UW School of Dentistry

Dr. Travis Nelson named acting chair of Pediatric Dentistry

Dr. Travis Nelson, clinic chief of the University of Washington’s Center for Pediatric Dentistry, has been named acting chair of the UW School of Dentistry’s Department of Pediatric Dentistry, the school has announced. The appointment, which takes effect Nov. 1, is pending approval by the UW Board of Regents.

Dr. Travis Nelson
Dr. Travis Nelson

Dr. Nelson will take over leadership of the department from Dr. Thomas Dodson, who had served as interim chair since mid-2016. Dr. Dodson filled that role in addition to his duties as chair of the school’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. During this time, Dr. Nelson took on a significant portion of operational leadership for the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, which includes the Center for Pediatric Dentistry. As acting chair, he will oversee the pre-doctoral and residency programs, departmental operations, and human resources.

“Dr. Nelson’s performance as clinic chief and his dedication to the Pediatric Dentistry program have been exemplary,” said Dr. Gary Chiodo, the school’s interim dean, in his letter to UW President Ana Mari Cauce proposing the appointment.  In a message to the school, he added, “I am delighted that Dr. Nelson is assuming this critical role at a time of exciting growth and development at the School of Dentistry. He is a stellar clinician for some of our most complex patients and a truly valuable member of our faculty.”

Dr. Nelson has received wide recognition for a clinic he started at the Center for children with autism in 2012. It is believed to be one of the only dental clinics of its kind, and it has enjoyed significant success in treating these children while using behavioral techniques. Dr. Nelson and colleagues published a study of their findings in 2017 in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Dean Chiodo said that Dr. Nelson would play a key part in transforming the Sand Point clinic in Seattle’s Magnuson State Park that houses the department. The clinic is also shared by the Northwest Center for Oral and Facial Surgery, the faculty practice for the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. The dean said he plans to take steps to increase Sand Point’s existing clinical productivity and add a general dentistry faculty practice clinic there as well.

“With the leadership team of Dr. Nelson and Dr. Dodson in place, we are positioned to move forward with elevating this premier site to its highest and best operations,” he said. The Sand Point clinic, which opened in 2010, is a state-of-the art-facility with abundant free parking.

Dr. Nelson joined the department and the school’s faculty in 2010 as acting assistant professor. He was appointed clinical assistant professor in 2013 and clinic chief in 2016, when he was promoted to clinical associate professor. He also holds an appointment on the attending staff at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“I am thrilled with the strong commitment that the administration has made to the future of our program, and I am honored to be asked to serve during this critical time in our school’s history,” Dr. Nelson said. “We will work together to ensure that the University of Washington continues to serve the children of this state and graduates clinicians who are equipped to care for the most vulnerable patients in our region.”

A 2003 graduate of Walla Walla College, he received his DDS from Loma Linda University in California in 2007, then his master’s degree and certification in pediatric dentistry and a master’s degree in public health from the UW in 2010. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and has been a co-investigator on seven research grants and a principal investigator on two grants. He has also written or collaborated on more than two dozen journal articles as well as several book chapters and other educational materials. In addition, he is an ad hoc reviewer for publications including the Journal of the American Dental Association, International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, Special Care in Dentistry, and the Journal of Dental Education.