UW School of Dentistry

Dr. Philip Walczak named Magnuson Scholar

Philip WalczakDr. Philip Walczak, a first-year PhD candidate in the School of Dentistry’s Department of Oral Health Sciences, has been named the school’s Magnuson Scholar for 2022-23.

Dr. Walczak, who received his DDS from the school in 2021, is enrolled in the school’s DDS-PhD academic track and practices general dentistry at the Community Health Center of Snohomish County in Everett, Wash. He is one of the seven Magnuson Scholars named by the University of Washington this year.

The $34,000 awards, among the largest given by the university, go to at least one student at each of the six Health Sciences schools. (A seventh award was added this year.) Recipients are chosen on the basis of academic performance and potential for research in the health sciences.

“I am extremely grateful for the generous support provided by the Magnuson Scholar Program,” Dr. Walczak said. “I have looked up to the Scholars since I was an undergraduate and I am honored to now be selected as one.”

Dr. Walczak’s PhD project is a study of the role that PiT-2, a phosphate transporter, plays in bone and tooth development. After completing this, he said, he hopes to continue his graduate work in endodontics and devote more study to oral biology and its application in saving teeth.

“My career goal is to increase understanding of biological processes of pulp regeneration, bone formation, and responses to biomaterials, ultimately hoping to translate scientific discoveries into clinical therapies that can benefit patients,” he said.

Dr. Walczak began making his mark in oral health research several years ago as a UW undergraduate. Working in the dental school’s prosthodontics program and the UW Department of Bioengineering, he studied a novel device to test the stability of dental implants. He also worked in the dental school’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, leading the pilot study of the first optical device to measure the acidity of dental plaque in humans.

His phosphate transporter studies have already won support from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), a division of the National Institutes of Health. NIDCR gave him a Ruth L. Kirchstein National Research Service Award grant to fund his pre-doctoral and PhD investigations.

The Magnuson Scholars program commemorates the late Sen. Warren G. Magnuson of Washington, a leading advocate of biomedical research who played a key role in establishing the National Institutes of Health, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Dr. Apichai Yavirach named Magnuson Scholar

Apichai Yavirach, a PhD candidate in the Department of Oral Health Sciences, has been named the School of Dentistry’s 2021-22 Magnuson Scholar selectee. He is one of the six UW Health Sciences recipients of the scholarship, one of the UW’s top academic awards. One student is selected annually from each of the Health Sciences schools: Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health, and Social Work.

Apichai-Yavirach
Dr. Apichai Yavirach won the School of Dentistry’s Research Day graduate student poster competition in 2020.

Dr. Yavirach received a DDS degree from Chiang Mai University in Thailand in 2015, after which he entered the university’s graduate prosthodontics program. At the UW, he has worked in the lab of Dr. Cecilia Giachelli of the Department of Bioengineering, studying bone biology and calcification.

“As a dentist, I’m interested in applying basic sciences research to clinical aspects,” he said. “Therefore, I have been working on the particular disease called medication-related osteonecrosis of the jaw (MRONJ). This is a serious side effect of antiresorptive drugs prescribed to more than 10 million patients all around the world. However, the pathophysiology of MRONJ still remains elusive and there is currently no effective treatment, making this a growing clinical problem. With the engineered cells developed in our lab, I am able to study particular types of cells potentially playing a role in MRONJ. I strongly believe that these studies will give more insights to one of the biggest concerning questions in a dental field.”

Dr. Yavirach, who was a Fulbright Scholar in 2017-19, won the American Association for Dental Research Student Award at the School of Dentistry’s annual Research Day last year and also holds a scholarship in geriatric sciences for dental care from the Thai government. After he obtains his PhD, he plans to return to Thailand and resume teaching at Chiang Mai University. Along with teaching, he plans to continue working as a clinician while he pursues further studies on bone biology.

“I believe in the power of education,” he said. “It can bring people from different backgrounds together. It can translate what we learn from a lab bench to a global scale. Being a Magnuson Scholar supports my belief that together we can move our health sciences field forward.”

The scholarships, which commemorate U.S. Sen. Warren G. Magnuson of Washington, are funded from a $2 million endowment from the Warren G. Magnuson Institute for Biomedical Research and Health Professions Training. The late Sen. Magnuson was a strong supporter of biomedical research and he played key roles in creating Medicare, Medicaid, and the National Institutes of Health. The scholarship recipients are chosen for their academic performance and potential contributions to research in the health sciences.