Northwest Dentistry recognizes the passing of three very diverse Minnesota dentists, each of whom has left us a legacy of caring and sacrifice and a standard to aspire to. The editors would add please also see the editorial “No Greater Love” by Dr. William E. Stein. Dr. Stein was an early proponent of the work Dr. Stafne devoted his career focus to as well, and we all honor the work and celebrate the lives of these fellow professionals.
Dr. Eric Stafne
Dr. Eric Stafne, Forest Lake, died of cancer Wednesday, August 25, 2010, at the age of 75. A 1965 graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, Eric Stafne combined his periodontal practice with teaching and with a universally described passion to help patients stop smoking.
Dr. Stafne retired from full-time teaching at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry in 2000, but continued leading its Tobacco Cessation Program and Counseling Clinic through June of this year. He founded the programs in 1995.
From the very beginning of his periodontal practice, Eric Stafne observed that some patients responded well to treatment and some did not. This led him to suspect tobacco use played a role. Research has proved him correct.
The Tobacco Cessation Program included lectures and clinical experience to help dental professionals understand the issues and how to coach their patients to quit. Smoking causes many dental health problems, including mouth cancer and gum diseases. He believed it was not only dentists but dental hygienists as well who, because they were well positioned to help, could mentor willing patients about how to stop tobacco use. U of M Director of the Division of Periodontology Dr. Bashar Bakdash said, “Eric was a genuine pioneer. Programs like his are still a rarity in dental schools.”
Eric Stafne was born in Rochester. Following graduation with his dental degree, he became an Air Force dentist for two years, then returned to the U to specialize in perio, going into private practice in 1965. After 25 years in private practice, he turned to teaching full time.
Dr. Stafne was an active volunteer with the American Cancer Society, the Minnesota Smoke Free Coalition, and other groups helping tobacco users.
Eric and his wife Dorie Jean had two children and four grandchildren.
Dr. Ryan Arnold
Ryan Arnold, a 2004 graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, died August 2, 2010, four days following surgery in which he donated part of his liver to his brother Chad, who was in the final stages of liver failure. Ryan and his family lived in Watertown, South Dakota. He is survived by his wife Shannon, three young sons, his parents, and three siblings.
Said his brother, “This is a story about a man who is deeply convicted by his faith and because of that, what he did for me was just sort of a normal thing that he did for people. Ryan is the hero in this. The thing I have learned through all of this is that God writes the story. It is not my story to write. Ryan is the hero, and I am just playing my part.
Ryan is the real hero.”
Dr. Thomas Grams
Dr. Thomas Grams, a 1985 graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, was killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan August 5, 2010. He was 51.
A resident of Durango, Colorado at the time of his death, it was in 2000 that Dr. Grams started working with a number of charitable organizations to provide free dental care in third world countries. Following his retirement, he was spending at least five months of each year abroad in such countries as Nepal, India, Myanmar, and Guatemala. In Afghanistan he worked primarily with the Afghan Relief Organization and with Global Dental Relief. Each visit was for several months, either in Kabul or outlying villages. He helped establish a dental clinic in Kabul, assisted the local dentist with additional training, and provided dental services to the students at the school there.
Dr. Grams treated more than 25,000 persons through Global Dental Relief and was a candidate for the U.S. Citizen Diplomacy Award. He is survived by his parents and two brothers.