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First woman to serve as Chicago Dental Society president inspired others to follow dreams

May 10, 2019

By Mary Beth Versaci

Dr. Juliann S. Bluitt Foster Role model and pioneer: Dr. Juliann S. Bluitt Foster, the first woman to serve as president of the Chicago Dental Society, died April 17. Photo Courtesy of Chicago Dental Society.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina –– Dr. Juliann S. Bluitt Foster, the first woman to serve as president of the Chicago Dental Society, died April 17.

“Dr. Juliann Bluitt was an amazingly accomplished professional. She dedicated her adult life to the education of others in the dental profession,” said Chicago Dental Society President Cheryl Watson-Lowry, the society’s second female African-American president, in an obituary published in the CDS Review. “As the first female and African-American female president of the Chicago Dental Society, Juliann Bluitt inspired me and countless others to pursue our dreams without limitation. She not only served as a role model to so many of us but was also a pioneer in multiple arenas.”

The longtime dental professional died in South Carolina, where she moved after retirement, according to the obituary.

Dr. Bluitt Foster served as the president of the Chicago Dental Society from 1992 to 1993. During that time, she moved the society’s annual Midwinter Meeting to a larger location at the McCormick Place Lakeside Center, leading to an increase in attendance, the obituary stated.

Dr. Bluitt Foster previously had been the society’s Kenwood-Hyde Park branch director from 1981 to 1984 and branch president from 1985 to 1986, and she also served on countless society committees, according to the obituary. She was a member of committees with the American Dental Association and American Dental Education Association as well, and she became the first woman and African-American to serve as president of the American College of Dentists from 1993 to 1994, according to a profile published in the Illinois Dental News.

“While serving on the CDS board with Juliann, no one was more dedicated or prepared; her work was consistently superior, insightful and nothing short of profound excellence,” said Dr. William Kort, Chicago Dental Society past president and Dr. Bluitt’s immediate predecessor, in the profile. “I loved working with her and will always immensely value her friendship.”

Dr. Bluitt Foster was born on June 14, 1938, in Washington D.C. to Marion Hughes and Stephen Bluitt. After attending public schools in the Washington area, she headed to Howard University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in zoology and graduated from dental school.

After graduation, she taught in the college of dentistry’s department of oral medicine for a year before moving to Chicago and taking a position with the Chicago Board of Health. She worked there for five years, then joined the faculty of Northwestern University’s dental school as chair of the dental hygiene department.

Dr. Bluitt Foster held many other positions during her 31-year career at Northwestern, and she was the first full-time African-American educator at the dental school, according to the profile.

Dr. Bluitt Foster also served on several national committees, including the National Advisory Council for Health Manpower Legislation, Federal Drug Administration Committee and Advisory Council to the Director of the National Institutes of Health.
She was on the board of directors for Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico for 28 years, including five years as vice chair, and was the recipient of numerous awards, one of which was the American Dental Association Outstanding Service Award in 1983, according to the profile.

Outside of dentistry, Dr. Bluitt Foster’s interests included travel, golf, art, philanthropy and her pets.

She was married for 41 years to Dr. Roscoe Foster Jr., an orthodontist who also served on the Chicago Dental Society’s board of directors and within the society’s Kenwood-Hyde Park branch, including as president, the profile stated. Dr. Foster died in April 2014.

Dr. Bluitt Foster is survived by Dr. Foster’s adopted son and daughter, David and Barbara Foster, three grandchildren and one great grandchild.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Roscoe and Juliann Foster Scholarship program at Roosevelt University, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60605; Hospice of the Lowcountry, 7 Plantation Park Drive, Bluffton, SC 29910; or Northwestern University School of Professional Studies, 339 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.