Dr. Robert M. Phillips, 78, city dentist

January 14, 1999|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Dr. Robert M. Phillips, a West Baltimore dentist who a former patient said treated each client with the "passion, concern and respect they deserved," died Fridayof complications after a heart attack while visiting relatives in Newark, N.J.

A resident of the Village of Cross Keys, Dr. Phillips, 78, also was a strong advocate for educating low-income residents about proper dental care and having effective services available for them.

"He just enjoyed people and wanted people not to have a raggedy mouth," said his wife, the former Joan Hickman, whom he married in 1954. "But he really liked people and wanted to help them."

"We teased him that he must have had his hand in almost every black mouth in Baltimore City," she said.

Dr. Phillips practiced in Baltimore from 1956 until the mid-1980s, opening his first office at Edmondson Avenue and Monroe Street, and relocating in the mid-1960s to Edmondson Village Medical Center.

At Edmondson Village, he and an associate, Dr. Billy Davis, formed P&D Associates to offer dental services for reduced prices to low-income residents.

"I learned a lot from him," said Dr. Davis, who had known Dr. Phillips since 1960. "He was a teacher and a leader."

A mild-mannered, gentle man with a quick wit and picture-perfect smile, Dr. Phillips had thousands of patients over the years and developed a smooth rapport with them.

"He was always very warm and very compassionate," said Janet Woolridge of Baltimore, a longtime friend and former patient. "He had a good sense of humor."

One of Dr. Phillips' pet peeves was gold caps. The caps, he said, caused teeth to rot and other dental problems.

"He wouldn't do them," his wife said. "And he resented dentists who put gold caps on youngsters' teeth."

Born in Charlotte, N.C., Dr. Phillips received two bachelor's degrees -- one from West Virginia State College in 1941 and the other from Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina in 1950.

He served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946 during World War II and taught reading and writing to recruits. He graduated from the Howard University School of Dentistry in 1954 and completed his internship at the Jersey City Medical Center in New Jersey.

Dr. Phillips was a longtime member of the Baltimore City Dental Society, serving as its first black vice president in 1973, treasurer in 1976, and president in 1977.

In 1977, he was awarded a prestigious fellowship from the Academy of General Dentistry.

In his retirement, he received a gubernatorial appointment to the state Board of Dental Examiners, which allowed him to review the status of his peers and evaluate the Baltimore School of Dental Surgery.

He was remembered mostly for his love of dentistry and of people.

"He was the kind of person who considered each person individually," said Charles Spradley, a former patient. "The person who sat in his chair got the passion, concern and respect they deserved. He made a point to do that."

Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. tomorrow at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3200 Walbrook Ave.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Phillips is survived by a son, Robert M. Phillips Jr. of Pontiac, Mich.; three daughters, Stephanie Phillips-Philadelphia of Birmingham, Ala., Gail Louise Phillips of Baltimore and Melinda Johnson of Charlotte; two sisters, Mildred Alridge of Charlotte, and Helen Brooks of Gastonia, N.C.; and three grandchildren.

Donations may be made to the National Dental Association Foundation Scholarship Fund in Washington, D.C.

Pub Date: 1/14/99

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