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Dr. Vincent Kokich, renowned editor and educator, dies at 68

July 26, 2013

Dr. Vincent G. Kokich
Tacoma, Wash.—Dr. Vincent G. Kokich, editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics, died of an apparent heart attack July 24. He was 68 years old.

Known as Vince to friends and colleagues, Dr. Kokich had retired from private practice in 2010. He was a University of Washington School of Dentistry alumnus and a professor of orthodontics at the school dating to the mid-1970s.

Dr. Donald Joondeph, former chairman of the UW orthodontics department and a friend, hired Dr. Kokich to teach at the dental school. The two remained friends and colleagues for more than 40 years.

“I hired him when he was a student,” said Dr. Joondeph, a past president of the American Association of Orthodontists. “He was a few years behind me, and I became chairman of the department and hired him on the faculty when he finished his graduate program. He was outstanding as a student. He was the type of fellow that you knew that we had to do something to keep him in academics and research.”

Dr. Kokich became a revered leader and advocate for interdisciplinary dentistry. “He pioneered interdisciplinary treatment concepts—team treatment,” Dr. Joondeph said. “He was one of the very first.”

Dr. David L. Turpin, the Moore/Riedel Professor of Orthodontics at UW, witnessed Dr. Kokich's interdisciplinary treatment at work.

“Vince had the ability to analyze adult dental problems by recognizing each component of a malocclusion,” Dr. Turpin said. “Then he would turn to a group of the best specialists he could find for their opinions. He would essentially challenge each one of them to see the big picture—including the best of treatment approaches that each could contribute. This attitude forced each dentist involved to listen to all other approaches and to defend his or her own specialty in the process of arriving at a consensus plan. This was the beginning of a true interdisciplinary approach to treatment planning in dentistry.”

Dr. Kokich was appointed in 2011 as editor-in-chief of AJO-DO, the official journal of the American Association of Orthodontists. His accomplishments in orthodontics also included service as president of the American Board of Orthodontics and the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry. He was on the editorial boards of the Journal of the American Dental Association and the Australian Orthodontic Journal. He authored 21 book chapters, 84 scientific articles, 48 review articles and delivered more than 850 presentations nationally and internationally.

“What you have to know is that Vince was a unique individual,” Dr. Joondeph said. “He managed to juggle all these things, but he did them exceptionally well. He wasn't one of these people who just did things. He did them extremely well, unbelievably well. He managed to do a lot of things, but everything that he did was characterized by excellence.”

Other friends and colleagues expressed shock and sadness at Dr. Kokich's death and reflected on his life and many accomplishments in orthodontics and in academia.

“It's so totally unexpected,” said Dr. Gayle Glenn, president of AAO who practices in Dallas. “We were just attending a board planning session in California last weekend, and Dr. Kokich was very much alive and contributing and telling us about new things that he had on the horizon and making plans for several speaking engagements and planning conferences and things of that nature. So it was just a real surprise. A real shock. He gave very freely of his time and his expertise. His biggest goal, I think, was to elevate orthodontics worldwide.”

Dr. Lee Graber is a past president of AAO who practices in Vernon Hills, Ill.

“Vince's abilities and achievements were globally appreciated as he received the highest accolades, lectureships and awards,” said Dr. Graber. “Even as we mourn the loss of a colleague and friend, we can appreciate that his lifetime of contributions will continue to support the dental profession far into the future.”

In an announcement of Dr. Kokich's death on the UW School of Dentistry website, Dr. Greg Huang, chair of the orthodontics department, said, “The world has lost one of its finest people, and the orthodontic profession has lost one of its greatest talents. We have all lost a friend and colleague—someone who inspired us to dream big, to strive for excellence in all our endeavors, and, through his life, led by example.”

Dr. Kokich is survived by his wife, Marilyn; his mother, Helen; four children, Vince Kokich, Jr. (Michelle), Mary Boer (Alex), Obie Kokich (Lindsay) and Marija Kokich (Lance); and seven grandchildren.

A funeral is planned for July 30 at 11:30 a.m. at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Parish, 7112 South 12th Street, Tacoma, Wash., 98465.

Condolences may be sent to Mrs. Marilyn Kokich, 1018 Corona Drive, Fircrest, Wash., 98466-6519.