Members of the WFO Executive Committee were saddened to learn of the sudden death on September 30 of Dr. William R. Proffit, an orthodontic educator and prolific researcher who taught generations of orthodontic residents. Dr. Proffit was still actively involved in lecturing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill orthodontic residency program - and worldwide - at the time of his death.
Dr. Proffit began his research career at the National Institute of Dental Research after having received his dental degree from UNC, a PhD degree in physiology from the Medical College of Virginia and completing the orthodontic residency program at the University of Washington. He joined the faculty at the University of Kentucky in 1965, serving as the first chairman of the orthodontic department. From 1973 to 1975, he was a professor of orthodontics and chairman of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Florida.
Joining the orthodontic faculty of the UNC School of Dentistry in 1975, Dr. Proffit served as a professor and later became chair of the Department of Orthodontics – a post that he held for 26 years. He then continued to serve as an adjunct faculty member.
Author (with Dr. Henry Fields Jr.) of the widely used textbook, Contemporary Orthodontics, which has been published in 12 languages with the sixth edition printed recently, Dr. Proffit published more than 200 scientific papers and book chapters. He was also co-author of Surgical Correction of Dentofacial Deformity and Surgical-Orthodontic Treatment.
In 1992, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees honored Dr. Proffit by naming him a W.R. Kenan Distinguished Professor, which is considered one of the University’s most prestigious honors. His other accolades include:
● The 1994 American Dental Association Norton Ross Award;
● The 2005 American Board of Orthodontics Albert H. Ketcham Award; and
● The 2017 inaugural AAO Lifetime Achievement Award in Orthodontic Research.
“Orthodontics and orthodontists worldwide have lost one of their giants with the death of Professor Bill Proffit,” said Dr. Allan R. Thom, president of the WFO. “He was an inspiration to many - not only to those who worked at Chapel Hill, but to all who had the opportunity to read his papers, books and enjoy his characteristic slow drawl when lecturing. It is difficult to find the adjectives which are appropriate to describe such a teacher, researcher and innovator who had the unique ability to make complex topics interesting and logically simple.
“Dr. Proffit was also a friend of and supporter of WFO ideals,” added Dr. Thom. “We were delighted to have him as a lecturer at the 2005 WFOIOC in Paris, and as the WFO Lecturer for the 2010 WFOIOC in Sydney. Whilst we mourn the loss of Professor Proffit we will continue to remember and thank him for the ‘footprints’ he left behind. Whist many of us will never fill them, we continue to follow them as a pathway to enhanced patient care. Our thoughts are with Bill Proffit’s family."
UNC Is Accepting Contributions for an Endowed Chair Honoring Dr. Proffit
An endowed chair at the UNC School of Dentistry is being created in Dr. Proffit’s honor. To make a memorial contribution to the Dr. William R. Proffit Professorship, please send donations to: The Dental Foundation of North Carolina, UNC School of Dentistry, 1090 First Dental Bldg., CB #7450 Chapel Hill, NC 27566-7450, or click here to access the online donation page.
- Learn more by viewing Dr. Proffit’s obituary.
The American Association of Orthodontists contributed information for this article.