Global Health Nexus, Fall 2000

Philanthropy in the News
Practicing for Life: Dr. Maurice J. Oringer, ’28, a Man with a Plan

Dr. Maurice J. Oringer, a 1928 graduate of the NYU College of Dentistry, believes that dental students represent his personal legacy as well as the future of the profession. “With every student who graduates from NYU Dentistry,” he says, “I feel that my ideals of scholarship and service are being perpetuated.” A particular point of pride is the proactive education that NYU Dentistry students receive in the area of oral cancer. A crusader against oral cancer for over 50 years, Dr. Oringer recalls the profession’s longtime resistance to oral cancer exams. “The profession’s general attitude,” he says, “was that cancer is a serious problem. Fortunately, oral cancer is very rare.” “Of course,” he adds, “the oral cancers that were reported were almost invariably fatal, because by the time they were reported, the gates of mercy had shut tight.”

Although he was accused of scare tactics by his colleagues, Dr. Oringer persevered. In 1957, at the Greater New York Dental Meeting, he presented his first lecture on electrosurgery, a technique he invented, which permits dentists to remove suspected cancerous tissue for examination without the fear of spreading the disease through severed blood vessels. His lecture, “Electrosurgical Biopsy: A Safe and Simple Technique,” was covered in the New York World-Telegram “Science and Medicine” section.

In 1964, as a consultant to St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie—at that time the only hospital in New York to have an oral cancer prevention and detection clinic—Dr. Oringer was instrumental in developing the hospital’s oral cancer programs. That led to an invitation to present his electrosurgery lecture to the hospital’s surgery staff and to his role in helping to arrange an oral cancer seminar and conference cosponsored by St. Francis Hospital, the New York State Health Department, and the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Oringer continued to lecture extensively on oral cancer at professional meetings, including the 1978 ADA annual meeting in Anaheim and the 1996 Greater New York Dental Meeting. But still the profession resisted. “I know from personal experience how hard it is to change the profession’s views on the need for routine oral cancer exams. That is why I believe so strongly in what NYU Dentistry is doing to focus national attention on the disease, and I am thrilled by the results I’ve seen in terms of the profession’s response. It has taken the weight of a consortium of institutions, led by NYU Dentistry, to bring about this change.”

Recently, Dr. Oringer shared his pride in his alma mater by establishing the Dr. Maurice J. Oringer Scholarship Fund at the College of Dentistry. “Students,” he insists, “should be able to apply themselves 100 percent to their dental studies without suffering under the weight of horrendous financial debt, part-time jobs, and other distractions.”

Dr. Oringer made his gift by contributing to an NYU gift annuity, a charitable gift arrangement that will pay him a high rate of income. Because he made his gift with appreciated stock, he avoided the upfront capital gains tax he would have paid if he had sold and reinvested the stock, thereby making this an especially tax-wise gift. Moreover, the entire value of the stock is available through the gift annuity to earn income for Dr. Oringer. All in all, as Dr. Oringer says, “the many advantages of the gift annuity let me invest in myself even while I invest in students.”