Students, residents, fellows, and faculty from the UConn School of Dental Medicine presented their research findings and garnered awards alongside thousands of scientists and researchers from around the world at the 97th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR). The meeting took place on June 19-22, 2019 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
The students— Akosua Adzenyah, Anastasiya Badziai, Mariamma Chaluparambil, Brian Greco, and Jessica Rudman—showcased their research on topics ranging from the effect of novel bacterial lipids on osteoblast function to the smart phone’s diagnostic efficacy compared to standard radiologic methods. Student mentors included School of Dental Medicine faculty Drs. Ivo Kalajzic, Liisa Kuhn, Frank Nichols, and Aditya Tadinada.
Anastasiya Badziai, mentored by Dr. Ivo Kalajzic, competed at the 60th annual Student Competition for Advancing Dental Research and its Application (SCADA) event—a global student competition aimed at engaging the next generation of dental professionals in the discovery and advancement of dental research. Anastasiya was chosen to represent UConn after winning the Dentsply Sirona award at UConn Health’s Student Research Day for her research titled In Vivo/In Vitro Analysis of Progenitor Potential of Gli1-Expressing Cells. Dental schools across the United States select one student per school to compete in the SCADA program every year.
At the American Association for Dental Research (AADR)/IADR general session, several of UConn School of Dental Medicine’s own took home prestigious awards for their outstanding research.
Dr. Martinna Bertolini, a post-doctoral fellow and first year resident in Periodontics mentored by Dr. Anna Dongari-Bagtzoglou, won first place in the post-doctoral category at the highly competitive AADR Hatton competition for her research titled Oral Bacterial Dysbiosis Promotes Invasive Oropharyngeal Candidiasis in Cytotoxic Chemotherapy. Established in 1953, the Hatton Award is the longest running awards and the top recognition for student researchers from the AADR.
“Thank you to all my co-authors and advisors who helped me to develop this research and prepare for this competition so that we could be awarded 1st place on the AADR Hatton Competition,” said Dr. Bertolini. “But most importantly, it is not all about winning the award- it is about who I became as a researcher while working in the past years developing this project. This is priceless!”
Dr. Sharon Gordon, dean of the School of Dental Medicine, received SCADA’s Alan J. Davis Achievement award for promoting student participation in research. Dr. Gordon’s SCADA involvement started in 1990 as a dental student when she represented her dental school the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
“Those experiences [with SCADA] greatly influenced my career path to continue in research and eventually undertake an academic career,” Dr. Gordon said. “Research is an essential part of dental education, as research provides the knowledge base for clinical practice.”
Currently, Dr. Gordon is completing her service as a liaison with the student competition judges and the SCADA board. Previous Alan J. Davis awardees affiliated with UConn School of Dental Medicine include Dr. Rick Valechovic in 2014 and Dr. Jim Mulvahill in 1970.
Dr. Rajesh Lalla, professor and associate dean for research at the UConn School of Dental Medicine was honored for winning the 2018 GlaxoSmithKline IADR Innovation in Oral Care Award for his work on a novel long-acting topical anesthetic product for oral mucositis pain, in collaboration with Dr. Diane Burgess, professor at the UConn School of Pharmacy and her student Tingting Li. An interview with Dr. Lalla was included in a booklet provided to all attendees at the 2019 IADR conference.
“It was and is genuinely very exciting to have received this international-level recognition,” Dr. Lalla said in response to receiving the award. “Hopefully one day this product can help patients who are suffering from oral mucositis and also other conditions that cause oral pain.”