Global Health Nexus, Summer 2001

Remembering Dr. William Greenfield

Dr. William Greenfield, a professor emeritus of oral and maxillofacial surgery and former associate dean for hospital, extramural, and international affairs, passed away in February at his home in Manhattan. He was widely known and admired as NYU Dentistry’s “Secretary of State.”

A 1952 graduate of NYU Dentistry, Dr. Greenfield rose to national prominence as a leader in oral and maxillofacial surgery, anesthesiology, and pain control before joining NYU Dentistry in 1976, where he developed an array of special programs in these areas.

He also initiated NYU Dentistry’s decade-long annual free screening program for New Yorkers in collaboration with WABC-TV; introduced essential dental care programs for underserved New Yorkers, including the elderly, the medically compromised, and the disabled; developed innovative programs in environmental protection at the College; and strengthened the College’s ties to organized dentistry. For many years he was also chief of the dental service and director of the advanced education program in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Bellevue Hospital Center.

In the mid-1980s, Dr. Greenfield led the effort to internationalize the College’s student body by pioneering programs to provide global access to NYU Dentistry’s intensive clinical training resources. During this period, he created affiliations with more than 20 dental colleges worldwide and positioned NYU Dentistry as the leader in international dental education.

A man of diverse talents and interests, he served as president of the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology, the New York State Dental Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the New York State Society of Acupuncture for Physicians and Dentists, the American College of Acupuncture, the Doctors’ and Lawyers’ Gun Club, which he cofounded, and the American Association of Military Surgeons (New York
section). A point of particular pride was his appointment as the only dentist on former Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s Commission on the Uses and Regulation of Acupuncture. He later chaired an NIH Consensus Conference on Alternative Medicine.

Although he stopped practicing oral and maxillofacial surgery a number of years ago, “He continued to do surgery on people’s careers,” as one colleague put it. Another colleague noted that, beyond his many professional achievements, Bill Greenfield “defined decency.” He will be remembered for his remarkable ability to guide the destinies of so many people around the world, and especially for his great diplomacy, kindness, humor, and wisdom.