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Honoring a Devoted Mentor

Tribute to Dr. Richard J. Sorbera provides for faculty development

How do you best recognize a beloved professor who taught the science and craft of oral surgery with patience, skill, and more than a dash of humor? For Maria Papageorge, D82, DG86, DG89, A12P, M18P, the answer was clear: set up an endowed faculty development fund in his name.

Dr. Papageorge, who is a professor, chair, and director of the advanced education program in oral and maxillofacial surgery, created the fund to honor Richard J. Sorbera, D.D.S., DG65, who died in May 2014. "Truly to the day he passed away, he was a vital part of this program,” Papageorge says. “He was involved in all aspects of it and was committed and loyal, to Tufts in particular, and to all his students. He loved to teach."

Sorbera was a clinical professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery for more than 40 years. “He taught me outpatient oral surgery, and he taught me general anesthesia and safe sedation, which he did, literally, to every resident who came through the program,” Papageorge says. Sorbera is remembered as a kind, humble, gifted mentor—and generous provider of doughnuts. For as long as any can remember, he brought the sweet treats every Tuesday to share with residents, students, and staff.

The endowed faculty development fund in Sorbera’s name will be used at the discretion of the chair. It will allow the department to train faculty in new surgical procedures, to send them to meetings to stimulate research development, and to encourage collaborative research with other institutions. "And that, in turn, benefits our residents and our patient care," Papageorge says.

The response to the fund by Tufts faculty and alumni speaks volumes for the deep affection many felt for Dr. Sorbera. The fund was set up in February and the $50,000 goal was surpassed by June. "I felt that he was such an inspirational force in this department that we had to honor a person like that,” Papageorge says, “and people responded."