Dr Anne Haffajee - Obituary

Personal memories of an English Rose and a wonderful lady

It is with great sadness that I write this short personal memory of yet another great clinical scientist lost to the global periodontal community. Anne Haffajee passed away peacefully on Friday the 16th August in Boston, following a long battle with cancer; she was only 65 years old. It is almost 2 years exactly, give or take 11 days since we lost Sig Socransky, Anne’s great colleague and mentor.

Anne was a true Brit, born in Colchester in 1947; she studied at University College Hospital London, graduating in Dentistry in 1970. Anne’s husband Charles is an exceptional Cardiologist and Anne moved to Boston with Charles in 1976, where she joined the Forsyth Institute and worked for decades with Sig, changing the face of periodontal microbiology and making a truly distinguished contribution to clinical periodontology. Anne’s work was justly recognised by the award of “Distinguished Scientist” of the IADR.

Anne had a sharp intellect, a great sense of fun and above all she enjoyed life, managing to achieve all she did, whilst at the same time bringing up a family and maintaining a work-life balance. I met Anne in 1992, during my first visit to the Forsyth Institute, which at the time was on the Fenway in Boston. It was very clear during our discussions in the lab that Anne remained at heart very British, whilst appreciating and enjoying her chosen career and life in the USA. We laughed about the dreadfully narrow English country lanes that she hated driving through now, after so many years of US highways and freeways and we discussed skiing in North America. Anne was an expert skier and enjoyed the double black runs of Europe and the most challenging black runs of North America.

Two of my fondest memories of Anne are very different ones. The first was in 1995, when the Forsyth team were preparing abstracts for the AADR, and of course being British, I had quietly helped some of the team with their abstracts, prior to Anne and Sig’s scrutiny. Anne came into the lab one morning and summoned me over, to announce with a wry smile on her face, that I’d been rumbled, because I had spelled several words in “English English” rather than “American English”; she was the only one in the lab capable of solving that mystery. The second was dinner at the IADR in Singapore 1995, when Anne joined me and my colleagues from Birmingham UK and completely outclassed the male contingent with her knowledge of English football, and her ability to drink beer and remain elegantly sober until the evening ended.

However, besides being a very patient, wise and caring person, who mentored many young scientists from all over the globe, especially South America, Anne will always be remembered for her glittering career in clinical science. She leaves behind her two daughters and husband who meant the world to her, and she leaves the world of periodontal research and care a poorer place for her passing. Quite simply, Anne was a brilliant and a lovely person.

Thank you Anne for the science, and for just being you.

 Iain Chapple