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Sol Silverman Passes Away

August 14, 2014

Dr. Sol Silverman at UCSF Alumni Weekend.  The Palace Hotel, San Francisco, May 30th, 2014.Longtime UCSF School of Dentistry faculty member Sol "Bud" Silverman, Jr., MA, DDS, Professor of Oral Medicine in the Department of Orofacial Sciences, UCSF School of Dentistry, passed away on August 13 following a brief illness.

His career at the UCSF School of Dentistry began with the receipt of his DDS and spanned six decades.  A 1954 graduate of the school, Dr. Silverman joined the faculty the same year and began a life-long career in oral medicine, pioneering understanding of oral manifestations of cancer.

He counted among his mentors UCSF Dentistry Dean (and later UCSF Chancellor) Willard Fleming, who Dr. Silverman remembered in a video on the occasion of re-naming the UCSF Dental Center's 4th Floor Pre-Clinical Lab in honor of Dean Fleming.

Observes Troy Daniels (D'67), DDS, MS, Professor Emeritus (Recalled) in the UCSF School of Dentistry, Department of Orofacial Sciences, and UCSF School of Medicine Department of Pathology, "Dr. Silverman was an internationally recognized leader and teacher in Oral Medicine.  After graduation he immersed himself in the then-young dental specialty field of Oral Medicine with Professor Hermann Becks, and in 1957 he became a Diplomate of the American Board of Oral Medicine."

Daniels adds that during a sabbatical leave in 1963 he collaborated with Professor Jens Pindborg in Copenhagen, initiating a long and distinguished international reputation during which he published numerous original articles, book chapters and monographs.

Fellow longtime faculty member Richard A. Smith, DDS, describes himself as "a colleague and personal friend of Bud Silverman for the past 42 years," observing that "Under his stewardship, the Department of Oral Medicine and Hospital Dentistry flourished and developed an interdisciplinary approach to education, research and patient care; a framework that still stands today."

Dr. Smith adds that Dr. Silverman recruited many of the individuals that became leaders and still occupy leadership roles in the school, and that he was a major contributor to the transformation of the school "from a mainly clinical enterprise into one that maintained clinical excellence but also evolved into one of the premier research institutions in the United States."

On a lighter and more personal note "We had a nearly monthly poker game with Bud in which current and past UCSF faculty would participate" recalls Dr. Smith.  "We would first go have Chinese food out in the avenues, and then return to Bud’s house to play cards and watch sports on TV.  This floating poker game has been going on for at least 50 years.  Some of the past participants were celebrated department chairs, such as Gene West (Orthodontics) and William Ware (Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery).  Bud also loved to play basketball, and played on Sundays at the Millberry Union Gym." 

Distinguished and recently-retired emeritus faculty Drs. Deborah Greenspan, BDS, DSc(Med), ScD(hc), FDSRCSEd(Hon), DSc(hc), DDS(hc), Chair of the Department of Orofacial Sciences (OFS), Professor of Oral Medicine, and John Greenspan, BSC, BDS, PhD, FRCPath, ScD [hc], FDSRCS [Eng], Distinguished Professor of Oral Pathology, Department of Orofacial Sciences, and Associate Dean for Global Oral Health, write: "Dr. Silverman was a pioneer, an early leader in oral medicine science and care, and among a small group who put the field on the map internationally. His passing marks the end of an era, for he was perhaps the last remaining member of that generation still active. Yet in many ways his contributions live on through the work of his students and colleagues, the program at UCSF that he created, and in his legacy of applying scientific approaches to the understanding and management of oral, mucosal and related diseases."

Caroline Shiboski, DDS, MPH, PhD, Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Orofacial Sciences, writes “Dr. Silverman was revered not only by the generation of Oral Medicine specialists he trained (and I was privileged to be one of them), but also by his colleagues all over the world, and by his patients, who would at times fly across the country to see him.  He was incredibly devoted to his patients, and I remember as a resident being awed by his calm, down-to-earth yet confident demeanor, which would reassure the most anxious patients.  His perennial youthfulness also never ceased to amaze everyone around him, and his passion for teaching and for learning never seemed to fade with time."

Daniel Ramos (D'88), DDS, PhD, the Director of UCSF Dentistry's Oral Medicine Clinical Center, notes that Dr. Silverman, who founded the Oral Medicine Clinical Center in 1956 as the Oral Medicine Stomatology Clinic, was active there from 1956 until he fell ill just recently, "and he had one of the busiest clinic schedules of anyone."

Adds Ramos, "He trained a generation of oral medicine providers, including myself.  We all learned from him, and he lives on in all of us.  We're his legacy."

Another former student, and now colleague and collaborator, Piri Veluppillai, DDS, MS, writes "Dr. Silverman always had a large gathering around him: dental and medical students, residents, and even some faculty members, who followed him during his clinical consultations.  They watched him, in awe, as he worked as a healer; always keeping in mind the teaching, which was so important to Dr. Silverman, as well.   He cared about his patients so much that his home phone number was on his business card.  His teaching extended beyond the clinic and the laboratory to so many other valuable life lessons--about personal interactions, professional networking, and conflict management, to name a few. Needless to say, we all miss him immensely.  I am humbled and honored to continue his clinic, and be part of the great legacy he leaves behind at UCSF."

On the most personal note of all Bud’s daughter, Joan Silverman Thompson, PhD, RDN, CD, contributes, "My father maintained an amazing balance between his professional life as a professor of dentistry involved in research, publishing, teaching, service and advancing the field of Oral Medicine, and his family life; wholeheartedly supporting our education and celebrating the family (including three children, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren), and nurturing connectedness among all with annual family trips – just a great Dad."

Not only was Dr. Silverman a leader in his field but he was also an inspiration and mentor to his family. His granddaughter, Jessica K. Thompson, Pharm.D., adds, "My grandpa has been my idol for as long as I can remember. He modeled what it meant to have family, and how to establish tight-knit relationships, even from afar. He also demonstrated professional excellence, and was very encouraging and supportive of continuing education.  What most people don't know is that in addition to his basketball abilities, he was also a stellar tennis player.  I swore that one day I would beat him, but it never happened. He is truly an amazing person. I feel so lucky to have had such an all-around awesome grandpa. He will be greatly missed, but his spirit lives on forever."

Dr. Silverman received many honors and awards throughout his long and distinguished career, including the 1982 Samuel Charles Miller Award for Outstanding Contributions to Oral Medicine, American Academy of Oral Medicine; the 1986 American Academy of Oral Medicine Meritorious Award for Distinguished Service; the 1996 American Dental Association Norton Ross Award for Excellence in Clinical Research; and the 1999 Diamond Pin (highest award) from the American Academy of Oral Medicine.  In 1981 he was among the earliest recipients of the UCSF Dental Alumni Association Medal of Honor, and in 2005 he was named the Faculty Research Lecturer for UCSF School of Dentistry Research Day (now Research and Clinical Excellence Day).

Dean Featherstone asks that the school community join him in thanking and remembering Dr. Silverman as he might have wanted, by carrying on his great work in the clinic, in the laboratory, and in the classroom.  He gave a lifetime to the UCSF School of Dentistry and helped to make us who we are today.  We owe him an immense debt of gratitude.

It was Dr. Silverman's specific wish that there be no service of any kind.  His family has asked that cards and letters of condolence be sent to:

Joan Silverman Thompson
1516 Lakeview Way
Ogden, UT 84403

As requested by Dr. Silverman's family, if you would like to make a gift in his memory please consider contributing to the scholarship fund he established, The Sol Silverman, Jr. Scholarship, by sending a check payable to the UCSF Foundation to:

UCSF Foundation
PO Box 45339
San Francisco, CA 94145-0339

Please note that the gift is for the Sol Silverman, Jr. Scholarship.

Or, you can call Justin Marsh at 415/476-6476 to make arrangements, or to ask questions about giving.


Dr. Sol Silverman at this year's UCSF Alumni Weekend, celebrating the 60th anniversary of his graduation.