My name is Ailín Cabrera-Matta, I am a pediatric dentist with a PhD in Public Health. I currently work as an Associate Professor in the Department of Dentistry for Children and Adolescents at the Dental School, and as a researcher in the Epidemiology, STD and HIV Unit at the School of Public Health and Administration, both at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH) in Lima, Peru.
I received my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from UPCH, where I also completed my pediatric dentistry residency. Although my training has been mainly in my home country, I have had the opportunity to visit and learn from American universities during different stages of my career. One of the most memorable of these international academic experiences was attending the 2014 Summer Institute on Clinical Dental Research Methods at University of Washington (UW) in Seattle. Not only did it help me to articulate my oral health knowledge and my recent—at that time— epidemiology training, but also allowed me to make a long-lasting friendship with a Thai colleague. At the end of that year, I was convinced of two things: I wanted to pursue a career in research, and I had to visit Thailand. I did both.
The following year, I was accepted to the Fogarty Fellowship Kuskaya: Interdisciplinary Training Program for Innovation in Global Health—developed and implemented by UPCH and the University of Washington (UW)—and also received the Pilot Award in Oral Health-HIV Research from the Ictus program at UW. These initiatives allowed me to have the resources I needed for my doctoral thesis project. As a Kuskaya fellow, I learned the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration to address global and public health issues and effectively implement change. It was also during this time, in 2015, that I met Dr. Patricia García and Dr. César Cárcamo, who from that moment became my mentors and have been a positive influence in my personal and professional life.
Another impactful experience is my time as an aide to the Peruvian Minister of Health between 2016 and 2017. As a result, I had the unprecedented and unique opportunity to work on the inclusion of oral health in the national regulation for check-ups in children younger than 5 years of age. I was very enthusiastic about having the chance to discuss this with non-dental health professionals in key positions within the public sector and learn about oral health policy and advocacy in the field.
Recently, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) decided to fund my 2021-2022 GloCal Health Fellowship at the University of California Global Health Institute (UCGHI). My research will focus on identifying the potential barriers and strengths to developing a training program on infant oral health for nurses working with children during the first two years of life using mixed methods. I would like to contribute towards the development of public health strategies to address early childhood caries and promote infant oral health in resource-limited settings.