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2 December 2022

Iain Chapple pays tribute to 'great periodontal scholar' Roy C. Page

Categories: Institutional, Science

The expression “giant in their field” is perhaps frequently overused for people who are truly exceptional in their area of work, but it could not be more apt to describe Professor Roy Christopher Page.

I was shocked to hear from Bonnie and Ken Kornman in a taxi to the airport in Istanbul on 11 September this year — almost two years after Roy’s passing — that the periodontal world had lost such a great scientist and such a wonderful human being. They themselves had only recently discovered that Roy had passed away on 29 October 2020 in Springfield, Missouri (USA), where he had moved from Seattle with his wife Patricia in 2016.

The reason was very simple: Roy had been suffering from dementia in his later years and had disappeared from the periodontal scene, and Patricia had sadly passed away on 17October 2020, just 12 days before her husband. As the last surviving member of his family, there was no one to transmit the incredibly sad news.

Roy C. Page was born on a farm and to a farming family in 1932 in Campobello in South Carolina, one of 10 children, and was the first in his family to attend university, the majority of his siblings remained running the farm, which was a substantial business. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kentucky (Berea College) in 1953 and went on to attain his DDS from the University of Maryland in 1957.

He spent time in the US Navy on USS Randolph, an aircraft carrier, and then joined the US Naval Reserves (1964-1978). In his career, he practised general dentistry as well as private practice in Seattle 1963-1998, obtaining a specialist Certificate in Periodontology in 1963 and his PhD in 1967, both from the University of Washington.

Roy had a huge intellect and a very innovative and enquiring mind, and he was awarded a Doctor of Science degree in 1983 from Loyola University in Chicago. He became Professor of Pathology and Periodontics in Seattle and had a tremendous ability to generate grant funding for his research into the pathogenesis and immunobiology of periodontal diseases, with over $40 million in funding during his career. While he is perhaps best known for his work with Hubert Schroeder in defining the immunohistopathology of experimental gingivitis (the initial, early, established, and advanced lesions) — which is still pertinent today — his work was pioneering in so many other areas of periodontal immunobiology.

Roy pioneered the PreViser risk-assessment system with colleagues, translating his fundamental research into practical application. It was Roy who described “rapidly progressive periodontitis” for the first time, in 1983, and he also defined neutrophil and monocyte defects in localised juvenile periodontitis. In 1994. he developed and evaluated early vaccines against P.gingivalis in non-human primates. Roy also developed a cadre of high-quality scientists and explored fibroblast phenotypes in gingival overgrowth as well as being a key driver of periodontal epidemiology with Paul Eke, establishing case definitions for population surveys of periodontitis prevalence. His achievements are vast, and he was showered with awards, including the IADR Distinguished Scientist in Basic Research in Periodontal Diseases in 1977, the William Gies Award in 1982, and Worldwide Who's Who Professional of the Year in Medical Research in 2012. Roy served as president of both the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) and the International Association for Dental Research (IADR).

I have fond memories of Roy and Patricia staying with Liz and I at our home in 2009 during his last international lecture outing before retirement and being amazed by his love and knowledge of music, opera, literature, fine wines, gastronomy, and gardening — his passion in his early retirement years was his garden in Seattle. Roy Page was an immensely cultured man, generous with his time, kind, humble and a great story teller. Above all, he was a true gentleman and one of the great periodontal scholars in the history of our discipline, if not the greatest.

The EFP therefore wishes to remember Professor Roy Page with great fondness and to recognise him for his humanity and his incredible contribution to the field of periodontology. Roy Page’s legacy lives on through his students and his published works.

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