From left: Katei Hu is an award-winning third-year Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) student in USask’s College of Dentistry. Dr. Dina Moussa (DDS, PhD) is an award-winning post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Walter Siqueira’s (DDM) research group. (Photos: Submitted)

Dentistry trainees earn major national awards

Two trainees in the College of Dentistry have been honoured with a pair of prestigious national research awards for their work at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

By Jenna Fraser

Katie Hu and Dr. Dina Moussa (DDS, PhD) have received Canadian Association of Dental Research (CADR)-Network for Canadian Oral Health Research (NCOHR) Student Research Presentation Awards. In receiving the awards, both will be invited to present their research at the upcoming International Association for Dental Research (IADR)/American Dental Association for Dental Research (AADR)/Canadian Association for Dental Research (CADR) General Session in Boston, Mass., in July.

Hu, a third-year Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) student who is completing her Bachelor of Science in Dentistry, received the junior researcher award for her project entitled “Access to oral healthcare for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder” which examines the parental/caregiver perceptions on access to oral health care for children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

“Receiving this award is a great honour for me as it recognizes the effort that I have put forth for this project,” said Hu. “I hope that my research can increase awareness about patients with FASD and the barriers they face in accessing oral health care. I would also like to express my gratitude for the incredible support and mentorship of my supervisor, Dr. Keith Da Silva (DDS).”

The number of Canadians affected by FASD is estimated to be higher than all other developmental disabilities combined. Children living with FASD face a variety of physical and societal barriers that can impede oral health care. By speaking with the parents/caregivers for children with FASD, Hu’s research aims to better understand the individual challenges children with FASD face and the parental/caregiver perceptions surrounding oral health care.

“Individuals with FASD experience many challenges throughout their lives, and Katie’s research is the first to document that accessing timely dental is also an area of concern. Her findings will be impactful and can be used to help improve community-based programs directed towards this group,” said Da Silva, the assistant professor who oversaw Hu’s research. “Katie is a member the Bachelor of Science in Dentistry inaugural class, and this prestigious national award is not only a testament to her hard work over the last two years, but also to the quality the program.”

In addition to Hu’s success, Moussa, a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Walter Siqueira’s (DDS, PhD) research group, received the award in the senior researcher category for her project entitled “Bioinspired Caries Preventative Strategy via Customizable Pellicles of Saliva-Derived Protein/Peptide Constructs.”

Dental caries, the most widespread chronic disease, starts in the tooth enamel. As enamel is a unique tissue that cannot be healed or regrown, prevention remains the best treatment for dental caries. In her research, Moussa investigates newly bioengineered salivary protein/peptides. Her data opens avenues for the development of a precision-guided remedy by creating bioinspired customizable “skin or coating” on the tooth, that prevent dental caries.

“The novel approach of my research is translationally valuable as a bioinspired precision-guided prevention remedy for a widespread disease affecting more than 80 per cent of the world population,” said Moussa. “It has been a big responsibility to maintain this level of cutting-edge research and this award—being selected in such a huge competition across Canada—means a lot to me.”

“We warmly congratulate this year’s winners Katie and Dina,” said Dr. Petros Papagerakis (DDS, PhD), associate dean, research. “I am pleased to see this recognition now extends to our undergraduate students. These nationally recognized research awards earned by our students for four consecutive years are further evidence of the growing reputation the College of Dentistry is building for innovative research.

“Graduate and post-doctoral students working in our college have won over 70 local, national and international awards and several very competitive scholarships and fellowships in the last four years, awarding over $500,000 to oral health research at USask. We are immensely proud of the work that our students are doing promoting our college and our university nationally and internationally, while enhancing Precision Oral and Systemic Health Research.”