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Longtime Chair of Pediatric Dentistry Dr. Peter Domoto Passes Away at 86

Dr. Peter Domoto
Dr. Peter Domoto

Dr. Peter Domoto, who served as a UW School of Dentistry faculty member for many years as a Professor and as the Chair of the UW Department of Pediatric Dentistry for more than a quarter of a century, passed away at the end of June.

Dr. Domoto earned his Certificate in Pediatric Dentistry from the UW, along with a master’s in public health, and he was one of our School’s most highly regarded leaders. His efforts to improve the oral health of underserved children were a hallmark of his tenure and helped him earn the UW’s Outstanding Public Service Award and Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award.

“Colleagues remember Pete as a person who never said no, whether it was to a research collaboration, or helping care for kids in the volunteer clinics,” said Dean André Ritter. “He was also an all-around amazing person, educator and pioneer in early childhood oral health. His passion for teaching health professionals, combined with his caring demeanor, made him a mentor to many.”

Dr. Domoto talking with former Dean Joel Berg at the Center for Pediatric Dentistry
Dr. Domoto talking with former Dean Joel Berg at the Center for Pediatric Dentistry.

Dr. Domoto served as the founding director of the dental clinic at the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic in Seattle’s Central District, a clinic that arose from the Model Cities Program in 1970 to address urban problems of poverty and race. This experience inspired his career-long focus on removing barriers to dental care for infants and children in underserved communities.

He spearheaded numerous research projects and treatment initiatives – including among children in Alaskan native communities, of migrant farm workers in central Washington and indigenous peoples of the Northwest. Long before community-based and service learning was commonplace in UW predoctoral student education, Dr. Domoto established partnerships across the state to establish such transformative teaching and learning experiences, many of which continue today.

Dr. Domoto reading to children, circa 1998
Dr. Domoto reading to children, circa 1998.

Dr. Domoto’s proudest professional achievement was the establishment of Washington state’s Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) Program, which evolved from an intensive project he led with Dr. Peter Milgrom to evaluate the oral health care of third grade students in 37 of Washington state’s 39 counties. The ABCD program became a national model for expanding comprehensive oral health care for infants and toddlers and continues to serve low-income families around the state.

In retirement, Dr. Domoto and his wife Sylvia moved to Camano Island, where he became involved with water quality monitoring and shellfish aquaculture. After many years in good health, he began experiencing health issues which led him to move into a senior living community last fall, followed by hospice. He retained his good spirits and wit until the end and passed away surrounded by family.

The Domoto family welcomes any donations to the Peter K. Domoto Fund for Children at the UW Center for Pediatric Dentistry, and to the Sound Water Stewards of Island County.