Dr. George Stookey, a global legend in the field of preventive dentistry and cariology at IU School of Dentistry (IUSD), died on Jan. 5, 2022. He was 87.
Throughout Dr. Stookey’s distinguished career, his innovation, creativity, scholastic achievements, and mentorship of junior researchers, significantly improved oral health across the globe and enhanced the scholarly mission and reputation of IUSD.
Dr. Stookey was born in Indiana and remained a Hoosier throughout his life. His early years on a farm prepared him for a disciplined and industrious life. Dr. Stookey received all his degrees (AB ‘57, MSD ‘62, Ph.D. in preventive dentistry ’71) from Indiana University. His career in dental research began at Indiana University (IU) Bloomington in 1957. Freshly graduated from IU’s baccalaureate chemistry program and in search of a summer job, he worked in the lab of Dr. Joseph Muhler, whose research with IU chemistry professors Drs. Harry Day and William Nebergall was on the cusp of developing the first successful stannous fluoride formula for caries prevention. This formula became the tooth decay preventing agent in Crest® toothpaste. What began as fluoride analysis in Dr. Muhler’s lab for $1 an hour became a lifelong intellectual curiosity about fluoride and caries diagnostics.
During his academic career at IUSD, Dr. Stookey held 17 IU academic and administrative positions, including as acting dean, executive associate dean, and associate dean of the school’s research mission . In 1981, Dr. Stookey became director of IUSD’s Oral Health Research Institute (OHRI) – IUSD’s research facility created in 1968 with patent royalties from the sale of Crest® toothpaste. Under his leadership, OHRI earned its reputation as a global innovator and leader in preventive dentistry research and oral health care product testing.
Over a six-decade career, Dr. Stookey produced more than 300 publications in professional journals, presented at more than 400 scientific meetings, garnered about $20 million in grants and contracts, and held 20 U.S. and foreign patents, and contributed to numerous textbooks and reference books.
Mentoring, training, and inspiring the careers of many young academic researchers are also among Dr. Stookey’s legacy.
“Dr. Stookey was a giant in the field of cariology,” said Dr. Angeles Martínez Mier, IUSD associate dean of Global Engagement and chair of the Department of Cariology, Operative Dentistry, and Dental Public Health. “Many of his studies on caries prevention and fluoride metabolism were seminal. The team he led brought distinction to Indiana as one of the cariology powerhouses in the world. Yet, I believe his greatest legacy was the young scientists he mentored; under his leadership, Indiana became a fertile environment for young talent. A quick glance at the leaders and groundbreakers in our field today shows how he identified and nurtured talent in those who trained under him. So many of us would not be where we are today were it not for the support and mentorship of Dr. George Stookey.”
After retiring from the IU faculty in 2001, Dr. Stookey founded his own research company, Therametric Technologies, Inc., which develops new technologies for the early detection of dental decay.
Numerous prestigious national and international organizations recognized Dr. Stookey’s innovations and achievements. In 2017, the American Dental Education Association recognized him with the William J. Gies Award, dentistry’s preeminent recognition, for his innovation in dental education. In 2021, Indiana University bestowed Dr. Stookey with its Bicentennial Medal.
Dr. Stookey’s obituary may be viewed online at Crown Hill Funeral Home & Cemetery.
IU School of Dentistry honors the life of researcher Dr. George Stookey, preventive dentistry and cariology legend
By: Leslie Flowers
Tuesday, January 11, 2022