In Memorial~Dr. Albert Wasserman, ADI Founder
Monday, July 21, 2014
Posted by: Stephanie Wilhelm
Dr. Albert Wasserman, Founder
Academy of Dentistry International
1921 - 2013
Dr. Albert Wasserman, well-known dental leader and an innovator in promoting continuing education worldwide, passed away December 26, 2013, in his hometown of San Mateo, California.
He attended the School of Dentistry at the University of California, San Francisco, graduating in 1943 with concurrent BS and DDS degrees. During an interview for a biography in 1980, he told me, “We started with seventy-six in our class and at the end of four years there were only twenty-one left. When we entered the class, the first teacher we had said, ‘Look on either side of you. By next year you won’t see the fellow on either side of you. The rest of you will be cable car conductors. Those of you that are fortunate enough to graduate will have really done something exceptional.’ So I made up my mind that I was really going to start from the very first day, day one, I was going to work exceptionally hard.”
Dr. Wasserman began his career after graduation as a lieutenant in the Army Dental Corps. “They stationed me in Texas,” he once explained. “I was a machine gun instructor.” After six months, he was promoted to captain and shipped overseas to the European Theatre of Operations to practice dentistry at the front lines.
“I was given a one man clinic… we were behind the lines. I had this dental unit that assembled like a Singer sewing machine, and this soldier, Private Skinner, to keep it going. It was pretty primitive. If I needed more or less speed, I’d say, ‘Faster Skinner, slower Skinner.’ That was the extent of my conversation with Private Skinner all day, every day.”
His wartime experience was the impetus to gain more knowledge in his profession. “There was so much benefit I received from continuing education,” he said when interviewed at the annual meeting of the Academy of Dentistry International in 2012, an organization he founded. “We started the Academy in 1974 but had been working out the bylaws and so forth for a few years before that. Actually, I came up with the concept years before, when I was in the Army,” he recounted.
Among the numerous fellowships received during his career, Dr. Wasserman first became a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry, in 1962. He later received fellowships in the Royal Society of Health, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American College of Dentists, the American School Health Association, the International College of Applied Nutrition, the International College of Dentists, the Academy of Dentistry International, the College of Generalists in Dentistry, the Pierre Fauchard Academy, the Society of Oral Physiology and Occlusion, and the Academy of Continuing Education. He was named a Master in the Academy of General Dentistry, in 1971.
In the early 1970s, Dr. Wasserman thought that he could make a difference in the world by bringing high quality continuing education to distant places. He approached the AGD to sponsor his idea. “They weren’t interested,” he stated in an interview in 2012, “so I started on my own. I was part of a lecture group sponsored by the University of California—UCSF—and went to the Philippines. I asked the dentists there if they would be interested in starting a group.” One thing led to another—that first group began and more groups were formed, springing out of Dr. Wasserman’s tireless efforts to make a platform for world-class continuing education. “I corresponded with a number of key people. The organization was officially founded in 1974. We went to France,” he continued. “I signed up one hundred people to meet with the French dentists. That was the first major meeting of the ADI. It was subsidized by the French government and they awarded me the Ordre des Palmes Académiques.
Dr. Wasserman maintained his busy private practice for forty-three years in San Mateo, California, a city he adored. He was an active member of the 17th District Dental Society of the California Dental Association, filling numerous chairs before and after his role as President in 1963. He founded the California Academy of General Dentistry in 1965 and was its president in 1965 and 1966. He later went on to become President of the Academy of General Dentistry in 1971. He maintained close ties to his school, serving as President of the University of California Dental Alumni Association and in many other roles throughout his career. He founded the Academy of Continuing Education, and was Regent, Treasurer, Vice President, Parliamentarian and President of the American College of Dentists and President of the California Board of Dental Examiners.
He believed in sharing his knowledge. Dr. Wasserman served as Clinical Instructor in Fixed Prosthodontics at the University of the Pacific, School of Dentistry and as a member of the Postgraduate Faculty for many years. He served his own alma mater as Clinician and Table Clinic Chairman in addition to his executive roles with the Alumni Association. He was a member of the dental staff at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco and Mills Memorial Hospital in San Mateo. He was a popular speaker and lecturer. His credits include lectures given as close to home as his own county dental association and his Kiwanis group in San Mateo, and as far distant as France, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
He published regularly, in such journals as the California Academy of Periodontology, the Journal of the California Dental Association, the Journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, the South Carolina Dental Journal, and the Journal of the Academy of Dentistry International, among others. He developed unique research and received a patent on hydraulics adapted to removable prostheses.
Though he was very active in his profession, Dr. Wasserman found time to be involved in his local and worldwide community, and his community loved him. He was President of the San Mateo Downtown Kiwanis, was named Kiwanian of the Year in 1978, received an Award of Merit for Outstanding Achievement from the San Mateo Chamber of Commerce in 1980 and was named Outstanding Dentist of the Year by the California Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Wasserman received the Gold Medallion and the Silver Eagle Award from the city of Nice, France and was named Chevalier De L’Ordre Des Palmes Academiques in France. He received the Presidential Award of Recognition from the Manila Dental Society and was made an honorary member of Journees Dentaires Internationales and the Japan Section of the Academy of Dentistry International.
When he retired from clinical practice, Dr. Wasserman remained active in organized dentistry. He received numerous awards, including the Medal of Honor from the University of California Dental Alumni Association, the Hillenbrand Award from the Academy of Dentistry International, the Pierre Fauchard Award from the Pierre Fauchard Academy of Northern California, the Founders Award from the Northern California Section, ADI. He was made an Honorary Member of Omicron Kappa Upsilon and was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 1992 by the University of California, San Francisco, School of Dentistry. In 1993, after years as a regent and roles as Treasurer, Vice President and Director of the ACD Foundation, he was named President of the American College of Dentists.
He spent a lifetime contributing to the profession he loved, serving his local and world community, and touched peers and patients alike with his sincerity, dedication and a sense of humor that wouldn’t stop. Dr. Albert Wasserman’s persistent spirit sowed seed that yielded several lifetimes of accomplishments in his full, active career. But despite that, he retained the spirit of a servant to his profession, was accessible and universally loved.
Dr. Wasserman always considered his family to be his greatest accomplishment. He is survived by his wife, Dunia; his three children: Robert—a musician and recording artist from Los Angeles, California, Bruce—a general dentist and writer practicing in Cody, Wyoming, and Cindy—also a musician and recording artist from Los Angeles, California. In addition, Dr. Wasserman was proud of his five grandchildren: Raechelle, Rebecca, Sara, Meir and Keren, and his nine great-grandchildren.
by Bruce A. Wasserman, DDS