USC University of Southern California

Ostrow School of Dentistry Mourns Clifton O. Dummett, 92

Clifton O. Dummett, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC, passed away at the age of 92 on September 7, 2011.

Born in Georgetown, British Guyana on May 20, 1919, Dummett studied at Howard and Roosevelt Universities before earning his DDS from Northwestern University in 1941. He went on to earn masters degrees in periodontics and public health from Northwestern and the University of Michigan, respectively.

Before arriving at USC in 1966, Dummett became Dean of the Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in 1947 (at age 28, then the youngest dean ever in the U.S.) before working with the Veterans Administration in Tuskegee, Alabama. In 1955, Dummett enlisted in the Air Force, serving for 24 years; upon his retirement in 1979 he had earned the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the Certificate of Merit. An unyielding advocate for social justice and equality for all people, it was his resolution in the American Dental Association House of Delegates that led to the lifting of restrictive membership within the organization. He also served the National Dental Association for 22 years as editor in chief and authored the book that recounted the history of the organization.

At the Ostrow School of Dentistry, Dummett taught dental history and led the Community Dentistry department. An internationally acclaimed author and researcher, he wrote hundreds of articles on dental history, public health issues, social and community issues, and more. His perspective on the importance of dentists’ ability to be sensitive to the needs of all people was at first controversial, but was gradually embraced by dental institutions throughout the nation – with USC emerging as a leader in the field of Community Dentistry.

Among the many academic honors Dummett received over the years were honorary doctorates from Northwestern and the University of Pennsylvania in 1976 and 1978 respectively, induction into the Institute of Medicine in 1972, induction into the Ostrow School of Dentistry Hall of Fame in 1997, and being named Distinguished Professor Emeritus by the University of Southern California that same year.

“The Ostrow School of Dentistry, and the profession of dentistry as a whole, has lost one of its guiding lights,” said Avishai Sadan, dean of the Ostrow School of Dentistry. “He was a consummate teacher, respected leader, and true humanitarian. His legacy and his philosophies have made a tremendous, lasting impact on our School.”

Services for Dr. Clifton O. Dummett are pending.