UW School of Dentistry

Dr. Dolphine Oda to retire from faculty

Dr. Dolphine OdaDr. Dolphine Oda, one of the UW School of Dentistry’s most acclaimed and respected teachers in the course of her 37 years on the faculty, has announced that she will retire at the end of this calendar year.

Dr. Oda is Professor of Oral Pathology in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and director of the UW’s Oral Pathology Biopsy Service. She also holds medical staff appointments at the University of Washington Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center.

Dr. Oda has taught 14 predoctoral and postdoctoral courses. Her second-year course in oral pathology has long been a student favorite. It is one of the school’s most demanding, rigorous courses, requiring students to absorb an immense amount of information. Yet her clear, patient teaching style has made it one of the most popular sections of the curriculum. Typical student course evaluation comments include: “You have to work hard in this class, but the layout of her class and her expectations make you want to work hard. I absolutely love this class and Dr. Oda!” Also: “This is the best course I’ve taken at dental school.”

Her numerous awards include the UW’s Distinguished Teaching Award and the School of Dentistry’s Bruce R. Rothwell Distinguished Teaching Award, those institutions’ highest teaching recognition. In addition, she is recognized virtually every year as an Outstanding Teacher by the dental students, who frequently have invited her to be keynote speaker at two landmark events: graduation and the White Coat Ceremony, which marks the students’ transition to dental clinicians after their second year.

Outside the school, she has been a prominent figure in continuing dental education, teaching more than 130 courses and delivering more than 120 lectures to public dental practitioners in Washington, Alaska, Utah, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Chile, and Venezuela. In 2013, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oral Cancer Foundation.

As the longtime director of the UW’s Oral Pathology Biopsy Service, she has played a critical role in supporting medical and dental providers throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The service, which averages 6,800 new cases annually, provides consultation and tissue diagnosis to hundreds of practitioners along with hospitals and surgical pathology laboratories.

For 16 years, she authored the popular online Case of the Month series, a type of medical whodunit that invites practitioners to review a case history and diagnostic information and then try to choose the correct diagnosis from several possibilities. Aside from being intriguing, it gives providers current information on forms of oral pathology that they may likely encounter in practice.

With several dozen peer-reviewed publications, she has been an active and far-ranging researcher. Her interests have included epithelial cell carcinogenesis, cell culture, human papillomavirus and oral cancer, and chemical carcinogenesis.

Dr. Oda received a BDS from the University of Baghdad in 1975 and an MSc in surgical pathology from the University of Manitoba School of Medicine. Before coming to the UW, she taught at the University of Manitoba, Indiana University, and the University of California at San Francisco. She has also been visiting professor at Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala and the University of Chile and visiting instructor at Central University of Venezuela.

“Without question, Dr. Oda has established herself as one of the foremost teachers in our school’s history and as a cornerstone of the dental community,” said Dean André Ritter. “She is leaving a magnificent record, and we will feel her absence keenly.”

The school is seeking a new faculty member to teach oral pathology and manage the biopsy service, said Dr. Thomas Dodson, Chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. In the interim, the school is preparing to engage an academic oral pathologist to teach the predoctoral and postgraduate oral pathology courses, in person and remotely, pending the hiring of the new faculty member. “The pre- and post-doctoral students will continue to have an excellent didactic experience in oral pathology,” Dr. Dodson said.

He also said that the Virginia Mason Medical Center pathology team has agreed to continue reviewing biopsy specimens sent to the school. Virginia Mason pathologists have been covering the School’s oral pathology biopsy service for the last year and a half when Dr. Oda was unavailable.