- A Tribute to Ralph V. Katz:A Giant in Dental Education, Minority Health, and Health Research
Ralph V. Katz was the model scholar whose life encompassed ethics and social justice. His work mirrored his life, characterized as it was by respect, honor, and courage. Some of us worked with Ralph as early as the middle 1970s. Others met Ralph in the 2000s. All of us are better because of Ralph.
Ralph V. Katz died on May 26th, 2021. Here are a few Ralph stories.
Ralph as a friend and a Colleague (Ananda P. Dasanayake)
I met Ralph in 2001 in Birmingham and then in New York City while he was trying to recruit a few of us from the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) to New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry. After one of those meetings in New York City, an ardent foodie, Ralph took me to Chinatown to eat frog legs in a Vietnamese restaurant. This was in July 2001. We walked by the World Trade Center twin towers, sat at the foot of the sphere, and talked more about academia and politics including global affairs. I told him that no one checked my ID before allowing me to sit at the foot of the sphere. I am a brown guy.
I picked one of the three apartments shown to me by NYU, one on the 17th floor of 110, Bleecker Street, directly looking at the Hudson River to the west, and the two majestic towers to the south from my living room and bedroom windows. When I returned to NYU in December of 2001, the New York City was in chaos and the towers were gone. Out of the ashes, a deep friendship was born between Ralph and me. We disagreed at times on various matters, watched tennis and college football together, and had many dinners after hours of hard work while bringing prestige to the college. We were running a T32 training grant, an Oral Cancer Center, and a Minority Oral Health Center while building a Masters of Science (MS) Program in Clinical Research. I had almost 20 wonderful years with him.
Ralph was a fantastic teacher and thinker. His students and colleagues loved him. He was not well during the last several months of his life. Before he went to a health care facility, we enjoyed a meal in his apartment together. That was the last time I saw [End Page 1087]
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Ralph alive. I will miss my friend and senior colleague terribly. Below are some of his contributions to science, dental education, and minority oral health.
Ralph's Career and Contributions to Science and Training (Stefanie Russell)
Ralph began his academic career as an Associate Professor in the School of Dentistry at the University of Minnesota (where he had received his MPH in 1971 and his PhD in Epidemiology in 1976), after receiving his BS from Trinity College in 1965 and completing dental school at Tufts (DMD, 1969). Additional training and early work included two years at the U.S. Army Institute of Dental Research at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as Chief, Department of Clinical Sciences. In 1982 he was recruited to the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Connecticut as an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Restorative Dentistry, where he created a robust research program in Cariology and began training others in the field of Oral Epidemiology via a National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Research Service Award (NRSA) Training Program which he ran for 20 years. By 1993 Ralph (now a Professor in the Department of Behavior Sciences at UCONN) had become a leader in the Oral Epidemiology field—primarily in his work that created, validated, tested an index for root caries (1980–1996) and reported on rates of root caries in populations. However, I believe that Ralph saw himself as someone with a toolbox of epidemiologic knowledge and techniques that could be used to uncover the truth whatever the area; in Ralph's [End Page 1088] case...