Achievement Award: Dr. Dominic Bitonte

     Dr. Dominic Bitonte is a philanthropist dedicated to giving back to his community, and he is particularly committed to education. On Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, Dr. Bitonte will receive the Ohio Dental Association Achievement Award for his contributions to his community at this year’s Callahan Celebration of Excellence, held in conjunction with the 146th ODA Annual Session in Columbus, Ohio.

     “Our [dental] society feels strongly that Dr. Bitonte is eminently qualified for this honor,” wrote Dr. Marybeth Shaffer, President of the Corydon Palmer Dental Society. “He has not only fulfilled the highest standards of his profession, but has also given back to his community in more than equal measure. He is a tireless professional as well as a dedicated philanthropist. His professional conduct, his leadership strength, his respect for dentistry and his personal ethics are indisputable.”

     Dr. Bitonte said he was honored to receive the Achievement Award. “I feel it’s a great honor that my peers have selected me,” he said.

     Dr. Bitonte decided to become a dentist because of his brother, who was in dental school at The Ohio State University at the same time Dr. Bitonte was in undergrad. Dr. Bitonte said he met some of his brother’s friends who also were dental students and thought it was interesting to see them working on projects for dental school.

     “I met some of the dental students and liked them, and thought ‘I want to be one of them,’” Dr. Bitonte said.

     He decided to follow in his brother’s footsteps and received his D.D.S from The Ohio State University in 1947. After dental school, Dr. Bitonte went into practice with his brother in Youngstown. He also served as a Dental Officer in the U.S. Navy for two years during the Korean War, and he retired in 1994.

     “I would say my favorite part was interacting with the people and doing something for the people that made them happy when it was all over,” Dr. Bitonte said. “Either they felt better, or their appearance was better, and I enjoyed that.”

     Dr. Bitonte has been extremely generous in giving back to his community, and to education in particular. He said he has seen his community go through some hard times, and because he was fortunate enough to get an education and become successful, he wanted to help out.

     “This is where I made my livelihood, and I wanted to give back,” he said.

     In 1966, Dr. Bitonte and his two brothers established the Bitonte Student Loan Fund at their alma mater, The Ohio State University to assist students in funding their education. In 1999, Dr. Bitonte and his wife, Helen, made a donation to Youngstown State University, and the university named the Dr. Dominic A. Bitonte and Helen M. Bitonte College of Health and Human Services in their honor. In 2004, the Northeast Ohio Medical University established the Dr. Dominic A. and Helen M. Bitonte Family Foundation Atrium in the Ralph Regula Conference Center in recognition of a generous gift. Dr. Bitonte also recently donated funds for a pre-clinic lab at the OSU dental school in memory of his parents, Anthony and Gemma Bitonte.

     Dr. Bitonte said education has always been important to his family, especially because of the strong commitment of his parents, who were immigrants, to make a life for their family in America.

     “I just feel that if you have an education, you’ll always do well in your community,” he said. “I believe in education. My whole family has. My father did too. My father was an immigrant. He really believed in education, and he didn’t have an education.”

     He and his two brothers all received doctoral level education, his three children became physicians and several of his grandchildren have attended or are currently attending medical or dental school.

     Dr. Bitonte said he thinks it’s important to be involved in organized dentistry to ensure the profession remains dedicated to good dentistry and to treating people correctly.

     With the Corydon Palmer Dental Society, Dr. Bitonte has served as President, Secretary, a Board Member and an ODA Delegate. He is also affiliated with or a member of several other professional organizations, including the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology and the American Association of Dental Examiners.

     Dr. Bitonte also served on the Ohio State Dental Board and is currently a dental examiner for the North East Regional Board.

     Dr. Bitonte said the advice he has for other dentists is to always command respect.

     “I believe that dentists should command respect by their actions. I feel that dentists should do things to help the community,” Dr. Bitonte said. He added that dressing well goes a long way to help dentists stand out and gain respect. “You want to look like you’re someone who’s sincere, honest and clean cut,” he said.

     Outside of dentistry, Dr. Bitonte is extremely involved in the community. He was the founder and first director of the Youngstown/Mahoning Convention and Visitors Bureau, he served on the Mahoning County Planning Commission, he serves on the Ursuline Sisters Financial Advisory Board and was a Trustee and President of the Youngstown Club for nearly 40 years and was a director of Mahoning National Bank and the Mahoning National Bancorp.

     Dr. Bitonte has been in cardiac rehabilitation since 1994, and in 2011 he received the American Heart Association’s “Heart of the Community” Award. Dr. Bitonte also has received numerous other awards for his philanthropic activities.

     Dr. Bitonte enjoys real estate and developing properties. He said that if he hadn’t become a dentist, he probably would have been a builder or developer.

     Congratulations to Dr. Dominic Bitonte!