Dental Health Crisis for Kids Prompts Oral Research Fellowship Print

Thomas H. Morton, ’75, and Kyoko Awamura, ’87, ’91, ’96, share a passion for children’s oral health.

Morton, a professor in the UW Departments of Oral Biology and Oral Medicine, and Awamura, a pediatric dentist in Bellevue and School of Dentistry clinical instructor, are troubled by statistics about oral disease in children. Children miss more than 51 million school hours annually because of dental illness, and children living in poverty suffer twice as much tooth decay as their more affluent peers.

Morton and Awamura, who are married and have a cavity-free eight-year-old son, believe more research on pediatric oral health is key to reducing childhood oral disease rates. To encourage this, they recently established the Pediatric Dentistry/Oral Biology Leadership on Children’s Oral Health Research Endowed Fellowship. The Faculty-Staff-Retiree Campaign for Students provided matching funds.

The endowment will provide assistance to graduate students in the School of Dentistry who are enrolled in the joint specialty/Ph.D. Program in Pediatric Dentistry and Oral Biology, and promote recruitment of graduate students in pediatric dentistry.

“We need leadership and research in the area of pediatric dentistry,” says Morton, who joined the UW faculty in 1975. “What we want to do is attract and support people who will stay in academics, and become leaders in children’s oral health research.”

Both Morton and Awamura wanted to show their gratitude toward the UW and the faculty that influenced their lives. Morton received his certificate and master of science in dentistry in oral pathology from the UW, and Awamura graduated from the School of Dentistry and earned a master’s in public health, master of science in dentistry and certificate in pediatric dentistry at the UW.

“I came to this country with nothing. Education got me where I am now and the UW played a big part in my education,” Awamura says. “This is my way of contributing, paying back for what I’ve received.”