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My first encounter with a dentist was as a child.  I don’t remember much other than the feeling of numbness after the procedure.  I had other trips to the dentist as a teenager which ultimately led to pursuing dentistry at the university.

Dr. Kerre and with volunteers at a dental camp.
Dr. Kerre and with volunteers at a dental camp.

Growing up, I thought everyone visited the dentist when they had teeth problems.  However, this notion was shattered during the clinical years in dental school when I came face to face with the reality of dental disease burden.  Seemingly young people like myself who had already lost teeth due to dental caries not to mention the pain they persevered with because of lack of access to dental services.

Dr. Kerre at a dental camp with one of the patients
Dr. Kerre at a dental camp with one of the patients

During the clinical years in dental school, we were fortunate as students to participate in many dental outreach programmes in various parts of the country over the weekends.  As a student, one is never prepared to see the amount of dental disease in those populations.  There was a lot of dental caries, periodontal disease, and edentulism secondary to extractions to treat dental caries.  What stuck out was the lack of dental services in those rural areas and if there were present, the facilities are run down and dilapidated.

Subsequently I graduated and was employed by the government in a rural facility.  Despite having the knowledge and skills to provide curative services, I realised that patients often presented late when the only treatment options available were either extractions or root canal treatments.  In my mind, I thought it better to educate the catchment population around the hospital to prevent dental disease and providing education about early diagnosis and treatment.  However, no such programmes existed at the time.

I later enrolled for a postgraduate degree in paediatric dentistry at the University of Nairobi.  I was exposed to the high dental disease burden in children who presented late and often required extensive treatment which few could afford.  During the course we were introduced to aspects of public health with a focus on dental health and its relationship with general well-being.  My interaction with dental public health specialists during this time also kindled my interest in prevention being better and cheaper than curative services.  Writing a thesis was part of the course and this introduced me to carrying out research and its importance.

As a practising paediatric dentist interested in carrying out research, I have been fortunate to have wonderful mentors, Prof Kemoli and Prof Ana Lucia Seminario.  They have linked me to research opportunities and guided me.  Most notably, they provided guidance and invaluable help when I applied to be a Fogarty fellow.  Although I was not successful, I appreciated immensely the opportunity and ‘hand holding’ I received.  Most recently, I was part of the initial cohort of trainees for the DeRouen Center at University of Washington for training young researchers in Kenya and Uganda on publishing manuscripts.  This was a wonderful programme where I learnt a lot and was fortunate to publish my manuscript based on my postgraduate thesis in a leading dental journal.

The more I continue practising as a paediatric dentist I realise the big gap that exists in patient education and advocacy and the lack of preventive programmes.  I hope that by continuing to do research in dental public health I will be able to address some of these gaps and influence change in a positive manner.

Post categories: Blog

Jorge Castillo talks about his journey in oral health

Castillo at AAPD 2022 conf.

My name is Jorge Castillo and I am originally from Lima, Peru. I finished dental school at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Perú . My interest in Dentistry arose from my dad, who is a Pediatric Dentist, trained in the 60’s in Pediatric Dentistry at the Eastman Dental Center in Rochester, New York, with a brilliant career in Peru, both professionally and academically. Since I was a dental student, my favorite specialty was Pediatric Dentistry. Restoring dental health for children and enjoying when a child finished their dental appointment with a big smile, especially because I was an anxious patient when I was a child, were determining factors for me to choose pediatric dentistry as the specialty I wanted to follow. Also, during my years of dental school, I had the opportunity to treat various types of patients in various places: the dental clinic at the university, in the poorer areas of Lima, and in the remote communities of Peru. That reaffirmed my interest in doing good things for our children.

Castillo with daughters

After finishing my dental degree, I was fortunate to begin graduate studies in Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Connecticut and do a Masters of Dental Sciences at the same University.  The years at UConn were wonderful and I was lucky to have faculty such as Norman Tinanoff, Jim Crall, Andrew Poole among others.  When I returned to Peru, I began my career as a faculty member in my dental school in Lima and working in private practice with my father and my sister.

A few years later, I was accepted to start an orthodontic program at the University of Washington.  My training in Orthodontics was incredible and here I was also fortunate to have top faculty members such as Vince Kokich, Peter Shapiro, Greg King, Don Joondeph, Greg Huang among others.  A requirement for the program to which I had applied, was to do a Master of Science in Science.  Through Dr. Doug Ramsay, I had the honor of working with Dr. Peter Milgrom who was my mentor during those years. I had the opportunity to work with him in Public Health projects in the Department of Oral Health Sciences and in the Dental Fears Research Clinic. That experience was the one that finally shaped my interest in research and finding solutions to the oral health problems in children.

Castillo working on patient

When I returned to Peru in 2000, my career was consolidated. I returned to private practice with my father, I began a new cycle of teaching in the postgraduate course of Pediatric Dentistry of the UPCH and I began to be invited to give courses and conferences in various cities in Peru, and many countries around the world. I have been fortunate to give courses and conferences in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, Mexico, United States, Canada, Spain, Portugal, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, and Iran. Soon I will visit South Africa and India.  In addition, I began to get involved with institutions beginning with the presidency of the Peruvian Society of Pediatric Dentistry and then of the Peruvian Society of Orthodontics.

Castillo with Pope Francis

My relationship with the UW held firm and I became an Affiliate Assistant Professor at the Department of Oral Health Sciences, a position I hold now. That opportunity led to many joint research projects between the University of Washington and the Peruvian University Cayetano Heredia, and the exchange of students and faculty between the two universities. One of the most important milestones was the organization of the Latin American Workshop on Clinical Research Methods in Oral Health, thanks to the leadership of Dr. Timothy DeRouen and Dr. Ana Lucia Seminario. This activity was held twice in Lima and the lectures were given by faculty members from the University of Washington. We received a large group of students from various parts of Peru and Latin America.

In addition to that, I started my international career as a board member of the International Association of Pediatric Dentistry. I was president of the IAPD from 2013 to 2015 and that was a wonderful opportunity, not only to meet people from all over the world but also to get to know the oral health situation of children globally. I am currently in a second term as president of the IAPD and we have very important plans to promote children’s oral health around the world.

Castillo in classroom

Almost two years ago, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. For me it was a hard fight against the disease, but finally and after a few months of treatment I was able to succeed and now I am recovered and with all the strength to continue working hard. I want to thank everyone who was involved in my recovery. When you go through a difficult time in your life, like a did, you end up appreciating life and the people around you, much better.

Workshop group photo

There are so many plans for the future, in my professional and personal life. As a Member of the Board of Directors of the UW Timothy A. DeRouen Center for Global Oral Health, we will continue working with Dr Ana Lucia Seminario and the DeRouen Center with projects designed to improve oral health in our population. Thanks to the DeRouen Center for the opportunity to work together.

Post categories: Blog

Dr Lillian Apadet Osamong BDS, MScPh

Dr Lillian Apadet Osamong BDS, MSc PhD
Dr Lillian Apadet Osamong BDS, MScPh

Greetings from the City of champions, Eldoret in Kenya.

My journey in chasing after that elusive smile for my people started back when I was in high school. From that far back I wanted to be a dentist, to be among the chosen few in Kenya to deliver  much-needed oral health services. In the year 2000, I joined the only Dental School in Kenya, located at the University of Nairobi, to pursue a degree in Dentistry. I was among the 22 dentists who graduated in the class of 2005. While in 3rd year, I attended an outreach camp in the countryside and what I saw broke my heart. Severe periodontitis, tooth mobility, migrated teeth, halitosis and an abundance of caries. Some didn’t even have teeth! Many of the patients we saw had never seen a dentist. Through my undergraduate studies, I went for many outreach dental camps throughout the country, and the situation was the same – the young and the old from all walks of life streaming in looking for that much needed dental treatment. Unfortunately, most of the time we only offered pain medications and an occasional extraction, with the teams frequently discussing which teeth to intervene. While the smiles were elusive for the patients, they still appreciated our humble interventions since no pain was worth it for them. Access to the opportunity to have that smile was scarce to so many of my country folks. Therein my interest in public health, prevention and oral health promotion was born as it occurred to me that through public health interventions, I could help prevent the advanced disease cases we were managing.

With every extraction I did or helpless case I handled, my interest in oral health research would grow.

Dental outreach camp in Amukura, Western Kenya during my Undergraduate studies (2004)
Dental outreach camp in Amukura, Western Kenya during my Undergraduate studies (2004).

During my internship in 2006, I visited the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI– the largest health research organization in Kenya) to enquire about their research activities in the field of oral health. To my surprise, they did not have an oral health research department despite oral health being a problem in Kenya. Fortunately, KEMRI requested me to write a paper on the burden of oral diseases in Kenya and justify why this should be an agenda for the institute. On completion of this paper and justification, I was offered a job at the Institute with the primary task of driving the oral health research agenda. This I did, though it was a challenging task. Oral health was just not getting the attention it needed! I sat through many scientific reviews for protocols in all other health areas. It was rare to see a protocol on oral health for review.

While at KEMRI I wrote and got approval for several oral health proposals but getting funding for implementation was not easy. Interest in oral health at the Institute began when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared oral trauma and malignancies noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – NCDs were considered a global threat.  With intramural and extramural funding, and together with partners, we were able to initiate various research studies including collating oral tumor burden using data from the Kenya Cancer Registry and prospective cohort studies in persons living with HIV, amongst others. I also undertook an MSc in Public Health to improve my knowledge and skills in research

With time I managed set up and actualize the oral health clinical and research department at KEMRI. The department was equipped with the requisite dental chair, equipment and consumables. It is currently in place, with two dentists. The two dentists have carried on the dream of having oral health research on the table having done research on oral health and preterm birth and oral health and Miraa (KHAT).

In the year 2014, I moved to academia and joined Moi university, the second Dental school in Kenya. Through teaching at the University, I have been able to contribute to training of dentists and have more impact on dental public health. I lecture in the department of Community Preventive Dentistry and Periodontology. During my seven years at the university, I have managed to be impactful through driving health promotion and outreach activities. I chair the collaborations committee through which I secured collaborations that have improved capacity in the school though equipment and skills transfer.

Dental outreach at the Moi university school of Dentistry during the world oral health day 2022, I gave a brief on the state of oral health and oral health promotion.
Dental outreach at the Moi university school of Dentistry during the world oral health day 2022, I gave a brief on the state of oral health and oral health promotion.

I also participate actively in the Community Based Education and Service program (COBES) a flagship course in the Moi University College of Health Sciences. In the COBES training the students go through community activities through their five academic years of study. In the 1st year the students learn modules on proposal writing and various aspects with regard to community engagement and research. In the 2nd year they are attached to rural health centers where they do community entry and diagnosis research, in the 3rd year the students develop proposals in areas they noted gaps in the communities and finalize these reports in the 4th year. In the 5th year the students are attached to level 5 hospitals where they learn day to day hospital management and administration. The fifth-year students develop proposals and do research on specific gaps they note as they work in the facilities. As faculty, I engage with the students through the various activities in the COBES program.

Seeing off our final year students as they begin their journey as qualified Dentists
Seeing off our final year students as they begin their journey as qualified Dentists.

The oral health disease burden is significant in Kenya, with limited access to quality treatment for the patients. There is opportunity to build capacity in dental public health so as to reduce the burden of disease through research, oral health promotion and preventive programs. The major challenge is in funding for oral health.

Increasing the pool of oral public health specialists through training and increased awareness of funding opportunities may improve the situation. Efforts to have collaborations in oral health would go a long way in addressing the gaps we face.

It is my hope that as time goes by, I will continue to impact in an even greater way on the oral health agenda and indeed improve the research, promotion and prevention of oral health in Kenya and beyond.

Post categories: Blog

Madlen Caplow’s journey in oral public health

I am proud to work with the Arcora Foundation, the foundation of Delta Dental of Washington. Our vision is that all people can enjoy good oral and overall health, with no one left behind. Through advocacy, programmatic work, and grantmaking, Arcora Foundation focuses on prevention and access in underserved communities where disparities are significant—specifically Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). We are a passionate, creative and committed team that cares deeply about the work we do and the communities we serve.

Madlen at ARCORA desk

While our work is interesting (really, it is!), it doesn’t always lend itself to good cocktail party conversation. Typically, when I begin to talk about what I do, people’s eyes glaze over, they start asking about dental insurance, or they tell me they need to refresh their drink. Though others may not find oral health particularly glamorous, Arcora Foundation’s work improves, and sometimes saves, people’s lives.

My personal journey into dental public health began at the University of North Carolina, where I got my master’s in public health, focusing on health behavior and health education. In one of my first epidemiology lectures, the professor talked about one of the most effective public health interventions ever: community water fluoridation. I became motivated by the sad reality that not all people experience access to equitable health care and treatment. I believe that: 1) healthcare is a right – not a privilege; 2) our systems are flawed and need much help and attention; 3) behavior change is VERY difficult; and I could go on – but a major area of hope is in prevention!

Clinicians check children

Prevention saves money and improves people’s health. So preventive health has been my career (and personal) focus and passion. Following graduate school, I moved to Seattle where I began working in the Group Health Cooperatives’ Center for Health Promotion. I felt fortunate to land with this group who was doing amazing preventive-based work which included a robust smoking cessation program, cancer screening programs, patient education resource development and most notably planning for a future in healthcare with an electronic health record rather than paper charts. One project I worked on with the Center’s well-child committee, updating the well-child visit templates to prompt healthcare providers to address key prevention areas with their young patients. I have a confession here: Kaiser California shared their well-child templates with me, and Kaiser’s templates included questions about children’s oral health. Sadly, our pediatric committee decided that we shouldn’t include oral health questions on our template. The committee didn’t recognize the importance of oral and overall health since dental was not part of the Group Health system of care.

(But there is good news! Today, I am pleased to report that I work with this same medical system to help them with oral health integration, including training their residents.)

Clinicians check children

After my time at Group Health, I moved to the UW Child Health Institute, where I worked with medical teams across Washington to help them integrate best practices into the care they provided through quality improvement. From there, it was an easy transition to Arcora Foundation (Washington Dental Service Foundation at the time) to continue to support medical teams across WA but this time focusing on the integration of preventive based oral health services into well-child visits. This seemed like it might be a short-term project, but as we have come to learn, good oral health is key to good overall health, and many children (and adults) who have trouble accessing dental care in dental clinics can do so in a medical office.  Turns out, this short-term project has been my passion for the last decade plus. At this point, I consider it my life’s work.

My work is challenging as medical teams have so much to address with patients, and oral health needs might not be as urgent as others during medical appointments. But I am happy to be part of national and local efforts to make oral health part of medical providers’ standards of care. I now consult with partners across the country who have similar programs. In 2014, the US Preventive Services Task Force made fluoride varnish a grade B recommendation, showing the evidence and importance of this work.  I am training and coaching more medical education training programs – including residencies, ARNP and DO programs – every year. My future ambitions are to get further upstream by reaching students in all medical fields. In the meantime, I continue to support large and small medical teams across Washington to address the leading preventable chronic condition of childhood: oral disease. I feel so fortunate to get to work with amazing medical teams across the state who are doing such great work in caring for children and families. They all have so much work on their plates. I am always impressed and awed by their dedication and big hearts for the important work that they do.

In closing, I’d like to share Lisa Lee, MD, FAAP’s perspectives on delivering oral health services in medical settings. Dr. Lee is a partner of mine and an oral health champion.

Pediatricians take the time to listen to our patients and their caregivers, to meet our families’ needs and to engage them in preventative care. They trust us as we strive to create a safe environment of open communication and education. As pediatricians, we are instrumental in teaching our families how nutrition can affect both dental and health well-being and how proper brushing and using fluoride can keep our teeth healthy from an early onset. This education helps to reinforce the Dental Profession’s Optimal Oral Health message as we collaborate with them. Let’s continue to be champions for both the health and dental well-being of our patients! 

Lisa Lee, MD, FAAP South Sound Pediatrics


Post categories: Blog

Elizabeth Alpert, DDS, MPH

: Elizabeth Alpert, DDS, MPH
: Elizabeth Alpert, DDS, MPH

Hello from Boston! My name is Elizabeth Alpert, and I am pursuing a path in dental public health. Beginning dental school, I envisioned a career in clinical pediatric dentistry, but I soon realized how quickly goals change with experience and exposure to new perspectives.

As a dental student at the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, I had the opportunity to participate in numerous outreach events throughout the city. Although I grew up in the area, I was unaware of the reality of barriers to oral health care among different communities. This was my first exposure to the concept of social determinants of health – “the conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of life-risks and outcomes” (CDC). The importance of public health resonated more and more deeply, and I began to seek experiences beyond Buffalo.

Across the country, in vastly different settings, I repeatedly saw the same theme. Unintended consequences of systems-level policies catalyze inequities and inefficiencies in the US health care system, translating to dental disparities. Ultimately, I realized that the part of dentistry I was passionate about was addressing disparities in access to quality oral health care, which is critical to overall health and well-being.

Dental directors and leads at the 2020 Seattle/King County Clinic
Dental directors and leads at the 2020 Seattle/King County Clinic

Through outreach, I also realized how much I loved geriatric dentistry – which further changed my plans for pediatric dentistry. Instead, I decided to complete a GPR in Hospital Dentistry, at an institution with a strong MPH program. During my PGY-1 at the University of Washington, my rotations at different Seattle-based hospitals and medical centers undermined the connection between oral and systemic health. I also began realizing my clinical interest in treating adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and I completed a PGY-2 year in Special Care Dentistry. At this point, family obligations brought me to Boston, and I completed my MPH at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Currently, I am dividing my time between teaching, research, and clinical practice as I figure out the next step in my career. I am grateful to truly enjoy teaching dental students at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) and dental hygiene students at the Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene; collaborating on oral health policy research with the HSDM Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology team; and practicing general dentistry in a private practice setting to strengthen my clinical skills.

University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine Outreach Team, 2016
University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine Outreach Team, 2016

For other early-career dental providers who face a similar dilemma – realizing that their true passion in dentistry is for dental public health and addressing population-level issues, rather than clinical dentistry treating individual patients, I’d like to share two main themes from my story. The first is to take your path one step at a time and know that even if is non-linear and impacted by factors beyond your control, following your passion will start taking you closer to the place where you best fit in dentistry. Secondly, develop relationships with mentors who share your core interests and truly care about you as a person beyond your dental skills, and trust their guidance. I am so grateful for my mentors, including Debbie Licata, Ana Lucia Seminario, Kim Espinoza, Ashland Doomes, and Jane Barrow – thank you all!

Post categories: Blog

Sawita Khimsuksri, DDS, PhD, MSc

Sawita Khimsuksri
Sawita Khimsuksri

Warm greetings from Thailand. My name is Sawita, a lecturer in the Department of Oral Biomedical Science, Khon Kaen University (KKU), Khon Kaen, Thailand. I had an opportunity to attend the summer course in 2015 and continued in a long-term training program combined with KKU PhD in Oral Science curriculum, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and KKU. I have had inspiration academic purpose from mentors and friends from many countries since then. We have learned and shared our knowledge and experience in improving oral health/dental school curriculum, culture, etc. In 2015, dental public health was out of my interest (I have backgrounds in dentistry and neurophysiology of cardiovascular response to dental pain in a rat model). I was impressed with clinical and behavioral research methodology, epidemiology, and biostatistics. Integrating all these into my work creates more fun and, of course, benefits my career so that I can distribute them to my patients and students.

Sawita Khimsuksri and two othersI started a project which was new to me both in science and methodology. My project was about the innate immunity function of taste receptors relating to dental caries and periodontal disease in Thai dental patients. Learning new things and developing new skills were challenging. I’ve had struggled along the way. All the mentors in the program were very understanding and provided me with all their support to achieve my goal. I’ve learned academic and life skills from all the mentors. I feel that they work so hard in collaborating between countries/universities. Besides the curriculum, I feel thankful to have them devoting their time guiding me through the journey. I am ready to pay it forward and learn more to help improve dental public health.

Post categories: Blog

The Positive Influence of Mentors

Imma with patient

My name is Immaculate Achieng’ Opondo, from Kisumu County, which is in the Western part of Kenya. I am a Pediatric Dentist working with Maseno University School of Medicine. I love working with children and I am passionate about Pediatric Dentistry. This passion began early in my career when I developed a desire to help children with dental problems, after I realised some reluctance by colleagues to treat them due to their behavioral issues. During this period of interest, I noticed that the children had high levels of dental caries, and I immediately started outreach activities in nursery schools. With time, I got motivated to enhance my skills which pushed me to the next level of master’s training in Pediatric Dentistry.

Imma with group of students

Poster replicaThe decision to further my education opened a new window of opportunities for me. It is during this period that I appreciated the importance of research and the impact of HIV/AIDS on oral health. By taking care of HIV infected children, I began to understand the health, social and economic struggles associated with HIV infection. It is also during this time that I met Dr. Arthur Kemoli (University of Nairobi).  Through him and Dr. Ana Lucia Seminario (University of Washington), I   received funding from International Association for Dental Research (IADR) that enabled me to attend the Summer Institute in Clinical Dental Research in the University of Washington.  This was a wonderful opportunity which not only whet my appetite for research, but also exposed me to a new mentor, Dr. Ana Lucia Seminario.  Immediately after I got home from the Summer Institute, I was able to write a research proposal, get ethical review and start data collection on oral health status of under five-year-old children in Kisumu County primary schools. Unfortunately, this activity was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to continuing with data collection once the disease is controlled.

Ana Lucia Seminario and Arthur Kemoli have continuously encouraged me to pursue my research goals. Now, I am working alongside them as they guide me through grant writing and research work. I am hopeful that with this kind of exposure, I will continue growing my research skills to the point of being a mentor to other upcoming oral health researchers.

Post categories: Blog

My Journey to Global Oral Health and HIV/AIDS research

Yan Wang I am Yan Wang. I was born in China with a great passion for numbers. My undergraduate major is Mathematics, with a double major in Computer Science. I received my PhD in Biostatistics of School of Public Health at UCLA in 2019. My research passion is the joint research of HIV and oral health.

Measuring instrumentMy passion in HIV/AIDS research started from a multi-site adherence collaboration in HIV across sixteen studies from fourteen universities and institutions. With the opportunity to collaborated with all world well-known scientists, I was responsible for coordinating the data transfer, data management, statistical analysis as well as modeling and publications. We used Medication Event Monitoring System (MEMS®) to record the date and time medication events. In the later project, we used Wisepill® box (designed by a South African company), and then Ingestible Sensor (Proteus) to measure HIV adherence in real-time, together with customized text messages. It was very challenging to have optimal adherence lifetime, as it is hard to maintain the optimal adherence.

tooth drawinghandwritten paper

Meanwhile, long-term ART and HIV-infection have great impact on oral health. We found that the measures on overall oral health status and treatment needs was very limited. We used the approach of PROMIS (patient reported outcome measurement information system) to design a psychometric validated survey to measure children’s oral health status and treatment needs with a smaller number of questions using Item Response Theory and Machine learning algorithms. To further understanding the oral health of children, we conducted the oral health screening in Los Angeles County. The screening included screening for the prevalence of untreated decay, caries, and the treatment needs of kindergarteners and third graders in seventy-three public elementary schools. We luckily finished all screening activities before the pandemic. During the field work, we learned there are oral health disparities in children, even before they start school.

Museum frontI received my T37 GATHER (Global Alliance for Training in Health Equity Research) fellowship in 2019. This fellowship supported my research in African Population Health Research Center (APHRC) in Nairobi, Kenya. I made a lot of friends with the researchers in Kenya. During that time, I learned of the work of both Drs. Ana Lucia Seminario and Arthur Kemoli. I joint their research team on the CHOMP (Children’s Healthy Oral Management Project) among HIV-infected children, the oral health of refugee children Washington State, and the infant oral mutilation traditional practice in East Africa. Since then, we have started an ongoing collaboration. After my GATHER training, I received my T32 UCLA postdoctoral fellowship in 2020, focused on Global AIDS prevention. I joint Dr. Grace Aldrovandi’s research team in 2020. I was very fortunate to participate in the COVID study of high-risk health services workers at UCLA and first responders in the Los Angeles County Fire Department. We compared the humoral responses to mRNA vaccine by prior infection and by vaccine type.

Now more than ever, with the burden of two pandemics, both HIV and SARS-CoV-2, it is critical to study global health, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Through my journey, I found my passion in the joint area of research of HIV/AIDS and oral health in the global setting. This motivated me to further investigate bacteria and virus in the oral environment, especially among HIV-infected individuals, whose immune systems are extremely vulnerable.

Post categories: Blog

From Public Health to Research Management

Dr. Roberto Leon-Manco
Dr. Roberto Leon-Manco

My name is Roberto A. León-Manco, I am a graduate of the School of Stomatology, Master of Public Health, and specialist in Dental Public Health at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH). Once I finished my undergraduate studies, I was invited by Dr. Cesar Del Castillo to be part of the Academic Department of Social Dentistry (UPCH) to which I still belong and I was able to learn from all his mentors, especially Dr. Juan Bernal Morales, founding professor of the faculty and first specialist in dental public health in Peru. In my early years, I began teaching at the undergraduate level and later at the master’s level. Currently, I am the Coordinator of the specialty in Dental Public Health, and head of the Academic Section of Public Health and Dental Services Management.

Within my professional training, I was able to be part of the 10th Annual Summer School of Social Determinants of Health (SDH) at the University College London (UK). In this program, in addition to meeting many other public health professionals from around the world, having shared with Sir Michael Marmot and his perspective of the SDH was crucial to really understand the health problems of Peru and the need for a new approach, especially in the case of oral health. Other important internships were at the Research Center of Social Inequality and Governance at the Universidad de La Laguna (Spain) with Dr. Sara Darías-Curvo, and the research management internship at the Faculty of Dentistry of the Universidad de La Frontera (Chile) with Dr. Ramón Fuentes.

This last internship has been the most relevant in my current teaching activity. Dr. Jorge Beltran, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Stomatology at UPCH appointed me Coordinator of the Research, Science and Technology Unit, a position that aims to improve all research processes in undergraduate and graduate students and teachers. Recently, we approved the Strategic Plan 2021-2025 of the unit, with the collaboration of the faculty and collaboration of Dr. Ana Lucia Seminario of the University of Washington (UW). With this, a long-term objective has been established that will allow the faculty to place at a high level of research in oral health.

Currently, I oversee the Integrated Unit of Research, Science and Technology of the Faculties of Medicine, Stomatology and Nursing, which represents a different opportunity at the management level, being responsible for most of the research conducted at the university and promoting the main policies for the benefit of students and teachers. In addition to this position, I continue to engage in public health activities, continuing to train professionals and participating in research. Recently, together with the UW and the Direction of Oral Health of the Ministry of Health of Peru, we are organizing a program to improve the skills of oral health coordinators throughout the country, which will improve the health of all Peruvians.

Post categories: Blog

Patimaporn Pungchanchaikul

Dr. Patimaporn Pungchanchaikul
Dr. Patimaporn Pungchanchaikul

Sawadee Ka, I am from Khon Kaen University (KKU) in the Northeastern region, “I-San”, of Thailand.  In 2008, I was back from the University College London, UK, after pursuing my PhD in Developmental Biology focusing on the cleft formation. At KKU, I am a senior lecturer of the Division of Pediatric Dentistry, Faculty of Dentistry, where I am responsible for teaching dental students and providing care for children in our Dental Hospital.  One of the burdens I was facing at that time, was giving emergency dental treatment for children with cleft lip and palate. Prevalence of children born with orofacial clefts in I-San is the highest among other regions in Thailand. The KKU Center of Cleft Lip Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Deformity was established in the year 2000, to systematically tackle this health issue by an interdisciplinary team. These children were mostly from underprivileged family backgrounds. The limited access to appropriate oral health care has reflected in severe and untreated dental caries since they were in the preschool age. Their complicated congenital craniofacial deformities that greatly affected feeding and appearance had taken all the attention from the family, therefore brushing the child’s teeth was usually the last thing in their mind. We soon realized that increasing the family awareness on maintaining good oral health and providing access to dental care should be incorporated as part of the cleft treatment protocol.

Dr. Patimaporn Pungchanchaikul and colleague conducting an exam
Dr. Patimaporn Pungchanchaikul and colleague conducting an exam

After joining the KKU Cleft Center in 2010, I led a social service project entitled “Big Smile, Bright Teeth” to improve the oral health status in children with clefts.  A holistic approach was implemented by creating a fast track for regular dental examination and treatment, at the time when patients attending the Center for other healthcare, such as speech training. The significance of good oral health and instruction for oral care at home was given to the parents, via empowerment group activities, at early stage and regularly in the cleft protocol. Dental students both undergraduate and postgraduate had volunteered to help providing dental treatment for these children, in which they also learn to work with the special needs, their families and with the interdisciplinary professionals. It had been a pleasant experience for these future dentists and the young specialists. I hope that they would carry on working with children with special needs in the future.  Ten years on in the project, we have clearly seen the reduction of untreated caries in our preschool children.

As my background was mainly involved molecular biology, I had gained some valuable experience in research in dental public health via a workshop in 2010, supported by NIH Fogarty Funding, entitled “International Workshop on Clinical Research Methods in Oral Health”.  This is a part of the jointed training program organized by KKU Faculty of Dentistry, Thammasat University Faculty of Dentistry, and University of Washington School of Dentistry.  Following the workshop, I had been recruited in a few clinical research teams funded by NIH. All of these give me the courage to take on clinical research in children with cleft lip and palate, alongside with improving the sustainability for oral health care for them.  We are now setting up a network with local primary care centers around the I-San as well as become part of a Global Task Force “Cleft without Caries”.  This is my small journey and I enjoy it very much!

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