UW News

October 4, 2011

Epidemiologist notes oral health challenges in Asia at Dentistrys annual Research Day

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Related news: UW Dentistry’s Southeast Asia training grant

Nearly half of all 6-year-olds had never brushed their teeth.

That snippet from a study in Cambodia helped make up a stark picture of Southeast Asian oral health challenges outlined in a leading Thai epidemiologists keynote talk at the School of Dentistrys annual Research Day on Sept. 23.

Dr. Waranuch Pitiphat of Thailands Khon Kaen University said that the region faces formidable problems including a lack of national oral health policies, inadequate infection control in dental clinics, limited access to care, and inadequate numbers and spotty distribution of health care workers.

Dr. Waranuch Pitiphat discusses oral health issues in Thailand.

Dr. Waranuch Pitiphat discusses oral health issues in Thailand.Steve Steinberg

Pitiphat, a Harvard-trained epidemiologist who also holds a dental degree, is her universitys associate dean for research, graduate studies and international affairs. As a collaborator with a growing UW-Thailand oral health training program, she is also a key figure in addressing the challenges she cited.

Khon Kaen and another Thai school, Thammasat University, have been working with the School of Dentistry for five years to train oral health clinical researchers. The program received a welcome boost recently with the announcement that the international research arm of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had awarded the UW a $1.1 million, five-year grant to continue and expand the training.

“I would urge you to consider global oral health research in your agenda,” Dr. Pitiphat told dental students attending her talk at the Health Sciences Center.  A lack of research, she said, was a key issue in the condition of Southeast Asias oral health.

Another presentation featured Tim DeRouen, interim Dentistry dean and director of the initial Thailand training program, who discussed the new grant from NIHs Fogarty International Center. Also delivering presentations were Christy McKinney, acting assistant professor in the Department of Oral Health Sciences, who discussed global research on oral clefts and infant feeding; and Dr. Carey Farquhar, a UW associate professor of medicine and epidemiology who discussed ethical issues in global health research and the Kenya-based Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI). Also funded by Fogarty, MEPI has helped generate at least $130 million for training in global health, she said.

Student research competition winner Peter Yamamura discusses his study with Dr. Whasun Oh Chung of the dentistry faculty, head of the judging committee.

Student research competition winner Peter Yamamura discusses his study with Dr. Whasun Oh Chung of the dentistry faculty, head of the judging committee.Steve Steinberg

In the research poster presentations that followed the mornings talks, second-year dental student Peter Yamamura was chosen winner of the annual student research competition. Yamamuras research, “Effects of MTA on Stem Cells of the Apical Papilla,” was mentored by Dr. Avina Paranjpe of the schools Department of  Endodontics.  He will represent the school in the National Student Research Competition at the 2012 annual meetings of the American Dental Association.

Other poster finalists were second-year students Amanda Patterson and Jason Naud and first-year student  Jonathan An. The poster presenters were participants in the schools annual Summer University Research Fellowship program or the UW Health Sciences clinical research training program.