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Dr. Sol Silverman dies at 88

August 27, 2014

By Jean Williams

Photo of Dr. Sol Silverman
Oral cancer pioneer: Dr. Sol Silverman addresses a standing-room-only crowd in 2003 during the ADA annual meeting in San Francisco.
San Francisco — Oral medicine pioneer, Dr. Sol "Bud" Silverman Jr., died Aug. 13 at age 88.

Dr. Silverman was a titan of modern oral medicine whose research led to major advancements in the treatment of oral cancer.

Highlights of his internationally prominent career include publishing more than 300 scientific articles, textbook chapters and monographs and earning the Margaret Hay Edwards medal from the American Association for Cancer Education and the Samuel Charles Miller Award for Outstanding Contributions to Oral Medicine from the American Academy of Oral Medicine.

The ADA awarded him the Norton M. Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research in 1996. He was an AAOM past president and past board president; a diplomate of the American Board of Oral Medicine; and the 1999 recipient of the AAOM Diamond Pin.

"He was one of the greats," said Dr. Michael Glick, editor of The Journal of the American Dental Association. "He was a role model. He was a phenomenal educator. He was our go-to guy when it came to oral cancer for many years. He actually put us, as a profession, on the map when it came to cancer, when it came to his research, his patient care, as well as the publications he did. He is a great loss."

A longtime educator, Dr. Silverman had a six-decade relationship with University of California, San Francisco. He earned his dental degree in 1954 from UCSF and maintained an academic career there through 2014.

Dr. Silverman served as a consultant on oral cancer issues for the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations. In 2002, he was principal investigator on a $1 million National Cancer Institute grant awarded to the ADA to fund a five-year program to provide continuing education for dentists to increase their roles in early detection and prevention of oral cancer. The grant supported a program called Behavior Modification, Dentists and Oral Cancer Control.

"It was an honor to work with someone with the stature of Dr. Silverman," said Jane McGinley, CAPIR manager of Fluoridation and Preventive Health Activities. "Without his driving desire to see dentists and dental hygienists take a more active role in oral cancer prevention, the ADA could not have accomplished its grant goal of holding more than 60 continuing education courses all across the U.S. in just four years."

Dr. Daniel M. Meyer, senior vice president, ADA Division of Science, recalled working with Dr. Silverman. "He was a true professional and gentleman in the finest sense. He was always willing to help, and always provided far more than was ever asked of him.  He was truly an inspirational leader and role model."

Dr. Cesar A. Migliorati paid tribute to Dr. Silverman on behalf of AAOM and the ABOM in a letter on AAOM.com. "He had suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on the left side of his body, but even in his last days, he was full of good cheer," wrote Dr. Migliorati. "He was 88 years old and was still active, both professionally and physically. Bud was a mentor, leader and inspiration for a large number of colleagues from the national and international dental communities and had taught and cared for patients at UCSF for over half a century during his illustrious career."

Dr. Silverman wasn't all-work-no-play. His colleagues remember him as ever-youthful—and with a wicked jump shot.

"He was a great basketball player and he was a great tennis player," Dr. Glick said. With a chuckle, he added, "He was very competitive. He could keep up with guys 50 years his junior. I saw the black and blue marks from the guys who played with him. There are some people who do that; they are very active into their late years, both physically and mentally, and he was both."

The UCSF School of Dentistry website reports that the school will accept contributions to The Sol Silverman Jr. Scholarship, at the request of his family. Checks may be sent payable to the UCSF Foundation to UCSF Foundation, P.O. Box 45339, San Francisco, CA 94145-0339 with a note identifying the scholarship.