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UTSD’s 10th annual Student Research Showcase goes virtual ... and participation soars

UTHealth School of Dentistry's Virtual Student Research Showcase -abstracts
The UTSD Student Research Showcase, now in its 10th year, went virtual for the first time ever.
Dr. Dana Graves of Penn Dental Medicine was the guest speaker.
Dr. Dana Graves of Penn Dental Medicine was the guest speaker.

The 10th annual Student Research Showcase at UTHealth School of Dentistry at Houston went virtual for the first time as a precaution against spreading COVID-19. Participants logged in via Cisco Webex on Oct. 20 to see results from the school’s 2020 Summer Research Program.

The summer program itself moved out of the laboratory and onto the internet in a last-minute rush last spring to save the event. To everyone’s surprise, participation increased when organizers made the switch.

The same phenomenon happened at the research showcase, when nearly 350 viewers logged in for the William T. Butler Distinguished Lecture, delivered this year by Professor and Vice Dean for Scholarship and Research Dana Graves, DDS, DMSc, of Penn Dental Medicine, where he is also director of the doctor of science in dentistry program. His topic was “The Diabetes Epidemic and Oral Health.”

Graves said diabetes accelerates periodontal disease, increasing inflammation while hindering the body’s ability to resolve it. Fortunately, periodontal treatment is associated with lower death rates.

Diabetes also affects the oral microbiome, he noted. A typical person has around 250 species of organisms — most benign, some harmful — in the mouth. Diabetic patients with periodontal disease have an increased number of pathogens in the mix.

“We were very fortunate to secure Dr. Graves as our guest speaker this year,” said Gena Tribble, PhD, associate professor and student research coordinator. “He’s an excellent scientist and clinician and a great example for our students. I think the quality of his reputation is clear when you consider our record turnout of attendees at his seminar. I’m pleased we were able to continue the tradition of the William T. Butler Distinguished Lecture this year, even though it was presented remotely. “

Of the 48 students and 34 mentors who participated in the Summer Research Program, 15 students were selected to compete in the oral sessions, and an additional 10 oral session presenters were selected from the school’s graduate students, residents, postdocs, and advanced trainees. Nine awards were given for the oral presentations. Winners are listed as follows:

American Association for Dental Research Student Research Day Competition:

  • 1st Place: Mary Younan, DS2, “Prolonged General Anesthesia in a Pediatric Population,” mentor:  Associate Professor Brett Chiquet, DDS, PhD;
  • 2nd Place: Ali Al Hatem, DS2, “Metformin-Induced Protective Mechanisms Against Mitis Group Streptococci,” mentor:  Assistant Professor Ransome van der Hoeven, PhD, director, Section of Basic Sciences;
  • 3rd Place: Nicholas Tipton, DS3, “Success and Complications of Implant Prostheses:  A Retrospective Record Review,” mentor:  Professor Maria Loza, DMD, MS, chair, Department of Restorative Dentistry and Prosthodontics.

Basic Sciences:  Cesar Zapata, DS1, “Collagen XVII in the Salivary Gland,” mentor:  Professor Mary (Cindy) Farach-Carson, PhD, director of clinical and translational research;

Clinical Assessment:  Andrea (Deya) Pajarillo, DS3, “Communicating With Patients With Limited English Proficiency in Dental School Clinics,” mentor:  Assistant Professor Kim Ruona, DDS;

Craniofacial Sciences:  Omkar Patel, DS1, “Oral Health Concerns in Pseudoachondroplasia,” mentor:  Professor Jacqueline Hecht, PhD, director, Center for Craniofacial Research;

Tooth Agenesis:  Simone Menezes, DS3, “Understanding Non-Syndromic Tooth Agenesis:  A GeneReviews Chapter, Part 2,” mentor:  Professor Ariadne Letra, DDS, MS, PhD, interim associate dean for research;

Advanced Students:  Nicole Stephens, student, MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, “Oral Health in Nursing Home Residents,” (Jeter Lab);

Trainees and Residents:  Chihiro Iwaya, PhD, “Cholesterol Overload in the Salivary Glands Causes Sjögren's Syndrome,” (Iwata Lab).

At the end of this year’s virtual showcase, Letra praised the participants for pulling together to overcome challenges caused by the pandemic.

“It was a great day, just to see all the persistence and resilience from students and their mentors to do some wonderful work and the posters are absolutely wonderful,” she said. “Hopefully, next year we can have this event live and back in person again.”

The Student Research Showcase was recorded and can be viewed on Panopto. UTHealth log-in required.

All students who participated in the summer research program have a poster, photo, and biography available for asynchronous viewing online. The poster session is available for viewing by the general public, and a password is not required. Background images for the poster session are from prior years.

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