Dr. Steven Graff-Radford, an adjunct professor in the Section of Oral Medicine and Orofacial Pain at the UCLA School of Dentistry, died Saturday, October 15, in Los Angeles from cancer. He was 59.
Dr. Graff-Radford’s contributions to UCLA and the dental field are profound, his colleagues said. He came to UCLA in 1978 as a young dental school graduate from South Africa. He had been accepted to UCLA’s Oral Surgery Residency program and was exploring educational opportunities in the dental school prior to beginning his program.
He began studying temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and was interested in the way chronic pain was being treated at the UCLA Department of Anesthesia Pain Management Center. In 1982, Dr. Graff-Radford was offered a fellowship in pain management, which became his life’s focus. After completing the program, he began teaching and treating patients at the center and eventually became the education director.
In 1990, he approached the dental school administrators with a proposal to create an orofacial pain residency program. The program became the first residency program in orofacial pain in the world and became a model for similar programs. His program was so impactful that it became the example that the American Board of Orofacial Pain adopted for their board exam.
He later became the director of the Headache, Orofacial Pain and Sleep Apnea Program at the Cedars-Sinai Pain Center and also held an appointment as a clinical professor at the USC School of Dentistry. Dr. Graff-Radford had a distinguished academic career, receiving numerous grants and publishing in excess of 150 papers, chapters and abstracts.
Among his many accomplishments, Dr. Graff-Radford was the first dentist to become a board member for the American Headache Society. He became world-renowned in the headache community, and he helped to change the perception of dentistry in the medical community as it relates TMD.
Dr. Graff-Radford is survived by his wife, Natalie, and his daughters, Alexa and Kate.