Summer Student Research Program
August 12, 2019
This summer, 19 participating students under the guidance of 16 faculty mentors, worked on their respective summer research projects. In addition to diligently conducting their work during break, each student prepared a short presentation for their fellow participants to wrap their summer session on June 26th.
The Student Research Training Program (SRTP) assists students by offering them research skills in addition to their ongoing clinical dental program. A few of the SRTP student participants, and a faculty mentor, were kind enough to tell us about their projects and experience in the SRTP.
– Under the guidance of Dr. Asma Khan, his mentor, Saif, is working on a project titled: Effect of topical dexamethasone in pulpotomy procedures. He states, The purpose of this study is to evaluate the clinical and radiographic outcomes of pulpotomy procedures done with topical dexamethasone on permanent teeth. We will query Axium, an electronic record system, at UT Health San Antonio Dental School to identify patients who had a pulpotomy procedure done between June 2017 to August 2019. Data from teeth in which dexamethasone was applied during pulpotomy will be compared to teeth in which the procedure was done without the use of the topical medication. The outcome measures to be evaluated include post-operative pain, response to pulp sensibility tests at follow-up appointments and the need for additional endodontic procedures. We hypothesize that teeth treated with dexamethasone will have less post-operative pain and decreased need for additional endodontic procedures as compared to controls.
Preservation of natural teeth is critically dependent on the preservation of the vitality of the pulp-dentin complex. Different approaches have been developed over the years to treat pulp wounds and preserve teeth vitality. The aim of all the different vital pulp therapy techniques has been to seal the wound and to induce regeneration of pulp-dentin complex. Necrosis and degeneration of pulp may be due to the chronic inflammation of the underlying pulp tissue. In this retrospective study, the effects of corticosteroid as an anti-inflammatory drug on inflamed pulp tissue is going to be studied to understand if the use of such drugs can improve the pulp response and regeneration process and as a result increase the chances of preserving natural teeth.
The SRTP is a great opportunity for students to explore the research side of dentistry regardless of how experienced they are in research. I joined the program because I was curious what research is like. Since this is my first research experience, I got to learn about designing studies, write proposals and submit IRB applications. We are currently working on gathering data and the next step will be recalling patients for follow up exams. It has been a pleasure working with Dr. Asma Khan and I look forward to see the findings we are going to get out of this.
- I have a couple research projects I have been working on this summer under the mentorship of Dr. Juanita Pineda. One is a public health research study that traces the trajectory of UT Health San Antonio graduates from medically-underserved regions in order to identify their current location of practice. As someone from a medically-underserved area, I am hopeful that this work will provide insight into the matter and ultimately increase access to dental care in areas of need.
The other is a pilot study on the effect of dental videos compared to traditional PowerPoint presentations on operative pre-clinical success. I conducted this study with the assistance of Dr. Juanita Pineda, Dr. Stephanie Lomeli, and Dr. Kevin Gureckis. We performed the study on a group of 19 LEAD 5 students from the School of Dentistry’s Hispanic Center of Excellence. With this data and student feedback, we are hoping to provide a more effective teaching method that professors can integrate into their curriculum for future students to come.
The data is still being analyzed for both of these projects, but I am excited to discover the results. I am very passionate about the topics and am grateful for the opportunities and mentorship provided by the summer student research program that have allowed me to pursue such studies.
- I have been very involved with the Evidence-Based Dentistry Program operated by Dr. John Rugh. I have been fortunate to publish two CATs (one of which was selected for publication in the Texas Dental Journal) and perform a higher-level analysis of OMS Journals that was accepted as an abstract to the 2019 AADR/IADR. I even had the opportunity to meet Dr. Sharon Gordon, Dean of University of Connecticut Dental School and UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry alumna, while presenting at the AADR/IADR. Furthermore, being involved with research at the school allowed me to be intern at the NIDCR/NIH last summer as a participant in the Summer Dental Student Award Program and perform research on acute pain therapy.
- Dr. Nikita Ruparel’s current project, and the one I had the pleasure of working on over this past summer, investigates the mechanisms by which stem cells reverse the mechanical pain caused by apical periodontitis. This is done using a clinically translational mouse model of apical periodontitis induced by performing pulp exposures in the molars of mice. The preliminary study administered injections of stem cells of the apical papilla (SCAP) or saline, and collectively the data demonstrated that IV injections of SCAP significantly reverse the mechanical allodynia in a mouse model of apical periodontitis. The current experiment is focused on the frequency and timing of SCAP injections for optimal reversal of the mechanical allodynia.
I would like to thank the Student Research Training Program for reinforcing the importance of research and its ability to change the way healthcare professionals work. This program provided weekly classes over the summer introducing every aspect of research to me. Lastly, a huge thank you to Dr. Ruparel for allowing me to work in her lab this summer and giving me a taste of dental research!
- Dr. Kotsakis mentors two students in the SRTP. When asked about his experience as a mentor this summer, Dr. Kotsakis shared, “It was wonderful to find out about the summer research program organized by Dr. Singh. While the majority of U.S. dental schools strive to offer excellent clinical education to the students, the opportunity provided to our students to understand underlying biological concepts that support clinical actions through a research experience is one additional feature that makes our curriculum stand out as exceptional. Working with the summer research interns was a great experience for our lab as they brought in passion for research. We had the opportunity to reflect upon how research findings are grasped by predoctoral students and how research exposure can serve as an interactive teaching aid. Importantly, both of our summer interns emphasized how they were interested in performing more experiments to gain better answers for their research questions and I am hopeful that future advancements in this course will offer more time for the students to conduct more comprehensive research throughout the semester.”
If you are interested in learning more about the student research program as a student or as faculty mentor, please contact Ms. Aries Okungbowa-Ikponmwosa at Okungbowaikp@uthscsa.edu.