Exciting research is alive in the hallways, classrooms and laboratories at the University of Missouri School of Dentistry. First year dental students have the opportunity to apply to a prestigious summer internship, working with faculty on various dental research topics. I caught up with a few of these gifted students to find out the inside scoop on the research front.
Rebecca Kisling, tackled the important issue of students’ knowledge of the periodontal disease and the referral process. Research has found that substantial percentages of dentists are referring fewer patients to periodontists and often these referrals are made too late (Dockter, Williams et al. 2006). “This is a daily issue that affects every practicing clinician in our profession,” explains Kisling. “Not only do students need to have a strong fundamental base of knowledge in periodontal disease, its link with systemic disease, and the risk factors associated with it, they need to be able to critically utilize this information and apply it to clinical cases.” With the help of her faculty mentors, Kisling developed a survey to elicit students’ knowledge and confidence for management of periodontal patients. Results showed a slight gap in applying basic knowledge to clinical scenarios. Kisling’s research illustrates the importance for institutions across the country to continuously assess the ways they prepare students to integrate their base knowledge into making better clinical decisions.
Myles Davidson preformed research centered on the fibroblast growth factor-23 (FGF-23) molecule, which is an important regulator of the serum phosphate levels in our body. Specifically, Davidson studied how two molecules, parathyroid hormone and cyclic AMP, affect the levels of FGF-23 that are secreted from osteocytes (fluctuations in FGF-23 can lead to serious health conditions). “I have a new appreciation for the work that must go into developing new products for healthcare purposes. The field of genetics and gene manipulation is becoming increasingly important for the future of health. Future drugs and health care products will be able to target specific portions of our genomes and provide better/more accurate care to many of the most devastating diseases we currently deal with,” states Davidson.
“You learn the most when things don’t go as expected.” Bo Zhang kept repeating this mantra as she spent her summer months with the protein Enamelysin (MMP-20). Previously believed to be removed from the enamel after maturation, Zhang investigated new findings that may indicate otherwise, working to discover a possible linkage between radiation and MMP-20 concentration in mature dentition. “Surprisingly, the most valuable knowledge I gained through my research was a specific skill or how enamelysin works, but rather how to maintain a positive and productive mentality towards work and life,” states Zhang. “I have so many more quotes from my mentor that are definitely Pinterest worthy.”
I personally applaud all students (and institutions) who realize the importance of research to the future development of our profession and courageously add the title of “researcher” to their already demanding dental student responsibilities. Just last year, ASDA created a poster session to showcase student research. Applications for the 2013 Student Research Poster Session are under review and you can see all the posters at Annual Session 2013.
Does your respective institution offer similar research opportunities? Do tell!
~Eve Lofthus, Missouri ’15, Contributing Editor