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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.”