“There will always be only one Peter Dawson” – Dr. Nitish Surathu (Guest Editorial)
Dr Peter E. Dawson, D.D.S., (1930- 2019) - a dental industry pioneer, who was globally acclaimed as one of the most influential clinicians and teachers in dentistry, passed away on 27th July 2019 at the age of 89. He will be remembered for his great contributions to the fields of TMJ, occlusion and restorative dentistry. In his illustrious career of over 60 years, Dr Dawson wrote and published five books, including the highly acclaimed “Functional Occlusion: From TMJ to Smile Design.” He founded the Dawson Academy in 1979, that has trained over 40,000 dental professionals globally on TMJ and occlusal principles developed by Dr Dawson. His work earned him the ADA Distinguished Service Award, the highest honour given by the American Dental Association’s Board of Trustees.
It's a great privilege to have Dr Nitish Surathu as the guest editor on Dental Tribune (South Asia) and pay his tribute to Dr Peter Dawson.
Dr Nitish Surathu completed his MDS in Periodontics in 1994. He is, by examination, an accredited Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. He is also a Fellow and Diplomate of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists. In 2009, he completed the New Zealand Dental Registration Examination process and now maintains a private practice in Gisborne, New Zealand.
A stellar clinician and a great speaker, Dr Nitish has lectured around the world on periodontics and dental implants. He has also travelled all around the world and interacted with most of the internationally acclaimed clinicians and educators, including Dr. Peter Dawson.
'It is my absolute privilege to be invited to be the Guest Editor for this issue of Dental Tribune South Asia and write a tribute to Dr Peter Dawson.
I first had the privilege of meeting Dr Dawson in October 2011 when I attended his very well known symposium on Functional Occlusion – From TMJ to Smile Design in St Petersburg in Florida. It was my first introduction to this great man and the Academy he had helped to found, based on his many years of hard work and research.
I remember being surprised when I finally met him. Somehow, I had unconsciously expected to meet a stereotype in my mind of a charismatic and dynamic man! And while Dr Dawson is certainly both of those in his own way, the quality that first struck me when I met him was his humble and down to earth nature. He was always a gentleman first, a kind man who had time for everybody who came up to him and soft-spoken words of encouragement for anyone who cared to listen to his words of wisdom.
There was never any sense of coercion or persuasion to ‘believe’ in his philosophy of care, only a humble sharing of what God had taught him in his life.
It endeared him to many and made him the influential figure he was in dentistry. And yet he never exploited that influence for any reason, commercial or otherwise.
Over the years I met him a few times, most memorably when he unexpectedly came in for an afternoon on a Comprehensive Examination and Records course at the Academy in 2012. By then he had slowed down with his speaking commitments as he was taking care of his wife.
I remember sitting and discussing the Piper classification with him and his lucid soft-spoken explanation that sorted several lacunae in my understanding. It was this kind of interaction that will always cause me to remember him as the human being he was first, before I think of him as a gifted dentist, author or speaker.
He modelled his faith and beliefs in every way and am sure he would rather be remembered for that, more than anything else.
As I write this editorial, am sitting with my good prosthodontist friend Dr Ali Tunkiwala in New Zealand and we both cannot help thinking of the influence he has been on our professional lives as well. Dr Dawson laid the foundation for much of what has come to be known as the field of Occlusion and Oral rehabilitation. There isn’t a prosthodontist in the world who will not acknowledge that, regardless of whatever philosophy of care they subscribe to.
In that sense, he was probably one of the single greatest influences on dentistry in this generation and there are so many who will proudly carry the torch of his legacy for many more that follow. There will always be only one Dr Peter Dawson.
We have lost a giant of a man but to paraphrase Newton, we will always see further because we stood and will continue to stand on his broad shoulders.'