University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Pioneering AIDS Researcher Receives Major Accolade

UCSF School of Dentistry Oral Pathologist Honored for Contributions to His Field

By Leland Kim | | July 25, 2012

John Greenspan, BDS, PhD, considers himself naturally curious. When he started seeing a rare form of cancer of the lymphatoid system in young San Francisco men during the early 1980s, he was intrigued.

"It’s called Burkitt’s lymphoma, and I thought this was strange,” said Greenspan, a distinguished professor of oral pathology with the UCSF Department of Orofacial Sciences, and the associate dean for Global Oral Health with the UCSF School of Dentistry. “We typically saw it in Africa. But in this country, we only used to see it rarely, for example, in immunosuppressed patients, such as kidney transplant recipients. So we ended up seeing one of the first AIDS lymphoma patients reported in the world."

His tenacity led to major research breakthroughs in the oral aspects of AIDS and the role of viruses in oral lesions.

In recognition of Greenspan’s work, the American Dental Association (ADA) this week named him the recipient of its 2012 ADA Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Dental Research, one of the top honors in the field of American dentistry.

"I’ve known most of the people who have received this award, and several of them are my personal heroes," Greenspan said. "So there is a tremendous sense of pride."

It is also a source of pride for the UCSF School of Dentistry.


John Greenspan, MD

John Greenspan, MD

"The award of this prestigious medal by the ADA to Dr. Greenspan not only recognizes his groundbreaking work but also sets aside UCSF and the UCSF School of Dentistry as an institution where such work is fostered and conducted," said John Featherstone, MSc, PhD, dean of the UCSF School of Dentistry. "It brings honor and prestige to both the recipient and to UCSF."