreds of orthodontic graduate students, published 70 peer reviewed scientific papers, several book chapters and wrote a text book titled Early Orthodontic Treatment.
Throughout his career, Dr. Subtelny served as president of the American Cleft Palate Association, the International Society of Craniofacial Biology, and the American Board of Orthodontics. He is also a Diplomat of the American Board of Orthodontics, a Fellow of the International College of Dentists, a Fellow of the American College of Dentists, and a founding member of the North-Atlantic component of the Edward H. Angle Society of Orthodontists.
He served on many editorial review boards including the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, the Journal of the Angle Orthodontist, and the American Cleft Palate Craniofacial Journal.
He has also been recognized by the American Cleft Palate Association for his distinguished service, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry honored him with a distinguished Alumni Award in 1997. In 1999, he received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Athens. The American Association of Orthodontists also named its 2006 education conference in Subtelny’s honor.
Subtelny graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. He received his orthodontic certificate and Master of Science degree from the University of Illinois.
Predeceased by his wife, Dr. Joanne Subtelny and brother, Dr. Michael Subtelny, Dr. Subtelny is survived by his children, Dr. Gregory Dan Subtelny and Alysa Subtelny Plummer; grandchildren, Benjamin Joseph and Ty Daniel Lantz-Subtelny; brother, Stephen (Ann) Subtelny; numerous nieces and nephews; and his special family at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health.
Friends may call Friday, Sept. 26, 4-7 p.m. at the Anthony Chapel, 2305 Monroe Ave. A memorial service will be held Saturday, Sept. 27, 10 a.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, 36 South Main St., Pittsford, NY 14534. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to American Cleft Palate/Craniofacial Association, 1504 East Franklin St., Suite 102, Chapel Hill, NC 27514 or the J. Daniel Subtelny Endowment Fund, EIOH Office of Advancement, PO Box 278996, Rochester, NY 14627-9006.