Commemorating Excellence: The Kramer Symposium

(Clockwise from bottom right) Dr. Richard Lazzara, Dr. Burton Langer, Dr. Ron Nevins, Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter, Dr. Paul Ricchetti, Dr. Serge Dibart, Dr. Luigi Montesani, and Dr. Phil Melnick
(Clockwise from bottom right) Dr. Richard Lazzara, Dr. Burton Langer, Dr. Ron Nevins, Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter, Dr. Paul Ricchetti, Dr. Serge Dibart, Dr. Luigi Montesani, and Dr. Phil Melnick

On October 24, 2013, the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) held the first Gerald M. Kramer Symposium on Periodontology, led by Dr. Serge Dibart, Chair of the Department of Periodontology and Director of the Advanced Specialty Education Program in Periodontics. Former colleagues, students, and acquaintances of Dr. Kramer along with other alumni, clinicians, faculty, and residents gathered in Keefer Auditorium for a day of reminiscence, commemoration, and learning. The day highlighted both the lasting impact that Kramer had on virtually everyone he came into contact with and his contribution to the strength and character of the GSDM periodontics department.

Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter addressed the attendees: “I cannot begin to tell you how much it means to me that our Kramer era alumni have returned to the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, at long last. You are and always have been important members of the alumni family and it is deeply gratifying to me to be your host for this important symposium, in honor of Dr. Kramer.”

Dean Hutter continued, “It is thrilling for all of us to host the first Kramer Symposium during Alumni Weekend 2013 and I trust that, with the support of our periodontic alumni, this will become an enduring tradition.”

Dean Hutter commended Dr. Dibart for all of his efforts in planning the symposium. He also thanked each of the featured moderators and speakers. He said to them: “Your presence and participation today truly honors your mentor and I know he would be proud to see you onstage today.”

Before introducing the first speaker, morning moderator Dr. Luigi Montesani reflected on the characteristics that made Dr. Kramer such an exceptional person. Even as only an acquaintance, Montesani was tremendously impressed by Dr. Kramer’s excellence and passion. Montesani noted that, in everyone’s experience with Kramer, “perfection was the common denominator.”

The first lecture was presented by Myron Nevins PERIO 67, who practiced and taught with Kramer for 30 years and co-edited with him the Journal of Periodontics & Restorative Dentistry. Dr. Nevins interwove reminiscences of his work with Kramer with clinical discussions in his lecture “Long-term treatment regimens for the periodontally compromised patient.” Nevins supported Montesani’s observation of Kramer’s continuous quest for perfection, and pointed out, however, that while Kramer viewed perfection as a goal, he himself never saw a case without a flaw. Dr. Nevins identified this as a part of his excellence and dedication to lifelong learning.

Dr. Nevins shared with the audience many of the valuable lessons imparted to him by Dr. Kramer. In his clinical discussion, Nevins revealed the great care that he and Kramer had for their patients as people. Before advising a treatment plan for a patient, he learned to ask, “What would I do if it were my tooth?”

The overarching message imparted by Dr. Nevins was the importance of long-term dedication to a patient’s total well-being. As Nevins put it, he and Kramer treated patients as if they were running a marathon with them, rather than a sprint. “That is,” said Nevins, “they ended up ‘marrying’ their patients.” He cited one patient who, when she began treatment, had children in prep school. Later, when he saw this patient, those children had children in prep school. “The hallmark of the BU program,” said Dr. Nevins, “was setting up a case for long-term care.”

Burton Langer PERIO 66 also had many positive memories of Dr. Kramer to share over his lecture, “Soft and hard tissue reconstruction: from teeth to implants.” He spoke of Kramer as a “role model in therapy” and likened his hands during clinical work to delicately flitting butterflies. He reiterated Kramer’s care for the patient as a person. “The BU mantra is to not only provide therapy, but to treat the individual.”

Paul Fugazzotto PERIO 81 presented a lecture, “Dr. Kramer: A teacher, a clinician, a philosopher and a paradigm for life.”  He conveyed the deep impact that Kramer’s teaching had had on him. Dr. Fugazzotto relayed one of a number of memorable words of wisdom that he has retained from his time with Kramer: “Our definition of success is limited by our perception of possibilities.”

After lunch, the afternoon moderator Phil Melnick PERIO 81 said to the residents in the audience, “This is a day you’ll talk about later in life.” Dr. Melnick likened the residents to “progenitor cells”: The residents would model themselves after role models in their field, such as Dr. Kramer, and carry on the GSDM tradition of excellence.

Reminiscences of Kramer continued through the afternoon lectures. The lectures were “Peri-implantitis: What do we know and can we treat it?” presented by Richard Lazzara PERIO 76; “LANAP, clinical outcomes in private practice after 4 years,” presented by Thomas Mone PERIO 77; and “Kramer’s inspiration—Thinking out of the box,” presented by Paul Ricchetti PERIO 78.

Following the lectures, the attendees were welcomed to share additional memories of Dr. Kramer.

Gordon L. Pattison PERIO 75 gave a moving reminiscence. He said that he was eternally grateful to Dr. Kramer as someone who had  changed his life. “Despite his elegant exterior, he was a very humble man and the kindest man I’ve ever met,” Pattison said. He described a time when he had been feeling down and Dr. Kramer noticed, took him aside, and cheered him up. Pattison described Kramer as a father figure and said, “In fact, I think we were all his children.”

Dr.  Montesani concluded the reminiscences by saying that the vivid memories of Dr. Kramer that had been shared throughout the day “proved that when you die, you don’t really die.”

Dean Hutter closed the program with thanks and appreciation. Although they were not able to attend the Symposium, he thanked Mrs. Sylvia Kramer and her children, Leslie and Lloyd, for their support and involvement in seeing the symposium come to fruition. Dean Hutter also thanked the special guests who were present: the Kramers’ niece Sandy Griffel; family member Dr. Peter Cahn and his partner, BU School of Medicine faculty member Dr. Donald Hess; and Dr. Kramer’s first secretary Annie Delli Santi and her husband, Tony. Additionally, he thanked everyone present for making the effort to be there to experience and hear the respect, devotion, and gratitude that Dr. Kramer’s students have for him to this day.

“Dr. Kramer’s legacy continues to impact residents and patients at the School every day and alumni and friends around the world put his legacy into practice each and every day in their offices,” said Dean Hutter. He continued, “Dr. Kramer was a founder of the field, and his efforts in building the Department of Periodontology at our School had a profound influence on our School. For the last 50 years, the department has been an internationally recognized leader in the profession, and his spirit and philosophy live on.”

Following the symposium, attendees gathered for a reception at the BU Castle.

Photos are available on Facebook (symposium, reception) and Flickr (symposium, reception).