Tribute to a great leader
Bernard Caplan sadly passed away on 30 September 2013, aged 86. He was a very competent and caring clinician, and in the field of dental politics, was one
of the leading dentists of his generation.
Born in 1927, Bernard had a younger brother, Philip, and, during the war years, their parents, Effie and Dora, fostered a young girl called Ruth, who had
been rescued from the horrors of Nazi Germany.
In 1950, Bernard was in the last group of students to graduate from the Anderson College of Medicine, an honour he shared with other notables Charlie
Downie and Bob Caldwell. Following two years’ national service as a dental officer in the RAF, he proudly returned to his native Glasgow and to a career in
general dental practice. He had a brief spell as an associate in Partick, then established his own practice at Eglinton Toll. His patients still remember
the trademark fixture in the waiting room, a kids’ metal rocking horse!
Bernard was elected to Glasgow Local Dental Committee (LDC) in 1971; this sparked his interest and began a long and distinguished list of dento-political
achievements. He served as dental secretary to the LDC for 18 years and, in that role, became the public face and voice of the committee. He was a frequent
correspondent to the letters pages of various newspapers, putting the case for the dental profession, and a regular attender at the UK LDC Annual
Conference, chairing the event in 1982.
During this time, he helped negotiate the ‘Woodside Terms’ – a salary plus bonus scheme designed to encourage GDPs to work in the new health centres which
were then being developed. Bernard was the first dentist to work under Woodside Terms in the Gorbals.
Among dentists, Bernard had an unusually clear understanding of superannuation and the remuneration formulae of the NHS fee scale. Hence, he would spend
his leisure time answering calls from GDPs from all over UK, explaining these concepts to baffled colleagues. His expertise led to him being elected to
high office on many of the major BDA committees, including Rep Board, Council and the General Dental Services Committee Executive.
Dental education was another passion. Bernard was chair of the BDA Students’ Committee and was also instrumental in the establishment of vocational
training in Scotland, and in the foundation of the West of Scotland Centre for Postgraduate Dental Education within Glasgow Dental Hospital.
His career took another turn when he formed a partnership with his old pal Willie Kelly in his practice in Shawlands, where he spent the last 15 years of
his working life, retiring in 1992.
Even in retirement, he maintained his keen dental interest and looked after his former colleagues by acting as both trustee and minute secretary to the
British Dental Guild until only two years ago, allowing him to travel to London and stay at his treasured Royal Society of Medicine.
Bernard was honoured many times, including invitations to several royal garden parties, the prestigious Fellowship of the BDA and the honorary Diploma and
Membership of the FGDP(UK). However, it was recognition by his ‘ain folk’ that meant the most to Bernard – he was especially delighted to be elected
President of the BDA West of Scotland Branch in 1984.
Much as he valued his professional career, Bernard’s primary devotion was to his family and, in particular, to his beloved wife Yetta. They met as students
in 1945 and began a love which lasted 68 years, 62 of those as husband and wife. They had a passion for travel, with the early visits to Spain and Italy in
the 1960s leading to journeys much further afield, to the USA, Russia, India, the Far East and Australasia.
He is survived by Yetta, his brother Philip, three sons Ricky, Mervyn and Alan and their wives, and five granddaughters. He was particularly proud that
Alan followed him into the dental profession.
Bernard’s life and career were exemplary and he will be remembered with great respect and affection by his family and his friends, colleagues and patients.