In Memoriam: Dr. Warren Bennett

Posted on: Monday, 02/27/2017

Dr. Warren Bennett, a former assistant professor of oral medicine at the dental school, passed away on January 27, at 80 years old. UCLA hired him in 1969 and it is believed that he was the first African American dentist to serve on the faculty here. He left UCLA in 1981 after 12 years of teaching.

Dr. Bennett received his D.D.S. degree from Meharry Medical College of Dentistry in 1965 and was accepted to an Oral Medicine residency program at Philadelphia General Hospital. After completing this program, he was recruited to UCLA.

While maintaining a fulltime faculty appointment at UCLA, Dr. Bennett also served on a committee of the Angel City Dental Society that met with the deans of UCLA, USC and Loma Linda dental schools to address the lack of minority students in attendance and was able to recruit minority students from around the country to get accepted to these schools. In 1970, he instituted Project First Step to prepare minority students on many levels for success in their dental education and this program was replicated at schools across the nation. In addition to his teaching and outreach initiatives, he simultaneously earned a Masters of Public Health degree at the UCLA School of Public Health in 1973.

While he remained on the faculty at UCLA, Dr. Bennett was the first dentist appointed to the faculty of the Department of Community Medicine at Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School and was a founder of the Department of Oral Medicine at Martin Luther King Jr. General Hospital. In 1979, he obtained his license for private practice in the state of California, but was also active in the community as president of Southwest YMCA and served on the Board of Directors of the Watts Health Foundation.

Throughout his career, Dr. Bennett received multiple awards, including the Alan J. Davis Achievement Award from the Student Clinicians of the American Dental Association; Superior Performance of Excellence in Scientific Sessions from the National Dental Society; and the Distinguished Alumnus Award for Outstanding Achievement in the area of dentistry at Meharry Medical College.

During his retirement years, Dr. Bennett continued to mentor and encourage underrepresented minority dental students. He also found time to travel with his family to Mexico, where he ministered with the Medical Team, Inc. to residents of the barrios. He is survived by his wife, Bernadette, three children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.