Following the recent death of Professor Raúl Caffesse (1938-2019), Niklaus P. Lang, his former student and colleague for half a century, offers a personal tribute.
On December 29, 2019, Professor Raúl G. Caffesse passed away after a short, but very aggressive disease, in his adopted hometown of Houston, Texas, USA.
The professional world, especially the periodontal community, has lost a very enthusiastic teacher, a very talented clinician, a devoted researcher, and – above all – a unique and kind human being. We all will remember him in our minds, as he was indeed a special character.
His life has been a devotion to clinical teaching and research on all levels of education. We remember him as a very passionate and lively lecturer who excited and enthused every student or practitioner who ever listened to his lectures. Up to this year, he taught continuing-education courses for practitioners and courses in periodontology on a regular basis at the Complutense University of Madrid.
His professional activities started in his home country of Argentina, where he belonged to the famous “Four Cs”: Carranza, Carraro, Caffesse, and Cabrini – four eminent professors at that time. In 1972, Prof Caffesse transferred to the University of Michigan where he served as a director of the postgraduate programme in periodontics under the auspices of Prof Sigurd P. Ramfjord.
As a graduate student, I had the chance to personally experience his talent as a teacher: he always tried to work with a student with full devotion and kindness. Even if you made mistakes, you were addressed in a respectful and positive way and he got his students to become highly competent clinicians by his personal engagement.
After the retirement of Prof. Ramfjord, Raúl Caffesse took over the chairmanship of the department. He had to fill big shoes, but he mastered this task with great zeal and success. After some years, he moved to Houston and the University of Texas, where he stayed until his retirement.
Finally, over the last dozen years, Prof Caffesse was a visiting professor of the EFP-accredited master’s degree in periodontology at the Complutense University of Madrid. In this role, he taught a great number of young colleagues. Besides transferring practical and clinical procedures, Raúl Caffesse was one of the few academic teachers who would convey a treatment philosophy based on biological principles.
'A tooth wants to live'
He was antagonized by the fact that oral implants have recently been flooding the field of odontology and was thus a great promoter of the maintenance of teeth rather than their premature extraction and replacement with implants. A famous saying of Raúl Caffesse is: “We must always remember that a tooth wants to live.”
Raúl was also a positive thinker. He liked to live and discuss issues with his colleagues. As a result of his achievements, Prof Caffesse received five honorary doctorates as well as the prestigious platinum award of the Spanish Society of Periodontology and Osteointegration (SEPA).
Raúl Caffesse leaves behind his charming and supportive wife Elena and three adult children, two daughters and a son. For those of us who were fortunate to know and work with him, we all have lost an unusually kind friend. We all wish his family well and a lot of courage in the effort to come to terms with this sad fact of life. We will commemorate Raúl Caffesse for as long as we live. He was a real role model for us both on the professional and on the human level.