UW School of Dentistry

Dr. Joana Cunha-Cruz wins evidence-based dentistry award

Dr. Joana Cunha-Cruz headshot
Dr. Joana Cunha-Cruz

Dr. Joana Cunha-Cruz of the School of Dentistry faculty has received the 2019 Evidence-Based Dentistry (EBD) Mid-Career Faculty Award from the American Dental Association and the American Association for Dental Research.

The annual awards, which began in 2015, recognize dental educators and clinicians who have made significant contributions to implement and advance EBD. The three EBD awards include the Accomplished Faculty Award, the Mid-Career Faculty Award, and the Practice Award for practicing clinicians.

Dr. Cunha-Cruz, a dentist and epidemiologist, is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Oral Health Sciences with an adjunct appointment in the UW School of Public Health. Since joining the  dental faculty in 2009, she has focused her research on inequities in oral health and health care. She teaches critical thinking and evidence-based practice methods and applications, and she oversees the integration of evidence-based practice and critical appraisal of literature in the dental curriculum. She holds a DDS from Brazil’s State University of Pernambuco and MS and PhD degrees in public health/epidemiology from the State University of Rio de Janeiro.

In 2005, she was the first recipient of the International Association for Dental Research’s Evidence Based Dentistry Network Prize for a systematic review protocol. Since then she has published several systematic reviews and critical appraisals of evidence, taught EBD courses, and used and generated new evidence through her research. A key focus has been developing more equitable evidence-based programs – to meet the people where they are, make the best practices the easiest choices, and change the environment first.

In Oregon, she designed and evaluated an integrated mobile and clinic-based dental care delivery system using interprofessional teams to improve children’s oral health in rural areas. She has also worked with a tribal health care organization to build health-care teams, including dental therapists and community health workers, to improve oral health for Alaska Native children and adolescents in isolated southeast Alaska communities. She has also worked with the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic to develop an oral health intervention that helps families swap out sugary beverages in favor of fluoridated water, along with integrating nutrition services and dental services in the clinical setting.

“I am very pleased to receive the Evidence-Based Dentistry Mid-Career Faculty Award,” Dr. Cunha-Cruz said. “My hope is to help students become lifelong learners and be able to critically appraise health claims from the media and research to guide their health-care decisions.”

She is the third School of Dentistry faculty member to receive the EBD award. In 2015, the first year it was given, Dr. Greg Huang, Chair of Orthodontics, received the Accomplished Faculty Award, and Dr. Donald Chi of Oral Health Sciences received the Mid-Career Faculty Award. The UW completed a sweep that year as Dr. Jane Gillette, a Montana clinical research dentist and 2002 School of Dentistry graduate, won the Practice Award.

“I am thrilled to see Dr. Cunha-Cruz’s work recognized by this prestigious award from the ADA,” said Interim Dean Gary Chiodo. “Her research addressing oral health inequalities through community-based strategies is visionary and creative. She has used evidence-based practices and strategies to inform and advance clinical practices and public health policy. Her work benefits individual patients, providers, and communities. This is such a fitting recognition of her accomplishments.”

Latino Center for Health to honor 2 on Dentistry faculty

Two School of Dentistry faculty members will be honored at the annual Latinx Faculty Recognition Event on May 2 by the University of Washington’s Latino Center for Health.

Dr. Ana Lucia Seminario and Dr. Joana Cunha-Cruz will be recognized at the event, which celebrates  scholarly achievements of Latina and Latino faculty during the current academic year at all of the University’s campuses. Recognition is based on at least one of these criteria:

  • Promotion to associate or full professor.
  • Acceptance or publication of an article in a high-impact journal.
  • Publication of a book.
  • Securing a major grant.
  • Retiring during or near the end of the academic year.

UW Regent Rogelio Riojas and Dean Hilary Godwin from the School of Public Health will speak at the event.

“I am delighted that these two faculty members will be recognized for their outstanding work and accomplishments,” said Interim Dean Gary Chiodo of the School of Dentistry. “They are eminently deserving.”

Dr. Joana Cunha-Cruz
Dr. Joana Cunha-Cruz

Dr. Cunha-Cruz, a research associate professor in the Department of Oral Health Sciences, holds a DDS from the State University of Pernambuco, Brazil and a master’s degree and PhD in public health (epidemiology) from the State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her research interests include oral health, public health, epidemiology, evidence-based practice and practice-based research.

She is currently implementing and evaluating family-oriented interventions to promote better oral health at the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic in Washington and organizational change for dental providers in southeast Alaska and Oregon. She is also associate director for strategic partnerships for the School of Public Health’s Northwest Center for Public Health Practice, which conducts research and promotes public health workforce training.

Ana Lucia Seminario
Dr. Ana Lucia Seminario

Dr. Seminario is an associate professor of pediatric dentistry who also holds an adjunct appointment in global health in the UW School of Public Health. Trained both as a pediatric dentist and epidemiologist, she holds a DDS from Peru’s University Cayetano Heredia, a PhD in stomatology from the University of Charles, Czech Republic, and a master’s degree in public health (epidemiology) from UW School of Public Health.

She is director of the School of Dentistry’s DeRouen Center for Global Oral Health, which pursues research collaborations in Kenya, Peru, Thailand, and Seattle. Her academic interests include global oral health, research methodology, access to oral health, and oral health among immigrant populations.

Dr. Philip Anderson honored for volunteer work

Dr. Philip Anderson of the School of Dentistry affiliate faculty received a Volunteer Community Recognition Award at Thursday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute program at UW Health Sciences.

Dr. Philip Anderson (right) receives his award from Butch de Castro of the MLK Tribute planning committee.
Dr. Philip Anderson (right) receives his award from Butch de Castro of the MLK Tribute planning committee.

Dr. Anderson, who has taught in the Department of Restorative Dentistry for 11 years, was honored for his extensive volunteer efforts. During his time teaching here, he has contributed more hours of volunteer work than any other faculty member.

He supervises dental students as they volunteer to deliver dental care at Seattle-area homeless shelters, including the Union Gospel Mission, Mary’s Place, and Safe Harbor Free Medical Clinic. He has also served in this capacity at migrant farm worker dental outreach events.

Last year, Dr. Anderson launched and underwrote an award recognizing student volunteer efforts. A 1972 DDS graduate of the UW, he was also recognized in 2015 with one of the first two Hungate Awards for Teaching Excellence recognizing the School of Dentistry’s affiliate faculty.

Each year, UW Health Sciences commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a program focusing on the work being done to honor his ideals. The event includes the presentation of Volunteer Community Recognition Awards to someone from Dentistry and the five other Health Sciences schools.

At this year’s event, Annette Anderson, Director of Curriculum at UW Bothell, received the Distinguished Service Award. The program also featured a panel discussion of the role of health equity in serving the community, moderated by Dr. Donald Chi of the School of Dentistry faculty.

School of Dentistry ranks 5th in U.S., 14th in world

The UW School of Dentistry has retained its No. 5 U.S. ranking and moved up one spot to 14th in the world in the 2017 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings.

Dr. Chung and Levi Reynolds treat a patient
A faculty member checks a student’s work in the Fourth-Year General Practice Clinic.

The University of Hong Kong dental school was ranked tops in the world, while the University of Michigan placed first in the United States and No. 2 in the world, as they did in 2016. The other U.S. dental schools ranked in the world’s top 15 were Harvard University, New York University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in that order.

The University of Washington overall was ranked 22nd in the United States and 59th in the world.

During the last few years, the School of Dentistry has phased in a new curriculum that incorporates changes in dental science and technology, new modes of dental practice, biomedical advances and more. In 2015, the school launched a series of third-year clinical “clerkship” rotations that give students a more intensive exposure to the core skills of general dentistry and significantly more repetitions of dental procedures.

Late last summer, the school put another key element in place with the launch of its Fourth-Year General Practice Clinic, which seeks to duplicate the experience of private practice as closely as possible. Fourth-year students also travel around Washington for five-week community clinic rotations that help improve their proficiency.

QS, a prominent British educational organization that ranks the world’s universities, assigned ranking scores based on academic reputation, employer reputation, and research citations per paper, plus an index measuring the productivity and impact of researchers’ published work. Survey participants identified up to 10 domestic and 30 international institutions they considered excellent.

The 2017 dental school rankings come as the School of Dentistry prepared to receive the 2017 William J. Gies Award for Vision by an Academic Dental Institution, the highest recognition granted by the American Dental Education Association.

The award was bestowed for the school’s Regional Initiatives in Dental Education (RIDE) program, which is designed to channel dental graduates to Washington’s rural and underserved areas. Students spend their first year at the RIDE facility on Eastern Washington University’s Spokane campus, return to Seattle for their second and third year, then serve extended community clinical rotations in their fourth year. Since the program began in 2008, about 70 percent of its graduates have gone on to practice in those rural and underserved areas.

Dental problems in cleft lip and palate linked to abnormal salivary glands

Dental problems related to cleft lip and palate may be caused by abnormalities in salivary glands and an imbalance of immune compounds in the mouth, according to a study conducted by researchers including a School of Dentistry adjunct faculty member and graduate researcher.

Dr, Timothy Cox
Dr. Timothy Cox

The study, published online by the Journal of Dental Research in December, found that mice with a gene mutation that causes cleft lip and palate had problems in their salivary glands that affected gum tissue and oral health. The researchers included Dr. Timothy Cox, an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Oral Health Sciences, and Dr. Basma Tamasas, a graduate researcher in the department who received her PhD in oral biology from the University of Washington last year. Dr. Cox is also professor of pediatrics at the UW and holder of the Laurel Endowed Chair for Pediatric Craniofacial Research at Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute.

“We found that the cleft lip and palate gene mutation also resulted in abnormal salivary glands,” Dr. Cox said. “The result was a mouth environment that was too acidic and contained excess bacteria, which led to problems in the gums and more rapid tooth decay.”

In healthy people, salivary glands excrete saliva that contains protective immune compounds and balances the acidity in the mouth. The researchers found that a common cleft lip and palate gene mutation resulted in abnormal development of salivary gland ducts such that they could not properly pump the buffering liquid and protective immune compounds into the mouth.

“No one has systematically looked at salivary glands in cleft lip and patients because it is not part of the typical clinical assessment of these patients,” Dr. Cox said. “We know saliva contains protective immune compounds that combat tooth decay, and researchers have also observed that some children with cleft lip or palate have different salivary composition. This is a breakthrough because doctors and dentists could use this research to develop improved strategies for managing oral health in young cleft lip and palate patients.”

Teeth with bone loss and tooth decay
Photos from the study demonstrate the severity of the tooth decay (teeth on the right). At bottom, a portion of a CT scan shows the loss of bone supporting the teeth.

In the study, the researchers offered mice with the cleft lip and palate mutation and mice without the mutation a high sugar diet. After just eight weeks on this diet, the mice with the cleft lip and palate mutation had almost no molar teeth left, while the mice without the mutation had only mild decay.

The researchers focused on the gene IRF6, the gene most commonly associated with cleft lip or palate. Many other genes have been linked to cleft lip or palate, and the researchers hope to understand if these additional genes are also associated with enhanced tooth decay.

“Doctors who treat children with cleft lip or palate have observed for a long time that tooth decay is a problem, and one that can affect their quality of life,” said Dr. Michael Cunningham, medical director of the Craniofacial Center at Seattle Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics at the UW. “It can also be a financial burden on families because many kids require extensive dental care, and eventually orthodontic care.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cleft lip and palate is one of the most common birth defects in the United States. Each year, 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate.

The next steps in the research include studying salivary composition in cleft lip or palate patients, as well as additional genes associated with cleft lip or palate to determine if they contribute to abnormal development of the salivary glands.

“We hope that as the research progresses, doctors and dentists can apply the findings in caring for cleft lip or palate patients and protect their teeth starting in early childhood,” Dr. Cox said. He added that the research suggests that dentists may want to closely monitor patients for caries, or tooth decay, well after treatment for cleft lift and/or palate has been completed – perhaps even for life.


School’s Kathy Hobson receives MLK volunteer honors

Kathy Hobson, a counseling services coordinator in the Department of Oral Health Sciences, received a Volunteer Service Award during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday commemoration at the University of Washington Health Sciences Center on Jan. 12.

Kathy with dog Mason.
Kathy Hobson and Mason show off her Volunteer Service Award at the UW Health Sciences Center

Hobson was honored for her volunteer work with her dog, Mason, in animal-assisted therapy at the UW Medical Center and other locations. She and Mason have also volunteered at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, and the Seattle Veterans Administration Medical Center.

In addition, for the last five years, Hobson has conducted reading programs with Mason at libraries in the Puget Sound-area cities of Arlington and Stanwood. One is called Waggin’ Tales and the other is Tales to Tails.

At Children’s, she and Mason visit patients including those with cancer and those being treated in the emergency room, where Mason or other therapy dogs are often the first thing children see when they arrive.

At Ronald McDonald House, they offer comfort to parents and siblings of youngsters being treated at Children’s. “Parents will sit there for hours just releasing stress from what they are going through,” Hobson said.

At the VA hospital, she said, “we visit people who have been there for many years, and most will never be released.  Many have no one to visit them, so Mason really brightens their day.”

At the UW Medical Center, the two visit patients who have just had surgery. “Many are away from family and their own pets and we cheer them up,” Hobson said. “We are also trained to assist the physical therapist in having patients move their hand or feet.”

The annual service awards, given to individuals and groups from each of the UW Health Sciences schools, honor recipients who exemplify Dr. King’s principles through:

  • Commitment to addressing community needs, particularly communities of color and low income
  • Development and implementation of significant programs to improve the human condition
  • Outstanding efforts to protect and empower all individuals

“Kathy’s compassionate, caring work with Mason does great credit to our school and the University of Washington,” said Dean Joel Berg. “She’s a wonderful choice to receive this honor as we reflect on the ideals that Dr. King exemplified.”

Two faculty members earn school’s highest recognition

Dr. Jeffrey Rubenstein and Dr. David Dean of the School of Dentistry faculty have received the 2016 Bruce R. Rothwell Teaching Awards, the school’s top faculty honor.

Dr. Rubenstein, who is Professor and Director of the school’s Maxillofacial Prosthetic Service, received the Bruce R. Rothwell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Teaching, which honors outstanding teaching over the course of a career and is given to senior or emeritus faculty.

Dr. Dean, Acting Assistant Professor in the Department of Oral Medicine, received the Bruce R. Rothwell Distinguished Teaching Award for innovative and distinguished teaching, which is bestowed on younger faculty members.

The awards were presented at a faculty retreat on Dec. 15.

Dr. Jeffrey Rubenstein (center) receives the Bruce R. Rothwell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Teaching from Dr. Patricia Rothwell and Dr. Mark Drangsholt.
Dr. Jeffrey Rubenstein (center) receives the Bruce R. Rothwell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Teaching from Dr. Patricia Rothwell and Dr. Mark Drangsholt.

Dr. Rubenstein, who practices a rare specialty that treats patients with head or neck disfigurements, was honored after three previous nominations, with his current nomination submitted by several faculty members and all of the school’s Graduate Prosthodontics residents.

“The services that Dr. Rubenstein provides do much more than simply treat medical issues; Dr. Rubenstein restores patients’ abilities to speak and function, and greatly improves their quality of life after devastating diseases such as cancer or trauma, allowing them to live whole again,” wrote faculty members in one nominating letter.

“Dr. Rubenstein continually inspires graduate students to develop more interest in this particular subspecialty, which further demonstrates his distinction as both a great clinician and a passionate educator,” they wrote.

“When a resident comes to Dr. Rubenstein with a question regarding a patient’s case, his understated enthusiasm and profound knowledge is conveyed in a series of comical idioms that leaves everyone chuckling between his punch lines,” another nominator wrote.

Dr. David Dean receives the Bruce R. Rothwell Award for Distinguished Teaching from Dr. Patricia Rothwell and Dr. Mark Drangsholt.
Dr. David Dean receives the Bruce R. Rothwell Award for Distinguished Teaching from Dr. Patricia Rothwell and Dr. Mark Drangsholt.

Dr. Dean, who joined the faculty in 2014 after earning his DDS and completing a residency in Oral Medicine at the University of Washington, had already received recognition of his teaching abilities with his selection by the graduating Class of 2016 as their commencement keynote speaker in June.

His achievements include being co-creator of a new first-year Dental Foundations course for the cardio-pulmonary-respiratory portion of the curriculum and creation of new competency examinations in oral and pharyngeal cancer for the school’s third-year clerkship curriculum. He was also appointed in July as graduate program director of the Oral Medicine residency, a rare achievement for a junior faculty member.

Wrote several faculty members in their letter of nomination: “Watching Dr. Dean in any lecture setting is truly inspiring.  You can tell in the first 30 seconds that he absolutely loves teaching. He has great passion for it, and is devoted to students learning all the required materials. … [Students have said] they really learn from the careful, timely, and detailed feedback he gives on all assignments.”

The Rothwell Awards honor the late Dr. Bruce R. Rothwell, who was Chair of Restorative Dentistry at the UW from 1993 until his death from kidney cancer in 2000 at the age of 52. Renowned as a forensic dentist, he served as a consultant to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office and in the 1980s worked with UW colleague Dr. Tom Morton to identify victims in the Green River serial murder case.   He was posthumously honored by the American Society of Forensic Odontology.

Dr. Rothwell also directed the School of Dentistry’s General Practice Residency program and was noted for his expertise in teaching, research and care of medically compromised patients. He devised Rothwell’s Solution, a painkilling mouthwash still in use to help patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy for mouth cancers.

The awards were presented by Dr. Patricia Rothwell, who was Dr. Rothwell’s wife, and Dr. Mark Drangsholt, Chair of the Department of Oral Medicine and chair of the award selection committee.

“Our school’s worldwide reputation for excellence is built largely on the efforts of outstanding faculty such as Dr. Rubenstein and Dr. Dean,” Dean Joel Berg said. “They’re entirely deserving of this recognition, and I’m delighted that we can honor their work with these awards.”