Dr. Robert Gottsegen, born in New York on June 21, 1919 (died March 1, 2011), was a pioneer in the field of Periodontal Dentistry. An alumnus of Townsend Harris High School, Dr. Gottsegen graduated from the University of Michigan in 1939. Exhibiting his lifelong passion for art, he was the sports cartoonist for the college newspaper, and also studied set design. He entered the Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery (now the College of Dental Medicine) in 1940 in a program accelerated due to the War. He graduated in 1943. After an internship at Mt. Sinai Hospital, he served in the U.S. Army, where he earned a U.S. Army Commendation Medal, European Theatre of Operations. He then spent an additional two years as a Public Health Service/ N.I.H. Research Fellow in Dentistry. In 1947 he entered the first class in what was then known as the Advanced Specialty Training Program in Periodontics, also known as the “Certified” program.
Graduating in 1948, he started a private practice limited to Periodontics in New York City. Dr. Gottsegen became active in academics and organized dentistry almost immediately, holding offices in the American Society of Periodontists, the Executive Council of the American Academy of Periodontology, and serving as Consultant to the National Commission on Diabetes and as Director and later Co-Chairman of the American Board of Periodontology. He earned the rank of Associate Professor at Columbia University, then moved to the University of Pennsylvania as Postgraduate Periodontics Director before returning to Columbia to serve as Director of Postgraduate Periodontics. Dr. Gottsegen rose to the presidency of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) from 1970-71, receiving the Gold Medal Award of the Academy in 1988.
He received numerous other awards, including, Fellow of the AAP, Distinguished Alumnus Award of Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery, and the Isadore Hirschfeld Award of the Northeastern Society of Periodontists. He was a Fellow of the American College of Dentists and Fellow of the New York Academy of Dentistry. He was always interested in research, including diabetes as it relates to periodontal disease, systems of health care delivery and metabolic influences on periodontal disease. Above all, Dr. Gottsegen was a teacher and mentor to hundreds of students. His clinical demonstrations were works of dental art, and his knowledge of the relevant literature was encyclopedic. He was often in demand as a lecturer at other schools and in many foreign countries, presenting more than 650 courses over 38 years.
Dr. Gottsegen was a connoisseur of fine wines and dining. He had lifelong passion for travel, visual arts, music and theatre. Most of all he loved spending time with his six beloved grandchildren, Jessica, Liza, Sam, Ben, Kate, and Gardner. Dr. Gottsegen was predeceased by his wife of 54 years, Rita Gillette. He is survived by his sons David (wife Shelly), Daniel, and Jonathan (wife Mindy), and his practice partner and devoted friend Dr. Susan Karabin. A Memorial Service in his honor will be held at Zion Memorial Chapel of Westchester, 767 East Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck, NY (914) 381-1809, on Sunday, March 6 at 2:30pm. Contributions may be made in his honor to the Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery or the American Academy of Periondontics.
Published in The New York Times from March 4 to March 5, 2011