Mark Herzberg named School of Dentistry Century Club Professor of the Year

Mark Herzberg named Century Club Professor of the Year

Mark Herzberg

Mark Herzberg, DDS, Ph.D., was named the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry’s Century Club Professor of the Year at the Dean’s Recognition Reception on April 26, 2013. The award is the school’s highest honor, presented annually to one faculty member in recognition of outstanding service as a teacher and for significant contributions to the education, research and service mission of the school. With these selection criteria in mind, Herzberg, a professor since 1978 in the School of Dentistry’s Department of Diagnostic and Biological Sciences, was a perfect choice for the honor.

Mark Herzberg first became interested in dentistry while still in high school when he worked a part-time job shelving books in a medical library. Fascinated by some of the craniofacial publications he saw there, he decided to become…not a dentist…but an English major, earning a bachelor’s degree in literature and a master’s degree in English education, a field of study that would serve him well in years to come. After teaching for a few years, he returned to school to earn a doctor of dental surgery degree from New York University (1973), and both a specialty certificate in periodontics and a doctorate in oral biology from the State University of New York (NYU) at Buffalo in1978. It was a summer dental research fellowship while at NYU that helped steer him into dental research.

He arrived in Minnesota and the School of Dentistry in May 1978. Over the years, he’s served as a primary advisor for six master’s degree students and 16 Ph.D. candidates, as well as an advisor for 19 doctor of dental surgery students, nine postdoctoral investigators, and an untold number of summer students who worked in his lab, which has been described as a model of both diversity and interdisciplinary investigations. He is recognized by colleagues as having an insatiable passion for knowledge and an intense intellectual courage, and lauded by students as “the best teacher and mentor ever!”

They credit him for encouraging a “crispness of thought”, while his coworkers cite his willingness to share his passion for science, creativity and innovation. Lawrence Tabak, senior investigator at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) and Principal Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), says of Herzberg, “He taught me science, taught me how to deal with some complicated people, and tried very hard to teach me how to prioritize a work/life balance before it was fashionable to do so”.

A regular collaborator with other institutions and researchers, Herzberg is always happy to talk about and explore scientific questions with a unique ability to break down complex scientific data in a way that makes it refreshing and comprehensible for all. He’s been a member of numerous study sections, scientific review and advisory boards -- for such organizations as the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the Veterans Administration, American Cancer Society, and the University of Rochester – and a grant reviewer for government agencies in Canada, Sweden and Ireland.

Herzberg’s early studies as an English major have also come in handy. He served on several editorial and advisory boards for scientific publications and, for more than ten years, was editor of the Journal for Dental Research (1993-2004). During this time he elevated the publication’s impact, changing its reputation for the better.

At the School of Dentistry, he directed the Graduate Studies in Oral Biology Program (2005-2010) and the NIH-supported University of Minnesota Dentist-Scientist Award Training Program (1989-2003), and is the director of the MinnCResT program. Launched in 2002, MinnCResT has brought at least $15 million to the University to support student and postdoctoral investigators. Herzberg’s own NIH research – funded by that agency since 1987 – has attracted a total of at least $3.8 million.

Herzberg’s scientific breakthrough occurred in 1998 when he discovered a link between bacterial-induced platelet aggregation and coronary thrombosis, findings that were announced in the New York Times and generated nonstop phone calls and television interviews. Today, he investigates the body’s immune system -- specifically the antimicrobial mechanism of the naturally occurring protein calprotectin in oral epithelial cells that line the mouth and throat -- and the role they play in defending mucous membranes against infection. He also explores the role of these mucosal epithelial cells in HIV-1 infection.

In 2010, Herzberg was named associate director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and Director of Clinical and Translational Research Services for the Academic Health Center at the University of Minnesota. He joined the CTSI just as it was preparing its third application for an NIH award and worked to prepare the application for submission, an effort that led to the $32.5 million grant being awarded to the University of Minnesota. During this time he retained his appointment in the dental school and returned to the school fulltime in 2013.

Over the course of his 35 years at the School of Dentistry, Herzberg has been a member of the numerous University committees, including the University Senate, and dental school committees that deal with everything from research to space management and strategic planning, to promotion and tenure, and more. He’s consulted broadly and is a prolific investigator and writer, with pages and pages of citations for books, book chapters, monographs, abstracts and articles, many of them published in the very same journals he shelved during his high school job in the library.

Herzberg is the 46th recipient of the School of Dentistry’s Century Club Professor of the Year Award which was started in 1967 by (then) Dean Erwin Schaffer. He will be recognized again on May 16 at a celebratory dinner for all past Professors of the Year, and will lead the processional of faculty and School of Dentistry graduates into Mariucci Arena at the School of Dentistry’s 2013 Commencement Ceremony on May 17, 2013.

More about Mark Herzberg

Learn more about the Minnesota Craniofacial Research Training Program (MinnCResT), a unique program which aims to train the next generation of independent investigators exploring questions in craniofacial, oral health and dental research. Dr. Mark Herzberg serves as director of MinnCResT.

Dr. Mark Herzberg joins an illustrious list of professors given the Century Club Professor of the Year award, the highest honor the School of Dentistry can bestow upon a teacher. Herzberg joins such esteemed company as Dr. Raj Gopalakrishnan, who won the 2011 and Dr. Mansur Ahmad, who won the 2010 honor.

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  • Last modified on May 14, 2013