UW News

April 15, 2010

UW Dentistry alumni to honor Dr. James C. McGraw

School Of Dentistry


Dr. James C. McGraw of Bellevue, Wash., has been named Distinguished Alumnus of 2010 by the University of Washington Dental Alumni Association.


McGraw, who received his certificate in endodontics in 1969 from the UW School of Dentistry, will be honored at the annual dinner of the Dean’s Club, the School of Dentistry’s organization of donors. The event takes place May 1 at McCaw Hall in Seattle.


“It’s humbling to be chosen to join the company of so many highly accomplished graduates of the School of Dentistry,” McGraw said. The award was given by popular vote of the Dental Alumni Association’s board of trustees, which includes representatives of every graduating class in the School’s history.


The association cited McGraw for his imposing record of service to the community, the dental profession and the School of Dentistry. He is a past president of the Washington State Dental Association (WSDA), American Association of Endodontists (AAE) and the Seattle King County Dental Society, and was also first vice president of the American Dental Association (ADA). He was a founding member of the Washington State Association of Endodontists.


“Nobody could deserve this recognition more than Jim McGraw,” said Dr. Martha J. Somerman, dean of the School of Dentistry. “I feel we are the ones who are truly honored by his association with us and support for our School.”


Outside the dental profession, McGraw is perhaps best known as the “zoo dentist,” a title he earned through three decades of work with Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. Starting with a baboon in 1970, McGraw treated hundreds of animals, in some cases being the first dentist ever to perform a root canal on a particular species. He also helped change the prevailing zoo veterinary approach of extraction to one of saving damaged teeth, allowing animals to lead healthier, longer and safer lives among their peers. He continues to serve the zoo as a member of its board, and also has been active in Scouting, Rotary and civic affairs.


No stranger to blazing trails, McGraw teamed with his wife, Jan, to build a pioneer road and homestead 80 acres on the South Fork of Eagle River, Alaska, in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. The log cabin the couple built by hand there still stands, now within Alaska’s Chugach State Park.


At the School of Dentistry, McGraw taught endodontics for 24 years. He also has mentored students, and he serves on the Ethics and Professionalism Committee, Admissions Committee, and Partners in Diversity Committee, which he helped found. He is also a Dean’s Club trustee and a member of the UW President’s Club and the Henry Suzzalo Society.


McGraw has also been Dental Director of the USA/USSR Goodwill Games, and served on the American Association of Endodontists Foundation, the ADA Relief and Disaster Funds Commission and the ADA Inter-Dental Specialty Council. He has been inducted into the Omicron Kappa Upsilon dental honorary society, and his other honors include the AAE’s Edgar Coolidge Award, WSDA’s Dentist Citizen of the Year, WSDA President’s Award and ADA President’s Award (along with his wife, Jan). He is also a Fellow of the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists.


After attending middle and high school in Hawaii, McGraw earned a B.A. in biochemistry from Texas Tech University in 1955 and his D.D.S. degree from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio in 1966.


McGraw has published numerous articles in dental journals and lectured on endodontics (both human and zoo animal) in the United States and abroad.


Retired from private practice since 2003, Dr. McGraw is an avid boater and wildlife photographer who has captured images of wolves in several national parks. His photos have been featured in such prestigious publications as Scientific American (“Lessons from the Wolf”, “Yellowstone Wolves in the Wild”), and have also won juried awards.