UW School of Dentistry

Sunstar Americas boosts UW pediatric oral health research

Dr. Donald Chi of the UW Department of Oral Health Sciences faculty has been named the recipient of the initial Sunstar Americas Pediatric Prevention Award.

Dr. ChiDr. Chi received the new $25,000 unrestricted award to conduct research on pediatric oral health. He plans to study the risk of caries in children and adolescents with cystic fibrosis (CF).

“I’m delighted that Sunstar’s support will help this outstanding young teacher and researcher make an important contribution to our understanding of this element of oral health,” said Dean Joel Berg. The award from Sunstar, a leading maker of oral care and other health care products, is intended to support the study of prevention in pediatric dentistry.

Dr. Chi’s research will examine why children with CF appear to lose their protection against caries as they age into adolescence. One possible explanation, according to Dr. Chi’s research abstract, may lie in the fact that children with CF are typically prescribed varieties of penicillin that kill the Gram-positive oral bacteria that cause decay. Adolescents with CF, however, generally receive a different form of inhaled antibiotic that is not effective against Gram-positive bacteria.

Dr. Chi’s main collaborators are Dr. Sun Oh Chung of Oral Health Sciences, who was also his mentor for the award, and Drs. Margaret Rosenfeld and Ronald Gibson of Seattle Children’s hospital. Their work will also be aided by an additional $80,000 from the Cystic Fibrosis Research Developmental Program, an initiative funded by the CF Foundation.

Dr. Chi said he was extremely gratified to receive the Sunstar award, and added: “These funds will support the largest U.S.-based clinical oral health study of children and adolescents with CF since 1980. Our team is honored and thrilled for the opportunity to conduct important translational research that will advance our understanding of oral diseases in patients with CF.  We will work hard to generate knowledge that we hope will ultimately optimize the dental care we provide to patients with CF.”

Along with his position as assistant professor of Oral Health Sciences, Dr. Chi is also an  investigator at the UW’s Northwest Center to Reduce Oral Health Disparities. He holds board certifications in pediatric dentistry and dental public health.

He has recorded 45 contributions to peer-reviewed journals, along with 36 published research abstracts and three book chapters. Among his numerous recognitions are two awarded this year:  the Bengt Magnusson Memorial Prize in Child Dental Health and a five-year appointment as  a William T. Grant Foundation Scholar.