NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Former NIDCR Director Slavkin Remembered

Slavkin smiles at the camera. He is bearded and wears a tan suit jacket and orange, blue and white-striped tie.
Dr. Harold Slavkin

NIH mourns the passing of Dr. Harold C. Slavkin, who died on Dec. 22 at his home in California; he was 85. Slavkin had served as the sixth director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) from 1995 to 2000. 

Slavkin was a pioneer in craniofacial biology and contributed to its emergence as a multidisciplinary field. His efforts led to advances in dental-oral-craniofacial research as well as other scientific disciplines. 

Slavkin arrived at the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) in 1995 from the University of Southern California School of Dentistry, where he was founder and director of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology. His studies focused on the developmental processes underlying several congenital and acquired craniofacial and oral defects. He also created and chaired the nation’s first Ph.D. program in craniofacial biology. 

A true visionary, Slavkin began long-term planning as soon as he arrived at NIDR. He created a strategic plan that broadened the institute’s research portfolio and led to the renaming of the institute in 1998 to NIDCR. 

Under his leadership, the institute took the lead role in producing the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in 2000. He also oversaw development of NIDCR’s strategic plan to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities—one of the first of its kind at NIH. Slavkin later expanded NIDCR’s efforts to reduce oral health disparities for conditions such as childhood caries and oral cancer. 

[See Slavkin reflect on his NIH experience in his own words for an NIDCR anniversary event in spring 2023,]

“Dr. Slavkin will be remembered as a brilliant orator who effectively communicated his passion for research, his deep commitment to training future generations and his fierce advocacy for health equity,” said NIH Director Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, in a statement to NIH staff.

Slavkin is survived by his wife, Lois, sons Mark and Todd, stepchildren Michael and Tracy, eight grandchildren and three great-grandsons. 

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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