DR. E. DAVID ENGST, DDS CLASS OF 1972, ORTHDONTICS CLASS OF 1977
Dr. E. David Engst peacefully passed away on Aug. 11, 2022 in Bellingham, Wash., surrounded by his sons, Adam and Cooper, and their wives, Magdalena and Anna. He died from interstitial lung disease, which he contracted from moldy living quarters while serving the people of the Philippines.
He was born on July 18, 1947 and grew up spending summers picking fruit in the orchards of Wenatchee, Wash. After graduating from Wenatchee High School, David attended the UW, which he thought was just about the coolest place on Earth. There he met Cathy, who would become his wife and mother of his sons, whom he thoroughly indoctrinated to be even more fervent Huskies than he was.
Following dental school, he served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. He hated being called “Sir” nearly as much as he hated the war. During his service, he developed a love for oral surgery, but he returned to the UW to become an orthodontist. Though his sons were his proudest accomplishments, his dedication to orthodontic artistry left the Pacific Northwest with some of its most beautiful smiles.
Dr. Engst wasn’t very good at retirement, and dentistry soon called him back into action, this time as a volunteer. Although he volunteered domestically at Interfaith Community Health Center and at Homeless Connect with his favorite dental assistant, his daughter-in-law Magdalena, his true passion was volunteering in the developing world. His work took him to some of the most remote regions of the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cambodia, and the Philippines, where many of his patients had never even owned a toothbrush, let alone been seen by a dentist. He spent years perfecting his own mobile dental clinic, all of which could be packed into five plastic bins and carried in the back of a 4×4 pickup. His medical-dental brigades found him treating street children in Cochabamba, Zapatista guerrillas in Chiapas, and indigenous Aeta people in the foothills of Mount Pinatubo.
He hunkered down in his clinic through a Honduran hurricane in a cinder-block basement in La Moskitia. He escaped a military coup by bribing a police officer to whisk him through Tegucigalpa’s maze of tanks and troops, barricades, and burning tires to fly out just moments before President Zelaya himself fled from the same airport. Dr. Engst, however, soon returned.
He found a notorious Bolivian prison a bit beyond his comfort zone and, after being held at gunpoint one too many times, moved his dental operation from the jungles of Latin America to the mountains of the Philippines.
Of all the harrowing adventures, he considered his first (and final) piano recital, at age 57, the most terrifying day of his life.
After 18 years of volunteering in the most dangerous and impoverished parts of the globe, he was presented with the American Association of Orthodontists Humanitarian of the Year Award by the winningest coach in college basketball history, Mike Krzyzewski. Following his acceptance speech, the legendary Coach K told Dr. Engst that he was his hero. Dr. Engst told Coach K that he didn’t know who he was, but that he seemed very nice.
Dr. Engst skied the slopes from Mount Baldy to Spirit “Molehill” Mountain, and sailed the seas from Bora Bora to the British Virgin Islands. The only thing that brought him more joy was teaching his sons to ski and sail alongside him.
In his final years, he split his time between performing oral surgery in the Philippines and extracting nickels and dimes from the ears of his grandchildren, Kiara, Giovanni, Jackson, Natalie, and Evelyn. He relished his role as abuelo. (Seattle Times)