Juliann Bluitt Foster, Trailblazer in Dentistry, Is Dead at 80

Juliann Bluitt Foster, an African-American woman, became a dentist at a time when only about 2 percent of dental school graduates were women and “maybe 2 percent of that 2 percent” were African-American, said Dr. Jeanne Craig Sinkford, a former dean of Howard University’s dental school.

Dr. Bluitt Foster made it her goal to change that. She would become a leader in the field, mentoring students and using her own career path as an example of what they could achieve, first as director of the dental hygiene department at Northwestern University’s dental school in 1967, then as assistant dean, associate dean of admissions and associate dean of student affairs. (The school closed in 2001.)

She was also the first woman to lead the American College of Dentists, a professional organization headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., outside Washington. She was appointed in 1994, when the organization was 75 years old.

Dr. Theresa Gonzales, the current executive director of the College of Dentists, said Dr. Bluitt Foster would often say, “It’s not enough to be the first; it’s just really important not to be the last.”

“If we were going to be making waves for people to follow us, we had to ignore some of the injustices that we encountered from time to time,” Dr. Sinkford said.

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