Phil Webster, “Father of Hospital Dentistry at UNC,” Passes Away

Dr. William Phillip (Phil) Webster passed away on Friday, June 21 at his home in Punta Gorda, Fla. He was 83 years old.

Webster, who retired from academia in 1991 as professor emeritus in the Schools of Dentistry and Medicine, led the way for the creation of hospital dentistry at the University. In the 1970s, he formed the first dental clinic at the North Carolina Memorial Hospital to provide dental care for patients with hemophilia and other coagulation disorders. He also is credited with helping to establish the UNC two-year postgraduate General Practice Residency program, which allows dentists to become trained in treating patients who have both medical and dental problems.

“He will always be considered the ‘Father of Hospital Dentistry at UNC,'” explained Dr. Lauren Patton, one of Webster’s former residents and chair of the School of Dentistry’s Department of Dental Ecology. “He established a strong relationship with the School of Medicine through collaborative pathology and hematology research and through development of the first outpatient clinical dental program to treat hemophiliacs. He helped grow the clinical dental program to also serve head and neck cancer patients, organ transplant recipients, patients with sickle cell diseases, those with HIV/AIDs, and many others with medical complexities that require care coordination with physicians. Many of us, me included, have immensely benefitted personally and professionally from knowing and learning from Dr. Webster.”

During his lifetime, Webster served on many national and international committees on blood coagulation. He held memberships in numerous distinguished dental and medical societies, and served as a chief consultant to the state’s chief medical examiner. Well-published and highly respected internationally, Webster published more than 100 abstracts, book chapters and articles, and presented on hemophilia at more than 25 national and international meetings. He conducted all of his higher education at UNC, earning his B.S. in dentistry in 1956, his D.D.S. in 1959 and his M.S. in pathology in 1968. Following completion of his D.D.S., he joined the UNC School of Dentistry faculty in July 1959.

Executive Vice Provost of the University and School of Dentistry faculty member Dr. Ron Strauss also remarked on Webster’s passing. “He was truly an influence on a whole generation of us: his students and fellow dental scientists and researchers. Phil changed the lives of his faculty, friends, residents, colleagues and students. He had a clear standard of integrity and quality, which was reflected in his life, as well as his clinical practice and scholarship. He knew just how to steer a sure course as demonstrated in how he conducted himself and sailed through both calm and turbulent waters and times. Few people have touched more lives and influenced a whole profession.”

Webster is survived by his loving wife, R. Ellen Brown; his twin brother, Dr. Paul D. Webster III; paternal half-sister, Paula Graham; four sons, Chris G., Mark A., Ronnie M. and Phil, 12 grandchildren, as well as three great grandchildren. Gifts in memory of Webster can be made to the Medical Foundation of North Carolina, Inc., Attn: Brock Matthews, Director of Development, 880 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, CB #7565, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514. Please write “UNC Hemophilia Treatment Center Fund” in the memo line along with Webster’s name.