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A Tribute to Louis M. Lin, DMD, PhD

The much respected and beloved Louis M. Lin, DMD, PhD, former postgraduate program director and chairman of the Department of Endodontics (1980-2000) at UMDNJ/Rutgers' School of Dental Medicine and chair of the Section of Endodontics (2000-2002) at UCLA School of Dentistry, passed away in 2020. Dr. Lin was a full-time tenured professor at NYU College of Dentistry since 2002 as well. He enriched the lives of all who were fortunate enough to have known him.

It’s clear Dr. Lin was much beloved, as evidenced by the outpouring of tributes received when compiling this piece. Please join us in honoring Dr. Lin and remembering him through the photo collection and heartfelt messages below.

In memory of Dr. Louis Lin.

Louis and I were close friends and colleagues. I had known Louis many years before we finally worked together at UCLA when he joined UCLA Section of Endodontics as Chair in 2000. His unique background as endodontist, pathologist and oral surgeon helped expand the horizon of this department. Needless to mention, Louis was an extremely kind and selfless leader. Faculty and students appreciated his kindness and were all benefitted from his leadership. Although he only spent two years at this school, we continued to collaborate after he moved back to the East Coast. With his strength in histology and pathology, we successfully published a good number of important articles. Our same root as immigrants from Taiwan further helped us stay closer and the friendship extended to his wife Betty as well. I would call him to chat whenever I felt great or bad about my work. I had the honor as a co-author to help complete one of his latest publications in International Journal of Endodontics which he was working on before he passed away. Louis’ lifetime dedication to his students, colleagues, and profession as well as his family while remaining himself in low profile reflects a characteristic of a great spirit that I for one aspire to be.  I miss our collaboration and friendship dearly, but his presence will continue to be in my thoughts. -George Huang, DDS, MSD, DSc; Professor, University of Tennessee Health Science Center

My relationship with Louis Lin began at joint meetings of our Advanced Education Programs in New Jersey. It did not take long to realize that Lou’s background in Oral Surgery, Pathology and Endodontics resulted in his extraordinary perspective of the link between biology and patient care. At NYU, I was able to closely observe his work with students. With a minimum of words Lou would demonstrate, guide and encourage students as they learned. He was infinitely kind, thoughtful, and wise with a subtle sense of humor. Generations of students learned from him and grew under his tutelage and they came to love him. Lou was a wonderful mentor to students and faculty. Being in his company was to experience scholarship and dedication at the highest level. Even during holidays, I have vivid memories of finding him at his desk, reading and cataloging articles. Learning was his passion and he continued the accumulation of knowledge throughout his career. Louis brought excellence to everything he touched. He will never be forgotten. -Paul A. Rosenberg DDS; Professor, Department of Endodontics, NYU Dentistry

I had the good fortune to be introduced to Louis by Jens Andreasen. Louis, at that time was expanding the “International Translational Research Group in Regenerative Endodontics”.  He had developed many friendships around the world who were also interested in biologically-based and evidence-based clinical outcome studies. Louis was an outstanding educator, researcher, and clinician trained in endodontics, pathology and surgery. Louis was extremely dedicated and had an encyclopedic understanding of the literature. He embraced like-minded others and was willing to share his knowledge and help people in so many ways. Louis was a giant in our field, passionate in his belief that we could do better, understand more and explore best outcomes.  Louis was a generous and kind man.  Most of all he was my friend. He is missed but more importantly remembered by all who knew him.  Vale, Louis Lin. -Bill Kahler; University of Queensland, Australia and International Translational Research group

Louis had incredible and inexhaustible enthusiasm which I particularly remember when  I was showing him the preliminary photomicrographs concerning the first available sample obtained in a human after successful regeneration procedures. I will never forget this moment. He was happy like a child receiving a long-awaited gift. We all were. With his warm and generous personality, Louis was always prepared to help colleagues from every corner of the world, especially those sincerely interested in biological matters. Louis was an outstanding researcher and educator. He was a virtual encyclopedia in the field of Dental and Oral Pathology and certainly an undisputed leader, but always  acted modestly, dispensing pearls of wisdom from the height of his boundless knowledge. He will be sorely missed. -Domenico Ricucci; Private practice, Italy

It has been such an immense and irreparable loss for me the departure of my dear professor and friend Louis. He was someone who had great human, intellectual, moral, scientific and professional values. He encouraged me to be an investigator since the day we met, and it is almost impossible to forget how in May 9 2015 I had the possibility to share an investigative award with him, Domenico and Simona in Seattle by the AAE. Ever since we shared more than just clinical cases, we also shared a great friendship. Louis inspired me in many ways; he helped me to construct a solid path in my investigative work. He offered me his great knowledge in different situations. I will continue to work to honor his memory. I maintained with him permanent, continuous and cordial communication until 1 month before his unfortunate death. It was always nice to see his New Year’s greeting. Always so attentive and so special with his friends ... Louis from heaven you continue to unite your research group and your friends for the benefit of endodontics, and for all of those great things you did, and for the inspiring legacy you left us. I want to thank you Louis. -Patricia Becerra Buitrago; University Santo Tomas in Bogota, Colombia and International Translational Research group

In honour of our respectable professor Louis, who taught us all a great deal whether on a scientific level or an ethical level. A man we can proudly and confidently say who, inspiringly, had impeccable charm and character. Our respect and appreciation for Louis’ continued valuable and wonderful efforts, his high moral principles and his distinguished scientific heritage will never diminish but only grow.
The wonderful days spent with Louis will never be forgotten! We will never forget his generosity, work ethic and all the beautiful memories he left for us! Thank you for setting an exceptional example of dedication, work, sincerity, ethics and unflawed reputation. -Tarek Saoud; University of Benghazi, Libya and International Translational Research group

On my first time to go abroad, I went to New York City (NYC) in 2014. As a Chinese visiting scholar for New York University, College of Dentistry. I will never forget the first day. I was so lucky to be introduced to a very kind-hearted professor---Dr. Louis Lin. During that time, we discussed regenerative endodontics together. Dr. Lin was very generous and I will always be very grateful to him as he has influenced my future career. After I returned to China, he was always supportive and doing his best to help me in clinical and research work of regenerative endodontics. That's why I was so lucky to join the translational research team in regenerative endodontics.  As a mentor, Louis was always modest and generous to other endodontists. For me, he was more of a father than an educator. Looking back on our correspondences, the most he said was "I will do my best to help you", even when he was extremely busy. These words made me deeply impressed and moved, which really inspired me to become a teacher sharing my knowledge and experience generously, and instruct the next generation of endodontists, just like my mentor Dr. Lin. -Jing Lu, Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, PR China and International Translational Research group

Dr. Louis Lin was not only a great professor in Endodontics but mainly a wonderful person. I was introduced by Dr. Domenico Ricucci, and we worked together on RET. I enjoined every time shared with him. His large knowledge about Endodontics with a biological point of view, led us to form an international group of RET researchers consisting of endodontists from different countries all working all together with Dr. Louis Lin. He had a huge impact on my professional life. Every time I asked him about some complex clinical situation, he answered me and supported his answer with scientific evidence. Thanks, Dr. Louis Lin. I will always remember you with my highest admiration and affection. -Dr. Gabriela Martin, Catholic University of Cordoba, Argentina and International Translational Research group

Dr. Louis M. Lin was a truly exceptional teacher, mentor, researcher and a great gentleman. His contributions in the past fifty years were remarkable and undeniable. For almost a decade, Dr. Lin has been my great teacher, mentor, father-figure and a role model at so many levels. He shall be forever in my heart and what he has taught me shall be passed on to others as he had been doing that for his whole life. May he rest in peace. With much love and respect. -Kamolthip Songtrakul, New York University

We first met Louis many years ago by chance in an Annual AAE meeting and since then we developed a very good friendship. Louis was a very intelligent, respectful, generous and good-humored person. We had the opportunity to meet several times to talk about diverse subjects, including endodontic ones. We also had the pleasure to share authorship of some papers with him. Two months before his illness, he had given us the honour of accepting an invitation to prepare a chapter for our upcoming book, which unfortunately he had not had the time to start working on. In the professional field, Louis´ contribution to endodontic education and science was remarkable. He wrote numerous insightful papers, many of them have become classic in the endodontic literature. His great intellectual and gigantic biological knowledge made him challenge several paradigms in our field. As both a good friend and an amazing professional, Louis will be sorely missed, but his name and work will always be remembered as an important part of the history of our specialty. -José Siqueira, Isabela Rôças; Grande Rio University, Brazil

Hello everyone -- I am very distraught over the passing of Louis, he was a true gentleman in all aspects of his life, gentle, understanding and willing to help in any way he could. He truly was one of the key anchors of our Department, helping all of us to remember the importance of basic science as it relates to endodontics. At the same time, he was very open to challenging the prevailing dogmas as evident with his more recent work on modified apexification and pulp preserving approaches. On a personal note I have no words to describe our interactions since I came here nearly nine years ago. From day one he was supportive and always asking what he could do for me, something I frankly did not expect of a person of his statue in the field of endodontics. I was just the novice that was trying to figure out what I was doing. We did sit down on several occasions, talked a bit about the state of the Department and endodontics in general and then drifted to whatever we were interested in at the time. Regrettably the last year I did not have as much time for these chats, however Louis would just step into my office now and then to tell me how happy and proud he was of our direction with the Department, something that truly meant a lot to me. And he was not only kind to me or my efforts because I know for a fact that he was to many of our students and junior faculty more of a father/grandfather than educator. Something he was very much aware of and happy to be. We all will miss our Louis, and remember him for the rest of our lives. He had an impact on so many both personally and professionally way beyond what he, the humble person he was, would ever recognize. I for one am better for knowing him. -Asgeir Sigurdsson. DDS, MS; Chair of Endodontics, New York University

Dr. Louis Lin graduated from Chung Shan Medical University in Taiwan in 1964. I graduated many years after. It was by chance I learned that Dr. Lin, a fellow graduate of Chunshan, when I applied to the US Endodontics program from Taiwan then. On the edge of the university reply letter, in small writing, he had written “I am from Chungshan, too”. For those who do not know the intricacies of dental schools in Taiwan, graduates from Chung Shan dental school back then were not expected to come to the US for further schooling. They were not meant to succeed and turn into giants in the endodontic academy field. Yet Dr. Lin did all of this, and more.  Dr. Lin was a unique combination of dentist, researcher, and educator. He was a virtual encyclopedia, but at the same time he was one of the most modest person and extremely generous to his friends. For me, He was one of the greatest minds in endodontics, authoring many classic papers, and he was a life-long teacher for many. He was also an astounding Clinician from his unique background of oral surgery, pathology and Endodontics.  However, to me, what Dr. Lin represented was beyond all of that. He was an example of what I could achieve as an endodontist and educator as a Taiwanese immigrant. Louis, I am so proud to share the journey with you for so many decades. I feel so privileged to come from the same country called Taiwan, Formosa, the beautiful island, Chungshan, the Dental school at the countryside of Taichung, and to share everything in Endodontics. Dr. Lin lives on in the teachings of myself and many others. -Jarshen Lin; Director of Predoctoral Endodontics, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard University

Dr. Louis Lin’s professional background was impeccable. With his credentials you would expect someone to be full of themselves. On the contrary, he was the most modest and humble educator/human being I’ve ever met. He would help anybody with anything, it didn’t matter. He had so many students who adored him. I believe the last time I saw him in person he was lecturing at the AAE meeting in Toronto. I was sitting next to his wife Betty before the lecture began. Louis came over and was worried that the lecture room wouldn’t fill up. By the time the lecture began, the room was filled beyond capacity and was overflowing in the aisles with people standing in the doorways to hear what he was saying. I believe I had the distinct luxury of being Louis’s only business partner.  Dating back to the early 1990’s. I remember saying to Lou when I finished his PG program, “ I would cut off my right arm if you would go into practice with me?” He took a day or so and with his incredible sense of humor he came back to me and said, “OK I’ll do it, but you don’t really have to cut off your right arm. But maybe the left one.” Those 13 years in private practice with him were a dream come true. I got to work with my mentor and become best friends. Like any relationship, I continued learning every day from Lou. Not only Endodontics, but more importantly his life lessons. He was the consummate professional. I’ve never met anyone before or after who was like that. I remember one of his endodontic friends was having some medical issues and he said to me, “Marc, lets go over to their office and finish up all their cases until they feel better.” And so, we did. It was as simple as that! He would share stories about when he was growing up in Taiwan, that his wealthy father would take him and his siblings to the toy store and buy bunches of new toys. Not for themselves, but for kids at the local orphanages. It wasn’t enough to just drop the new toys off.  Louis and his siblings would spend hours playing with the other kids at the orphanage opening the new toys and playing with them.  This led to valuable lifelong lessons for him. His teaching style was very easy, he just wanted to help. He loved to laugh, he exercised regularly, ate right and took care of himself. After we stopped working together, I stayed in touch with regular frequency. I remember going to dinner with him near his NYC home and I told him face to face what a tremendous impact he had on my life and on so many others as well and how thankful I was for him in my life.   He did not want to hear it, but I needed to say it. Thank God for Louis M. Lin and all the positive impacts he has given to me and the entire field of Endodontics!!! He really was a Gentle Giant in the true sense of the word. When I met Dr. Lin in late 1989, I never thought this mild-mannered man would change my life forever, but he surely did. He loved to travel and go to all the AAE meetings. The picture attached was with Betty (his wife), Dr. Lin, Dr. Correa and myself at the second Bahamian Dental Conference where he was lecturing in the late 1990’s. He was always presenting something new. He had his Endodontic friends all over the world, from Germany to Italy and Taiwan. I remember how excited he was to be one of the Key-Note Speakers at the Australian Endodontic Meeting in 2018. He loved what he did, and he literally worked up until the day he got sick last July. I know Dr. Huang and myself both nominated Dr. Lin for some of the AAE teaching awards while he was alive. He refused to allow me to nominate him again as he explained to me that his teaching was enough for him.  He did not need any recognition further than that. Louis, I beg to differ with you. There are so many of your students that are so thankful for all you have taught them in their careers and personal lives that even posthumously I’d like to see some recognition from the Endodontic Community be extended to you! I am forever grateful for Dr. Louis M. Lin!!! -Dr. Marc Gimbel, Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, Newark, NJ

I had known Dr. Louis Lin since I was a dental student in 1980s. Because I live in Tainan where it was Louis’ hometown, I had the privilege to become acquainted with his mother and brother. Louis was such a humble person with great compassion for his profession as well as for his colleagues and friends. For 30 years, he not only helped and invited Chi-Mei Medical Center Endodontic Department to participate in international clinical research, but also assisted me in co-publishing our collaborative works. For me and all the endodontists and dental students in Tainan, Taiwan, he was not only a highly respected teacher and mentor, but also a nice old friend. His professionalism and enthusiasm for being a clinician and a researcher continues to serve as a role model for me. I will always remember him. -Yea-Huey Melody Chen, DDS, MS; Chi Mei Medical Center, Taiwan

Louis Lin was a mentor and a friend. He moved through the world with grace and dignity. Louis was extremely dedicated to his scholarship. He had a unique perspective on endodontics given his scientific training, surgical training, and background in oral pathology. He was so intelligent and creative, which led to him having a lot of new ideas regarding the underlying biology of endodontic disease, and healing after disease resolution. Whenever he had a free moment when attending in the clinic he would pop right back on his laptop, writing and revising the next paper, getting that next idea out into the world.  He thought deeply about the science behind what we do in endodontics and was driven to express his perspectives through writing. He was especially passionate about regenerative endodontics and vital pulp therapy because there is such interesting biology underlying both of those procedures.  As endodontic colleagues, we have much to be grateful to him for. Despite all of his accomplishments in endodontics, he was a humble and generous instructor. He took his time with every student, and showed deep empathy for the patients and students who fell under his care. He was there for whoever needed him, every day. Although he gave us so much, I have no doubt he had a lot more insights he would have shared with us, if that time had been granted to him. His passing is a painful reminder of how much suffering and loss has been endured during this ongoing pandemic. I am so grateful to have spent the time with him that I did.  He will always be an iconic figure in endodontics, forever seared in my mind, the epitome of the gentle scholar.  Thank you, Dr. Lin for all you did for endodontics, for all of us. -Dr. Jennifer Gibbs, Harvard University

Dr. Lin was enrolled in the Endodontic Residency program at UConn 45 years ago. When he arrived, he had already been trained in oral surgery and oral pathology. It was like having an additional faculty member present. He was a tireless worker who used his skills and knowledge to spend his whole career in academic dentistry and private practice. -Michael H Rutberg. DMD, University of Connecticut

In July 1978, Louis Lin was in the final year of his endodontic program when Dr. Kaare Langland hired me as a Program Director at the University of Connecticut (UConn). Louis was a cherished chief resident and remained a friend and supporter of the UConn program after his graduation and during his illustrious academia career. A perfect gentleman and source of pride for the UConn family. We miss him very much.​ -Kamran Safavi, DMD, Professor, University of Connecticut

A little over a year ago, I had dinner with Dr. Lin and I remember seeing him get teary eyed as he beamed about how much he loved his wife and his son.  Dr. Louis Lin was not just an amazing book of endodontic knowledge full of passion for the profession we enjoy, but he was the consummate family man.  He was compassionate, understanding, knowledgeable, kind and was always willing to go the extra mile to help others. He was my mentor, father-figure, colleague and confidant. Dr. Lin, may you rest in peace knowing so many people you’ve touched love you so dearly.
-David Han, DDS, MS, UCLA School of Dentistry, Class of 2002

My relationship with Dr. Louis Lin dates back to the time of my residency at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in Farmington, CT. I was a resident and Dr. Lin was already a recognized researcher in endodontics. It did not take long to get to like and appreciate Louis! We both attended the annual Symposium on Endodontic Biology hosted by our endodontic Alma Mater, and shared social time at the alumni reception held  thereafter. My relationship and respect for Louis grew deeper when he became Chairman of Endodontics at UCLA. He was kind and appreciative of my work and lent me his support: in addition to securing office space for me, he bought me my very first personal computer for my office at UCLA! Our friendship continued to thrive after he returned to the East Coast and we saw each other regularly at meetings. It was an honor to co-edit the book “Endodontic Prognosis” with him. Louis was critical for assembling the all-star team for this work and I am forever grateful for this work-product and the friends I made along the way. A smart and kind person with a subtle and whimsical sense of humor, he was always a gentleman. A treasure. I will miss him greatly. -Nadia Chugal, DDS, MS, MPH, University of California Los Angeles

It is honor for me to write this tribute to Dr. Louis Lin. As the dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry, I recruited Dr. Louis Lin as the Chair and Professor of Endodontics in 2000. He was a gentleman, an excellent clinician, and a scholar. No one worked harder than Louis in our community, and he knew every aspect of dental education. When the school faced difficult matters, he always rolled up his sleeves and handled well those difficult, intense and demanding tasks. Our school has a community clinic in the city of Venice where dental students are engaged in patient care under the supervision of faculty. However, most full-time faculty members hesitated to travel to the community clinic for supervising dental students. Although he was the chair, he did not hesitate to travel for students every week. Louis also treated his faculty, residents, dental students and staff with respect. When he informed me of his departure for New York, it was very difficult for me to accept it. When we heard of his passing, we all were devastated. Louis was a beloved husband, father, an excellent educator and a true friend of everybody. I only worked with him for two years, I always felt blessed by knowing and being associated with him. I terribly miss Louis. -No-Hee Park, Dean Emeritus and Professor, UCLA School of Dentistry

My encounter with Dr. Lin began when I was a resident in the endo program at UCLA. Dr. Lin had incredible depth and breadth of knowledge in dentistry, beyond endodontics. He was able to quote almost every sentence of his teaching with the studies that supported the findings. It was truly a privilege to have a teacher like Dr. Lin, who had answers to all questions related to endodontics and who was able to show how to do things with his hands. At the same time, Dr. Lin was a humble, down-to-earth person, and a gentleman. After he left UCLA, he would send me greeting messages every year. When I see him at the meetings, Dr. Lin would always extend his greetings to my family. Up until the very end, Dr. Lin pursued his interest in research in endodontics, especially in the area of regenerative endodontics. He published several seminal papers in this area that shaped the scope of our understanding. Dr. Lin truly loved what he was doing and he did it until the very end. He will surely be remembered as a teacher and scholar in endodontics. However, in many of his students, myself included, Dr. Lin will be remembered as a good person ... someone you like to pick up a phone and say hello to. -Mo Kang, DDS, PhD, Professor and Chair, University of California Los Angeles

Compiled by George Huang, DDS, MSD, DSc