Bluitt, Julianne S. 1938–

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Julianne S. Bluitt 1938

Dentist, college administrator

At a Glance

Joined Northwestern University Dental School

Dentist Committed to Service

Devoted to Organizations


Juliann S. Bluitt is a doctor of dental surgery, a dental school administrator, an advocate of organized dentistry, a teacher, and an author. For over 30 years Bluitt has strived to advance the philosophy of comprehensive dentistry and total patient care for all citizens, particularly children, through dental education. The first woman president of the Chicago Dental Society and Northwestern University Dental Schools first full-time African American teacher, Bluitt is an inspiration to aspiring dentists because of her community involvement and high standards. Bluitt has opened doors not only for women and minorities to become dentists but also for advocates of the profession and patients. She told the Chicago Sun-Times, I may never pass this way again. Whatever good that I do, let me do it now.

Juliann Stephanie Bluitt was born on June 14, 1938, in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Stephen Bernard Bluitt, a hospital payroll clerk, and Marion Eugene Hughes, an elementary school teacher. Bluitt married orthodontist Roscoe C. Foster, a former Chicago Dental Society director, on January 27, 1973. They have two children, Barbara and David.

Growing up, Bluitt had wanted to become a veterinarian. The recipient of the Louis Ball Scholarship from 1955 to 1959, Bluitt graduated with a bachelor of science degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1958. In 1955, she received the Daughters of the American Revolution Citizenship Award. Bluitt had applied and been accepted to schools of veterinary medicine, but in the spring before she was to enter graduate school, she decided that she did not want to leave home. As there were no veterinary schools in Washington, D.C., she attended Howard University Dental School.

Bluitt told the Chicago Tribune, that when she enrolled in the dental school of Howard University in 1958, she wanted to do something I could believe in, to be independent, to have a challenge and do something that was different for a woman. I liked science and working with my hands. She was also driven by her desire to bring dentistry to people who did not have it, especially children. While the science of dentistry was her motivation, Bluitts childhood orthodontist was her greatest professional role model. He improved her appearance greatly with the braces he put on her teeth when she was a teenager. Bluitt stated in Ebony, I was highly impressed by the orthodontic care I received as a child. There was a wide opening between my front teeth-wide enough to fit in another tooth. And I was a finger sucker for a long time. So when I saw what my parents sacrificed for me to have this work done and the end results, I was amazed.

Bluitt had the benefit of studying bridge and crown work under Jeanne Sinkford, whose appointment at Howard University in 1968 made her the first female associate dean of any dental school in the United States. Bluitt

At a Glance

Full Name, Juliann Stephanie Bluitt; born June 14, 1938, in Washington, DC; daughter of Stephen Bernard Bluitt, a hospital payroll clerk, and Marion Eugene Hughes, an elementary school teacher; married RoscoeC Foster (orthodontist); children: Barbara, David. Education: Recipient of the Louis Ball Scholarship, 1955-59; Howard University, BS., 1958, Howard Univ. Dental School, D.D.S., 1962. Northwestern Universitys University College, certificate in personnel admin., 1984.

Career: Project Headstart, dentist, 1964-66; Chicago Board of Health, dentist in public schools, 1964-67; Northwestern Univ. Dental School (NUDS), dir. of dental hygiene, 1967-70, asst dean for auxiliary and community programs and patient relations, 1970-72, promoted to assoc. dean, 1972-78, asst. prof, NUDS Dept. of Community Medicine, Head, Office of Student Affairs and Dental Admissions, 1979-89, assoc. dean for student affairs, 1988-present.

Selected awards: Dentist of the Year, American Society of Dentistry for Children, IL Chapter, 1973; Amer, College of Dentists, fellowship, 1974; Alumni Award for Distinguished Postgraduate Achievement, Howard Univ., 1974; Citation Award, Phi Delta Kappa, 1975; Outstanding Service Award, Amer. Dental Assn. and Colgate-Palmolive Co., 1983; Outstanding Service to the Community and to the Profession of Dentistry Award, Howard Univ., 1988.

Selected memberships: Omicron Kappa Upsilon Honorary Dental Fraternity; LaVerne Noyes Foundation Fellow; Chicago Dental Society, president-elect, 1991, president, 1991-93; Amer. College of Dentists; Amer. Assn. of Dental Schools; Natl. Dentai Assn.; Federation Dentaire Internationale; American Society of Dentistry for Children; American Assn. of Women Dentists and others; served as a member of a variety of boards of directors.

Addresses: Office-Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Northwestern University Dental School, 311 East Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611.

received her doctor of dental surgery degree from Howard Universitys College of Dentistry in 1962. She was a LaVerne Noyes Foundation Fellow and a member of the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Honorary Dental Fraternity. Bluitt remained at Howard University for a few years to teach in the department of oral diagnosis.

The lack of access to medical services persists as a national concern, but the lack of access to dental care has proven to be even more acute. What is most alarming about the lack of access to dental services is that teeth problems are progressive in nature: for example, problems overlooked among children tend to worsen as they grow older. In an attempt to reach this underserved populace, Bluitt practiced with the Chicago Board of Health as a dentist in the public schools and in 40 free clinics in Chicagos Englewood community from 1964 to 1967. She also contributed her services to Project Headstart, a community program that took dentistry to Chicago neighborhoods during the summers from 1964 to 1966.

Joined Northwestern University Dental School

Bluitt was one of only a handful of African American female dental professionals who lived or practiced in Chicago in the 1960s. When the dean of the Northwestern University Dental School decided to upgrade the dental hygiene program to departmental status within the institution, Bluitt was chosen to direct the program. She joined the faculty in 1967 as director of dental hygiene and became the first full-time African American teacher at the Northwestern University Dental School (NUDS).

The transition from practicing dentistry on young children to educating older students to become dental professionals was very satisfying. In her new position, Bluitt was able to help train students to provide dental care for hundreds of people. Continuing her focus on improving the dental health of children, Bluitt guided the dental school in a comprehensive, community-oriented program of dental care. She sponsored several projects, getting the students to participate in dental health education programs involving children from orphanages, Upward Bound programs, churches, and the Jane Addams Center of Chicagos Hull House Association. The dental schools community program was also extended with a mobile van dental clinic facility.

In 1970, Bluitt was appointed assistant dean for auxiliary and community programs and patient relations at Northwestern University Dental School. The 1970s witnessed a change in many dental school curriculums, with added emphasis on the dentists responsibility to provide quality health care to the indigent community. Implementing one of the suggestions of the dental students at Northwestern, Bluitt instituted a free dental clinic on Saturday mornings as part of the dental schools program to serve the community. Students and faculty volunteered their time and services at the clinic, which accommodated an average of 20 patients each week. Bluitt arranged for guest lecturers to discuss community dental care. Under Bluitts leadership, the Peoples Clinic provided young patients with oral health rehabilitation and maintenance at very low cost. She designed and wrote the Hector and Timmy Coloring Book to motivate children and give them a sense of participation in the dental care process. These services were accomplished in conjunction with Bluitts responsibilities for the NUDS dental hygiene program and her other assignments as an assistant professor in the medical schools Department of Community Medicine. From 1972 to 1978, Bluitt served as associate dean of auxiliary and community programs for the dental school.

Dentist Committed to Service

A strong advocate for the health of the nations young people, Bluitt exhorted her colleagues to work for a national dental health program that would give priority to youth. The Ladies Home Journal, quotes her on this issue: At least for children [dental health] is a human right. Her efforts in this regard did not go unnoticed. In 1973, associate dean Bluitt was named Dentist of the Year by the Illinois chapter of the American Society of Dentistry for Children, and The Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts of America awarded her its Good Scout Award. In 1974, Bluitt received a fellowship from the American College of Dentists.

Approximately eleven hundred women in the United States were engaged in the private practice of dentistry in 1976, comprising 1.2 percent of the total profession. However, less than one percent of these women were African American. Bluitt is tireless in her efforts to recruit women and minority students for dental professions. From 1979 to 1989, she served as head of the combined Office of Student Affairs and Dental Admissions at Northwestems dental school. In 1970, only two percent of first year dental students were women, said Bluitt in the Chicago Tribune. By 1990 the figure was 38 percent, and by 2000 it is expected to be at least 40 percent. Bluitt has always believed that dentistry is ideal for women. She told the Chicago Tribune, Women have definite assets for this job. They have a sensitivity for people, manual dexterity, and an ability to work in a limited space.

Bluitt addressed her own continuing education needs by acquiring a certificate in personnel administration from Northwestern Universitys University College in 1984. As part of a university review in 1988, the NUDS dean gave Bluitt the task of developing a recruitment program and admission policies that would attract highly qualified students. In her new capacity as associate dean for student affairs, Bluitt supervises all aspects of the nonacademic life of students, including student government, counseling, housing, parking, health issues, and protection of student rights. In addition, she monitors the Faculty and Clinical Adviser programs, another important responsibility in assisting a diverse student body.

Devoted to Organizations

Committee appointments and consultant work require that Bluitt devote a great deal of her time and energy to a variety of institutions and organizations. At each stage of her professional development, Bluitt has published numerous articles in scholarly journals and given speeches and presentations at a wide array of medical, educational, and community forums on many aspects of dental health, dental education, and the dental profession. She was a contributing author to The Profile of the Negro in American Dentistry, edited by Foster Kidd (1979). She cochaired the dental education plenary session for the national workshop/conference on Black Dentistry in the Twenty-first Century, June 23-27, 1991, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1991, she completed a four-year term as regent for the American College of Dentists.

In recognition of her involvement in dental care and dental education in the city, Bluitt was inducted into the Chicago Womens Hall of Fame in December 1991. She was recognized for her work with children as a past member of the Chicago Board of Health and for her promotion of the Donna Olsen Peoples Clinic at NUDS. Bluitt has made numerous appearances on television and radio shows presenting information about proper dental care for young people, preventive dental concepts, innovations in dentistry, and careers in dentistry.

Bluitt became the first female to head the Chicago Dental Society (CDS) in the groups 128-year history, becoming president-elect in May of 1991. Her term of office lasted until 1993. As CDS president, Bluitt led the management team responsible for formulating policies and conducting business for the forty-five-hundred-member organization. The CDSs mid-winter meeting draws tens of thousands of dental professionals from around the world and is the largest gathering of its kind. During her presidency, Bluitt gave visibility to the overlooked problems affecting the general health and well-being of women.

In a statement on file at Fisk University, Bluitt summarized a career that is still evolving: What I have done, directly or indirectly, in fostering the delivery of dental health care for people, especially children, and impressing upon adults and children the importance of dental home care, has given me the greatest professional satisfaction. I have been involved in programs for adults and children, using various methods of communication to demonstrate and inform. Another area of major interest in which I have actively engaged is in the recruitment of minorities and women into the health professions. I have spoken at career days in schools, and to organizations stressing the advantages of a career in the dental health professions.

Bluitt no longer has a private practice but she continues in her position as associate dean for student affairs at NUDS and serves as a professor in the Department of Dental Hygiene and Community Dentistry at NUDS. She is a lecturer in the departments of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern Universitys medical school and teaches courses from introductory dentistry to dental ethics. Bluitts interests include travel, theater, the outdoors, golf, knitting, collecting crystal and porcelain, and domestic animals. She enjoys playing the organ and the piano. A woman with a warm wit, she fails to allow her hectic schedule to shatter her poise or ruin her enjoyment of life. According to the Chicago Tribune, One of her favorite anecdotes is about a woman who worried more about how her teeth looked than how they felt: She asked me just to clean the front ones because the back ones dont show.



Dummett, Clifton O., and Lois Doyle Dummett. Culture and Education in Dentistry at Northwestern University (1891-1993):, Northwestern University Dental School, 1993.

Hector and Timmy Coloring Book, American Association of Dentistry for Children, 1970.


CDS Review 85, June 1992, pp. 14-20.

Simplicity Keys Wedding of Drs. Bluitt, Foster. Chica go Defender, February 17, 1973.

Bluitt Makes Dental History. Chicago Defender, July 13, 1992.

Chicago Profile: Juliann S. Bluitt. Chicago Sun-Times, February 15, 1991.

Shes Fighting the Battle for Better Teeth for Every one. Chicago Tribune, April 1, 1973.

For Dentistry, Its the Brushoff-At Least for Now. Chicago Tribune, June 26, 1988.

Women Sinking Teeth in Dentistry. Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1993.

Dental Assistant, September 1974, pp. 10-12.

Ebony, March 1973, pp. 84-92.

Hygienists Association, Fourth Quarter, 1969, pp. 205-206.

Journal of the American College of Dentists, Fall 1991, pp. 24-26.

Journal of the American Dental Hygienists Association, Fourth Quarter, 1969, pp. 205-206.

Ladies Home Journal, September 1972, p. 78.


Bluitt, Juliann S. Curriculum Vitae. 1988.

Biographical information on Juliann S. Bluitt, including a questionnaire, is located in the Fisk University Library, Nashville, Tennessee.

Kathleen E. Bethel