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Recipe for Success: Dr. Craig S. Hirschberg Blends Practical Application With Inspiring Education

By Elisabeth Lisican 

Cincinnati-born AAE President Dr. Craig S. Hirschberg’s fondness for dentistry and endodontics stemmed from being good with his hands.

“Building things; art stuff – things of that nature.”

Still, there’s not always an obvious path from manual dexterity into dentistry, and one may wonder why he didn’t take up architecture. Dr. Hirschberg’s immediate family wasn’t in dentistry … but a cousin was.

“My mom’s cousin was an oral surgeon, who extracted a couple of retained primary teeth in my mouth, and it was a positive experience,” Dr. Hirschberg said. “Although I can’t say that I was sold on it at that point in life. I was probably in the first grade.”

Dr. Hirschberg excelled in the sciences – when you combine that with his hand skills, his destiny as a dentist started to become clearer.

“The more I learned about dentistry, the more it seemed like the right career for me,” he said. “You know, it was probably the year before I went to dental school, I had an abscess when I was on a hiking trip in Colorado.”

He added that “relief was a bottle of bourbon.”

“I saw what tooth pain can do to an individual. I made my first visit to an endodontist soon after that, and it was a pleasant and pain-free experience. So, when I was in dental school, I had for a long time thought that I might go back and train as a prosthodontist, because I really enjoy doing crown and bridge. But I had good endodontic faculty and enjoy doing the procedures, and I just thought that, hey, this might be for me.”

Dr. Hirschberg has been Chair of the Department of Endodontics at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine since 2013, where he also served as the Director of the Advanced Education Program in Endodontics until 2018. Dr. Hirschberg has been a Trustee of the Foundation for Endodontics since 2017. He has chaired and/or served on numerous standing and special committees for both AAE and the Foundation for Endodontics. Dr. Hirschberg is a past Director of AAE District II and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Endodontics.

New York Calling

Dazzled by the Big Apple, Dr. Hirschberg attended New York University College of Dentistry – with every intention of one day returning back to Cincinnati thereafter. But fate had other plans.

“I was accepted at New Jersey Dental School [now Rutgers] for their endodontic program in Newark,” he said. “And while I was there, I met my wife Eileen, who was a dental student at the time.  I married a Jersey girl and never made it back to Cincinnati.”

Dr. Hirschberg and his wife have been married for 38 years and together for 40. They have two children, and one grandchild.

Rutgers Family

Two dentists in a marriage has been an interesting dynamic.

“We actually at this point work together,” he said. “Eileen had a private practice in New York City for many, many years, and is now the Director of the Division of Operative Dentistry here at Rutgers.”

When they’re not working hard on the same campus, the couple can be found spending their leisure time in the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts.

But make no mistake, Dr. Hirschberg is as active as can be.

“I’m a bit of a of an exercise fanatic, and have been for a long time,” he said. “My day usually starts out in the swimming pool. On days that I don’t do that, you know, on doing some cardio; I’m on a stationary bike or something of that nature.”  Sadly, he has recently had to give up running.

He is considered by friends and family to be an excellent cook. Dr. Hirschberg could give you a root canal treatment and a top-notch bowl of Cincinnati chili on the same day.

“We do spend a lot of time entertaining, and you know, typical weekend evening at our house would be friends sitting around in the kitchen drinking wine while I cook,” he said.

What’s Cooking

So what’s his recipe for success as President of the AAE?

Firstly, he’s very interested in vital pulp therapy, which is no surprise, as he chaired the Special Committee on Vital Pulp Therapy. “It definitely could impact the way that we practice going forward.   I look forward to seeing more high quality clinical studies and watching how this develops.”

Beyond that and, spoken like a true educator, he would like to build on the AAE’s success encouraging young leaders to get involved early in their careers.

“I got involved with the AAE later in my career, influenced by Gary Hartwell, who was a great mentor of mine,” he said. “I really would like to see people get involved earlier in their careers.”

And spoken like a true educator once again – he also would like to see more endodontics taught by endodontists.

“We all know that there is difficulty in recruiting and retaining people in full-time academics,” he said. “I think we have a lot of potential in getting people involved in part-time academics, because you can still have a thriving practice. But we should develop programs to make people aware of what part-time educational opportunities are available within [members’] geographic area and help to create a pipeline into those programs. I think would be very beneficial to our specialty.”

Elisabeth Lisican is integrated communications manager for the AAE. She can be reached at