Dr. Thomas "Thom" Charles Dumsha, a former University of Maryland dentistry professor and root canal authority, died of pancreatic cancer Thursday at his home in Ellicott City. He was 55.
Born in Catonsville, Dr. Dumsha graduated from Mount St. Joseph High School in 1969. He went on to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County for an undergraduate degree, which he earned in 1973.
He received his doctorate from the University of Maryland Dental School. He also earned master's degrees in physiology and information systems.
Dr. Dumsha was internationally recognized as an expert on endodontic trauma, or root canal treatment.
He became a University of Maryland professor in 1981, teaching for more than two decades until his retirement in 2005. In his last four years with the university, he was chairman of the endodontic department.
Dr. Dumsha's career was a dream come true for his father.
"His father had a dream that he would have a son and his son would be a dentist," said Dr. Dumsha's wife of 20 years, Carol Lynn Dumsha.
Dr. Dumsha's father, Albert C. Dumsha, a buyer for Baltimore's Hochschild Kohn department store, died five days before his son.
Dr. Dumsha, the author of three dental textbooks, traveled the world lecturing about root canals.
After Dr. Dumsha left the University of Maryland, he and his wife, a dental hygienist whom he met at the university, opened a practice in Columbia. It was open for a year, until he became too sick to practice. They closed the practice in November.
"It was always our dream that when he retired, he and I would work together," his wife said. "That's how we met."
A water lover, Dr. Dumsha and his family lived on a boat in the Inner Harbor every summer from 1986 through 1996. He named his boat Pro Re Nata, a Latin phrase that every doctor learns to scratch on a prescription pad as the instruction to "take as necessary."
"Our children knew port and starboard better than their right and left," his wife said, adding that Oxford was his favorite place to sail to in the fall. "The geese would be flying south and the winds would be blowing."
Dr. Dumsha was also a skilled offshore fisherman. In a 2001 competition, he caught a 421-pound blue marlin, which, his wife said, was just 29 pounds shy of winning a $500,000 prize.
Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Catonsville's St. Mark Church, 30 Melvin Ave.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Dumsha is survived by his mother, Ann E. Dumsha; a daughter, Meagan; and a son, Tad.