Bulletin of Dental Education

Dr. George Blue Spruce Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

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George Blue Spruce, Jr., D.D.S., M.P.H.

A.T. Still University Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health’s (ATSU-ASDOH) George Blue Spruce Jr., D.D.S., M.P.H., Assistant Dean, American Indian Affairs, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation Awards for Excellence in Social Mission in Health Professions Education. 

“ATSU congratulates Dr. Blue Spruce on his award and recognition,” says ATSU President Craig Phelps, D.O. “Dr. Blue Spruce’s service to our country and the dental profession is unparalleled. ATSU is honored to recognize him and Mrs. Blue Spruce on this special occasion.”

The award was originally announced in 2020 and presented virtually in April 2021 during the Beyond Flexner conference, co-hosted by A.T. Still University and Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. 

“[Dr. Blue Spruce] … has been recognized as the first American Indian dentist in the United States, and realizes that as a trailblazer he bears the responsibility of illuminating the health professions pathway for American Indian and Alaska Native children who are unaware this path exists,” states an announcement by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University and the Beyond Flexner Alliance. “He has dared American Indian and Alaska Native individuals to recognize the importance of dentistry, and his unique leadership has left a legacy of promoting social mission in health professions education.”

Dr. Blue Spruce, a member of the Laguna/Ohkay-Owingeh Pueblos of New Mexico, was born and raised at Santa Fe Indian School in Santa Fe, NM, where his parents were on faculty. He graduated as valedictorian of his 1949 class at St. Michael’s High School in Santa Fe, received his D.D.S. in 1956 from Creighton University School of Dentistry, and received his M.P.H. in 1967 from University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. In 1984, he received Creighton University’s highest alumni award, the Alumni Achievement Citation. 

Dr. Blue Spruce served two years in the U.S. Navy and provided dental care to the crew of the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine. Dr. Blue Spruce later joined and spent 28 years in the U.S. Public Health Service, with 21 of those years in the American Indian Health Service, where he attained the title of Assistant Surgeon General and Director of the Indian Health Service Phoenix Area Office, serving the 42 tribes of Utah, Nevada and Arizona.

In 1990, he was instrumental in founding the Society of American Indian Dentists and served as its president for 16 years. The position allowed Dr. Blue Spruce to continue his life’s work in the encouragement of American Indian individuals to pursue a career in dentistry and other health professions. He holds membership in numerous American Indian organizations, with missions to promote post-secondary education and health care careers. Dr. Blue Spruce was also the first male tennis player inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996.

His autobiography, Searching for My Destiny, was published in 2009 by University of Nebraska Press.

The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation Awards recognize leadership in promoting social mission in health professions education. Awards are presented in Individual Excellence, Program Excellence, Institutional Excellence, Lifetime Achievement and Rising Star. 

Courtesy of Jason Hunsicker, Social Media and Public Relations Manager, A.T. Still University

Published on July 14, 2021

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