John S. Greenspan, BDS, PhD, a distinguished professor emeritus of Oral Pathology in the Department of Orofacial Sciences at UCSF Dentistry and world-renowned AIDS researcher passed away on March 31. He was 85.
Born on Jan. 7, 1938, in London, England, Dr. Greenspan earned a BSc with first-class honors from the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, and a BDS with honors from the Royal Dental Hospital School of Dental Surgery, University of London. He completed his PhD in Experimental Pathology at the Royal Postgraduate School of Medicine/Royal Dental Hospital, University of London. He obtained his MRCPath in General and Oral Pathology from St. George's Hospital and the Royal Dental Hospital in London. In addition to his PhD, Dr. Greenspan held an honorary degree from Georgetown University.
Dr. Greenspan's research career spanned more than five decades and included numerous groundbreaking discoveries in the field of oral medicine. He was particularly interested in the relationship between oral health and HIV/AIDS, and his work helped establish the field of oral HIV/AIDS research. His research also focused on oral cancer and the oral manifestations of autoimmune diseases and spanned epidemiology, public and global health and implementation science. Working with his wife Deborah, he became well known for the identification of the oral condition “hairy leukoplakia” early in the AIDS epidemic and identified a connection between the condition and the Epstein–Barr virus (EBV).
He was a distinguished professor of Oral Pathology in the Department of Orofacial Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, where, alongside Deborah, he co-founded and directed the Oral AIDS Center and the UCSF AIDS Specimen Bank. He also served as chair of the Department of Stomatology (now Orofacial Sciences), as associate dean for Global Oral Health and for Research and Graduate Education and as associate dean for Global Oral Health in the School of Dentistry. He was also a professor of pathology in the School of Medicine at UCSF. He was director of the AIDS Research Institute at UCSF and a Fellow of King’s College, London.
Dr. Greenspan served as president of both the American Association of Dental Research and the International Association of Dental Research and as chair of the University of California Faculty Senate. He was a recipient of many prestigious awards, including the American Association for Dental Research Distinguished Scientist Award, the American Dental Association Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Clinical Research, and with his wife Deborah, the UCSF Academic Senate Research Award in Translational Science. He was also a member of the National Academy of Medicine. In addition to publishing over 300 papers and four books on oral aspects of AIDS, oral pathology, and immunopathology, Dr. Greenspan was a sought-after speaker featured at many international meetings. He was an associate editor and board member of several journals and was a founding editor of the journal Oral Diseases.
Throughout his career and until the very end of his life, Dr. Greenspan remained a devoted teacher and mentor, inspiring and guiding generations of dental and medical investigators. He supervised or mentored over 120 physician and dental scientists. He was generous with his guidance and advice to those he mentored.
Dr. Greenspan is survived by his wife, Dr. Deborah Greenspan, their two children, Nick and Louise, and four grandchildren. He loved traveling, gardening and his exuberant labradoodle. His legacy will continue to inspire and inform the work of researchers and clinicians in the field of oral medicine and beyond for years to come.
Those who wish to honor John's life may do so by making a donation to the Greenspan Fund which supports promising young dentists in becoming UCSF faculty clinicians and researchers.
To donate online:
- Visit the Greenspan Fund giving webpage
To donate via mail, send check to:
- UCSF Foundation, PO Box 45339, San Francisco, CA 94145-0339
- Designate on the memo line that the gift is in memory of John Greenspan to support the Greenspan Fund.