Dental Pioneer Robert Lathrop Leaves Legacy of Service to Rural Communities

Kotzebue dental pioneer Robert Lathrop died on June 8, in Anchorage. He was 87 years old.  Lathrop worked for the Territorial Department of Health’s  Mobile Marine Unit on the ship MV Health, during the 1940s, traveling from Kodiak to Point Hope to provide dental care. During the 1950s, Lathrop worked for the Alaska Native Service in Barrow, establishing the city’s first dental clinic there. After that, he spent 10 years in Kotzebue providing dental care, often traveling by dogsled to give emergency care to villagers.

Lathrop received the Superior Services Award and the Oveta Culp Hobby award. He was recruited by the U.S. Civil Service to the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, where he spent the final years of his dental career working out of state.

Lathrop and his wife, Margaret, who also worked as part of his dental team, loved travel, and spent many years after his retirement traveling the globe. But he loved the Arctic, and often said the best year of his life was the one in which he and his wife lived in Point Hope, learning about living off the land. As a dentist, he touched many people, and taught villagers about dental hygiene.

Funeral services are planned in Anchorage on Thursday.  Memorials in Lathrop’s name may be sent to Aqqaluk Trust, Lathrop Dental Scholarship Fund in Kotzebue.

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