TAG: "Dentistry"

Viewing dentistry in a new light


Michael Staninec (left) and Jacob Simon, a staff research associate, test a device that uses optical coherence tomography, which uses near-infrared light to view cavities in teeth better than traditional X-rays. (Photo by Susan Merrill)

Dental X-rays expose patients to radiation, require time to process, and can only “see” a limited amount inside the mouth.

Now new optical techniques developed by UC San Francisco’s Daniel Fried, Ph.D., use light to take instantaneous digital images that can provide a better picture of our teeth and could one day zap cavities with pinpoint precision.

Fried, a professor in the School of Dentistry’s Division of Biomaterials and Bioengineering in the Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences, is a leading expert in a relatively new field of light-based dentistry, called biophotonics. It uses optical techniques such as near-infrared lasers and spectroscopy for imaging and therapy.

“The field is strongly moving in the direction of what we call minimally invasive dentistry,” said John Featherstone, dean of the School of Dentistry, “and the technologies being developed by Dan’s team are a key part of that philosophy.”

One of those technologies, called optical coherence tomography (OCT), uses near-infrared light — a wavelength of light invisible to humans — to create high-resolution, 3-D images of teeth.

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Dental school’s diversity pipeline a success


UCLA School of Dentistry outreach program helps underrepresented students.

Raquel Ulma went from growing up in a poor neighborhood in Puerto Rico to graduating from UCLA School of Dentistry to getting accepted into the UCLA Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery program. (Photo by Brianna Aldrich, UCLA)

When Raquel Ulma moved to Los Angeles with her husband, Greg, in 2002, he knew that it was time for her to start making her lifelong dream of becoming a dentist a reality, even though she had no idea how.

So Greg encouraged her to attend the annual California Dental Association session with a friend. “I actually crashed the dentistry event,” confessed Ulma, who goes by “Rocky.” “I approached the Hispanic Dental Association booth and struck up a conversation with a female dentist who was approachable and welcoming.”

Soon Ulma was telling Dr. Lilia Larin about her goal of becoming a dentist. The two exchanged contact information and Larin told her to expect a call from a faculty member from UCLA School of Dentistry who was starting a program designed to help people apply to dental school.

The next day, Drs. Marvin Marcus and Bruce Sanders contacted Ulma. Marcus told Ulma that she was the perfect candidate for his new program aimed at recruiting disadvantaged and underrepresented students into dentistry. She was from a poor neighborhood in Puerto Rico and had the basic science foundation, having majored in chemistry at the University of Puerto Rico and had completed master’s level coursework in organic chemistry.

“To be honest,” Ulma said, “I was a little star-struck that a school such as UCLA would have an interest in me.”

Shortly after her first contact with Marcus, Ulma became one of the first students to participate in UCLA School of Dentistry’s then-fledgling recruitment initiatives and helped paved the way for the current Post-Baccalaureate program, which guides students step-by-step, through the daunting dental school application process. Since 2003, the program has mentored 40 post-baccalaureate students, 30 of whom have gone on to attend dental school. The program, which is funded in part by UCLA School of Dentistry Dean No-Hee Park’s office, is the first of its kind in Southern California.

“Our educational pipeline initiatives are something I am very proud of and are an important element of our outreach and diversity goals,” said Dr. Park. “Our Post-Baccalaureate Program has helped young people reach their full potential and has enriched the dental field with professionals from all backgrounds.”

For Ulma, the coaching began with a meeting at the School of Dentistry’s Office of Student Affairs where Marcus and Sanders reviewed her undergraduate transcripts, looked at her dental admission test (DAT) scores and went over a draft of her application essay. Ulma had strong grades from her undergraduate work, but needed to work on her DAT scores and wasn’t as strong in the interview portion. Knowing this, Marcus and Sanders helped set-up a mock-interview panel that resemble an actual interview she would eventually face.

“The mock interview panel was a lot harder than I expected,” she said. “They asked a lot of questions, such as why I would be a good fit for that particular school and what makes me a good candidate for dental school.”

They also advised her to do some volunteer work in dentistry, so Ulma immediately began volunteering at the Wilson-Jennings-Bloomfield UCLA Venice Dental Center – a community clinic in West Los Angeles that provides dental care to low-income adults and children.

The entire process took about a year and a half, from reviewing her prerequisites and retaking the DAT to applying to numerous schools and interviewing. After that though, Ulma was accepted to her top choice, UCLA, and began dental school in 2004.

“Looking back at how far I’ve come is sometimes unbelievable,” Ulma said.

Originally from Levittown, Puerto Rico, a rough, urban neighborhood outside of the country’s capital, Ulma recalls the area where she grew up as, “a very bad neighborhood with high pregnancy rates, drug dealers and teenagers getting shot.”

Ulma’s police officer father also owned a woodworking shop where he made furniture to supplement his salary, and he would regularly bring her to the shop to keep her out of trouble.

“It was the experience of working with my father in his shop where I fell in love with using my hands to make something beautiful, yet functional,” she said.

Rather than follow her father exactly, though Ulma chose to pursue dentistry to combine her love of working with her hands along with helping people.

With the support of her husband and faculty at UCLA, Ulma achieved her long-held dream of becoming a dentist when she graduated with the D.D.S. class of 2008.

“During dental school, I would often meet with Dr. Marcus for breakfast and he would remind me to take it day-by-day,” she recalled. The support she received from Marcus and Sanders has inspired Ulma to volunteer her time to assist other students with their dental school applications.

Dental school was just the beginning for Ulma. In 2008, she successfully applied to and was accepted to the UCLA Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS) residency program, a highly competitive program that only offers two slots per year out of approximately 100 applications. Ulma graduated from the OMS residency program with an M.D. degree and a certificate of specialization in oral and maxillofacial surgery this June.

“She is truly a remarkable individual and I believe she will be a model for many women and minorities in the future,” Marcus said.

While in the OMS residency program Ulma met Dr. Earl Freymiller, professor of clinical dentistry and chairman of the section of oral and maxillofacial surgery. Freymiller, an oral surgeon, introduced Ulma to the Thousand Smiles Foundation. Ulma and Freymiller, along with other oral surgeons travel to Ensenada, Mexico several times a year where they perform surgery on children with cleft lip and palate.

“Dr. Freymiller has been such an invaluable mentor to me,” Ulma said. “I’ve witnessed patients he’s worked on come back years later to introduce them to their families and thank him for what he’s done for them. He is an example of who I want to become.”

In summer 2015, Ulma will start a three-year residency in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery program, and learn to perform complex facial and body reconstruction to help replace congenitally or traumatically missing body parts.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Post-Baccalaureate program,” she said. “People do what they know. For example, if there isn’t a role model for how to get into dental school or the health sciences, then younger minorities won’t even see it as an option. I look at where I’m at in my career and feel incredibly lucky for the people who have been role models to me.”

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UCLA dentistry student honored as advocate for oral health


Adrien Hamedi-Sangsari has pushed for more government funding for the profession.

Adrien Hamedi-Sangsari, UCLA

Adrien Hamedi-Sangsari always knew he wanted to become a dentist. The third-year UCLA School of Dentistry student grew up listening to and admiring several of his cousins who are dentists as they explained what dentistry was like and how it could be a fulfilling career path.

These family influences combined with an internship in 2013 at the American Dental Association’s offices in Washington, D.C., guided him to want to become more than a dentist but also an advocate who fights for issues that affect the profession.

“I want to make dentists and dental students understand that this is our profession and only we can change it and protect it,” said Hamedi-Sangsari, who graduated from UC Irvine in 2011 with a degree in biology. “We can’t just sit around and hope for the best. We need to have a voice to make an impact.”

This past March, Hamedi-Sangsari’s passion for the dental field was recognized by the American Association for Dental Research when he was selected as the first recipient of the association’s Student Advocate of the Year Award. This award was created to recognize a dental student for his or her outstanding contributions in advocacy for oral health research.

Hamedia-Sangsari’s interest in dental advocacy began while he was a student intern at the American Dental Association (ADA). His primary duties were to assist the ADA’s grassroots efforts: this entailed reaching out to dentists as potential new members and accompanying lobbyists to Capitol Hill to support candidates who were proponents for the profession.

During his internship, Hamedi-Sangsari learned more about the political issues that dentists and dental students face, which include staggering student debt after dental school, pro bono dental care, professional licensure and water fluoridation.

“Student debt reduction is especially important to dental students right now,” Hamedi-Sangsari said, “since the cost of training a dental student raises the bar higher than for the average graduate student.”

Addressing the growing problem of student loan debt is a major issue for the American Student Dental Association, which Adrien is also a member of. Many recent dental school graduates are shying away from pursuing postgraduate training or a career in dental education due to the debt burden, which could adversely impact the number of specialists, teachers and researchers.

“Student loans are at the top of the agenda for ASDA,” said Hamedi-Sangsari. Two out of the three bills being discussed by ASDA are about the burden of student loans. “There isn’t a perfect formula yet for how to reduce our debt burden, but at least it’s being talked about.”

In addition, Hamedi-Sangsari believes that government funding should be increased for pro bono dental care. He also feels that dental licensure needs to be a standardized nationwide exam, versus state-by-state and that the exam should eliminate live patients due to the number of variables involved. Hamedi-Sangsari also supports changing how dental students are evaluated from one day of assessment to reviewing a student’s entire case portfolio, because it’s a better gauge of ability.

Water fluoridation is another hot topic on Hamedi-Sangsari’s radar. He believes that water fluoridation should be mandatory in every major city, and that education is a major reason why dental cavities are still a problem for pediatric patients.

“I volunteer at a pediatric dentistry clinic in the Los Angeles area and I hear from young mothers, all the time, how they won’t let their child drink tap water,” said Hamedi-Sangsari. “People don’t realize that city’s tap water is beneficial to our oral health.”

Hamedi-Sangsari said that if dentists and dental students don’t advocate for these issues that affect their future and the patients they treat, who else would?

Hamedia-Sangsari heard about the award from a faculty mentor and thought he had a good chance to be selected for the honor. He has been president of the UCLA Student Research Group and last year, before even officially becoming president of the group, Hamedi-Sangsari encouraged UCLA students to write and email letters to and call politicians about the issues dentists and dental students face. He also participated in the 2013 American Association of Dental Research/American Dental Education Association Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. He spent the majority of his time advocating for Congress to maintain funding for the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research and funding for primary care training in general dentistry, pediatric and public health dentistry.

In August, Hamedi-Sangsari took the initiative and met with members of the California congressional delegation, including Henry Waxman, Karen Bass and Brad Sherman. During these meetings he discussed the groundbreaking research at UCLA and the importance of increasing funding for biomedical research.

“With recent budget constraints, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research have cut funding to advance dental research,” Hamedi-Sangsari said. “Every day there are new projects being shot down, due to funding, that could revolutionize the dental profession. As long as there are things to discover in dentistry, research needs to be at the forefront of the discussion.”

As he moves into his fourth year of dental school, Hamedi-Sangsari is starting to plan for life after UCLA. He said that he is leaning toward pursuing advanced training in orthodontics, and would like to work with adolescents in Southern California. Also, as a native of the San Fernando Valley, he would like to remain close to home. And of course, he plans to continue to advocate for the dental profession.

“There is so much more to dentistry than the private office,” Hamedi-Sangsari said. “I have come to understand that during my dental school experience, the future of the profession is in our hands and I refuse to sit around and watch it get restructured without our support.”

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UCLA School of Dentistry celebrates 50th anniversary


Yearlong series of events starts May 17.

Built next to the Center for Health Sciences, the new UCLA School of Dentistry in 1964, the year it was founded, was already a busy place on campus.

Back in June 1958, a specially appointed University of California committee strongly recommended that the UC regents take decisive action “as expeditiously as possible” because the need was “pressing and increasing.” Dentistry, they warned, was an emerging profession and would experience shortages in the near future.

So with a sense of urgency, the regents embarked on an ambitious construction plan on the UCLA campus that led six years later to the establishment of a dental school here. Today, 50 years later, the UCLA School of Dentistry is celebrating its five-decade rise to becoming one of the leading research-intensive dental schools in the nation.

Founded in 1964, the school continuously ranks as a top choice among dental school applicants and also serves as an affordable option for quality dental care in the Los Angeles region.

But there have been major changes over time. The makeup of today’s student body, for example, is drastically different from what it was in 1964. The first graduating class in 1968 had 28 dental students, with only one female student. However, during the early 1970s, a push to diversify the school’s student body took effect.

“An emphasis on encouraging women to look at dentistry as a profession was initiated by the administration, and their efforts eventually paid off,” said Dr. Carol Bibb, associate dean for student affairs and one of the first females at UCLA encouraged to pursue a dental degree. She graduated in 1978. In the early 1990s, D.D.S. classes began shifting to a more equal number of men and women, and this has remained the trend today.

Over the years, the school’s patient care capabilities have also transformed. In 1989, the school opened the Wilson-Jennings-Bloomfield UCLA Venice Dental Center, which was originally a small storefront with only five dental chairs.

“Today, the 27-chair clinic serves as the ‘dental home’ of choice for thousands of patients annually,” said Dr. Paulo Camargo, associate dean for clinical dental sciences. “Thanks to the generosity of the Wilson, Jennings and Bloomfield families, the UCLA Venice Dental Center is a regional destination for underserved communities in the West Los Angeles region.”

In 1994, the Northridge Earthquake forced the school to further improve its capacity to serve the community’s dental care needs. When seismic renovations began in 1997, school administrators seized the opportunity to modernize the Westwood clinics. After several years of refurbishment and upgrade, the UCLA Dental Clinics, which include a general clinic and 17 specialized clinics, were transformed into contemporary facilities with advanced technology and the foundation necessary to serve a growing patient population.

But the dental school’s growth spurt didn’t stop there. In the early- to mid-2000s, the school experienced a surge in research funding. In 2004, research grants awarded topped more than $10 million, a figure which has increased to a staggering $30 million today. The school’s research faculty have become known as pioneers in the field.

Breakthroughs have been made in the areas of salivary diagnostics, stem cell research, cancer research and antimicrobial technology to fight bacteria. In 2013, the UCLA dental school opened the Center for Oral/Head and Neck Oncology Research, a cutting-edge space housing the labs of some of the school’s world-renowned researchers.

To commemorate the school’s golden anniversary, a yearlong series of events and research symposiums is being planned that will start Saturday, May 17, with the Annual Alumni Event and end Saturday, May 16, 2015, with a gala event.

Then, on Sunday, June 1, in Royce Hall, 106 dental students will receive their D.D.S. degrees. One of the dental school’s celebrated alumni, Dr. Gary Parker, who graduated in 1977, will give the commencement address. At the ceremony, he will also receive the coveted UCLA Medal from Chancellor Gene Block. The medal is UCLA’s highest honor given to an individual for extraordinary accomplishment. Among the past recipients have been Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and UCLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden. Parker is being honored for using his oral and maxillofacial expertise to surgically treat the disfigured in impoverished countries.

“This is a time for celebration, a time to reflect on everything that has been accomplished and to look forward to everything that will be accomplished.” said Dr. Ronald Mito, associate dean for academic programs and personnel. “This is an exciting place to be for everyone who has had a part in making the UCLA School of Dentistry what it is today.”

As the school looks towards the future, a push to recruit and retain leading dental educators is one of its major development goals. With eight endowed chairs — all created in the last 13 years — the school is already a leader in establishing this reliable, ongoing source of support to distinguished faculty.

“For any organization in today’s world, challenges will arise and change will occur. But if the past 50 years are any indication of what is to come, the next 50 years for the UCLA School of Dentistry will be nothing less than spectacular,” said Dr. No-Hee Park, dean of the school.

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UCLA receives $2M to provide dental care to patients with HIV/AIDS


Patients will receive diagnostic services and corrective care.

Accessing affordable medical and dental care is a major challenge for people living with HIV and AIDS, many of whom are disabled and can not afford dental exams and treatment. For this underserved, vulnerable population, maintaining oral health is important not only for functional and aesthetic reasons, but also as part of overall HIV disease management.

To address that need, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recently awarded the UCLA School of Dentistry a two-year grant of $2.36 million, which will enable UCLA to provide dental care for more than 1,000 people with HIV or AIDS each year.

The funding is being channeled through the federal government’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which works with cities, states and community-based organizations to provide HIV-related services to individuals who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources. An estimated 50,550 people who have been diagnosed with HIV and AIDS are living in Los Angeles County — and, counting undiagnosed cases, experts believe the number might actually exceed 60,000.

“With this funding, we are going to be able to provide quality dental care and oral health specialty services to thousands of HIV and AIDS patients,” said Fariba Younai, a UCLA professor of clinical dentistry. “The patients who we will be treating are financially disadvantaged and have extremely limited access to care.”

Patients will receive diagnostic services such as exams and radiographs; preparatory work such as cleanings and removal of tooth decay; and corrective care including extractions, fillings, crowns and other prostheses, and periodontal surgery. In addition, care providers will emphasize prevention and early detection of oral diseases by teaching patients about the importance of proper oral care at home and periodic visits to the dental office for examinations.

“The dental needs of HIV-positive and AIDS patients can be extensive and complex,” said Dr. Paulo Camargo, the school’s associate dean of clinical dental sciences. “This contract allows the delivery of comprehensive dental treatment to a large patient population that would otherwise not have access to this type of care.”

The majority of the patients who will be treated will be referred by neighboring clinics that specialize in caring for people with HIV and AIDS. A patient care liaison will assist with communication between the referring clinics and the UCLA Dental Clinics to help position dental care as an integral component of the patients’ overall health.

“Thanks to this contract from the county of Los Angeles, we will be able to provide needed and valuable services and to work with other health care providers to improve quality of life for people with HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. No-Hee Park, the school’s dean. “This partnership helps us fulfill our mission of improving the oral and systemic health of people throughout our community.”

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UCSF students offering free dental screenings


Early detection is key to diagnosis potential tooth decay.

Mora Braggs dons a tooth costume to help promote the UCSF free dental screening at the San Francisco's Cesar Chavez Festival.

The Cesar Chavez holiday is a time to remember the late civil rights leader by promoting community service.

This year, UC San Francisco faculty and students answered the call to action by volunteering their time to provide free dental screenings at the city’s Cesar Chavez Festival in the Mission District on April 12.

Dozens of people, including 60 children, participated in the screenings and received fluoride varnishes to prevent cavities. Dental school residents also provided free oral health education and made referrals to the UCSF Dental Center for cases that needed follow-up.

During the festival, at least 15 people were recommended for follow-up with a dentist at the Dental Center and three were found to have serious dental problems.

Early detection is key to diagnosing potential tooth decay, which remains one of the most common diseases. By age 17, more than 7 percent of children have lost a permanent tooth to decay.

The UCSF School of Dentistry offers free screenings throughout the year at locations throughout San Francisco. Its next event will be on Sunday, May 4, at Third & Newcomb at the Bayview Sunday Streets. Download the event flier, or visit the UCSF Community and Government Relations page for more information.

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Dentist shortage bites California as more choose to practice out of state


Older dentists nearing retirement, newer dentists more specialized.

A lingering recession, the elimination of Medicaid dental reimbursements and a glut of established dentists in wealthier, populated areas may explain why more new dentists are practicing outside California, according to a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

“Good access to dental care depends on having a robust supply of new dentists in California,” said Nadereh Pourat, director of research at the center and lead author of the study. “We need a new generation of dentists to replace the many dentists who are close to retirement.”

While California still saw an increase in the number of dentists and had more licensed dentists —35,000 plus — than any other state in 2012, the number of those licensed to practice in California who opted to reside or work out of state grew 6 percent between 2008 and 2012.

The migration is especially noticeable among new dentists. In 2012, 86 percent of those licensed within the previous five years practiced in the state — a 10 percent drop from 2008. In addition, new dentists in 2012 made up a smaller share of the state’s overall supply. Of all regions, the San Joaquin Valley tallied the highest percentage of new dentists, who made up 15 percent of the local supply.

A noteworthy development: Analysis showed one group — women — made up almost half of all newly licensed dentists in California in 2012.

Age may also start affecting supply. Nearly one-quarter of actively licensed dentists in California have been practicing for 30 years or more and are close to retirement age. Northern and Sierra counties had the highest proportion of dentists nearing retirement, at 40 percent.

The report also suggests that it may become tougher for adults to get basic oral care than gum surgery, as more new dentists are specializing.

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Study connects smoke-free laws, dentists’ advice to quit


Smoke-free laws can help influence behavior and attitudes.

Cigarette buttsSmoke-free laws may help encourage dentists to recommend that their patients kick the smoking habit, according to new research co-authored by UC Merced professsor Mariaelena Gonzalez.

The paper, published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggests the societal change manifested by smoke-free laws can contribute to an atmosphere in which dentists pay more attention to patients’ smoking habits.

“Smoke-free laws can have strong effects – and not just on stopping individual-level behavior,” said Gonzalez, whose research focuses on tobacco control. “These laws can influence other behavior and attitudes, as our study shows with dentists. They can have a huge effect on people’s preferences, such as a preference for clean indoor air. Even smokers like clean indoor air.”

Gonzalez co-authored the study “Association of Strong Smoke-Free Laws with Dentists’ Advice to Quit Smoking, 2006-2007,” with Stanton A. Glantz, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, and Ashley Sanders-Jackson, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. All three have been associated with the UCSF-based Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, where Glantz is the director.

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Students learn by doing good


Global children’s oral health, nutrition program helps stem tooth decay around the world.

Global Children's Oral Health and Nutrition ProgramEvery year since 2010, Dr. Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, Dr. Susan Ivey and a group of students have taken toothbrushes, toothpaste, and a big pink and white model of teeth to Latin America and, since 2011, Asia. There, they teach communities about nutrition and oral health. The Global Children’s Oral Health and Nutrition Program was created to stem the epidemic rise in tooth decay in developing countries around the world. Sokal-Gutierrez is an associate clinical professor and Ivey an associate adjunct professor in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Both teach in the UC Berkeley-UC San Francisco Joint Medical Program.

The program began in El Salvador in 2003, where Sokal-Gutierrez noticed a trend in tooth decay of children up to 6 years old. Since then, the program has expanded to Nepal, India, Vietnam, Ecuador and Peru. Sokal-Gutierrez and Ivey estimate that the program has served about 10,000 children and their parents since its inception. But the Children’s Oral Health and Nutrition Program has also made another big impact, this time on the UC Berkeley campus: bringing transformative experiences to students launching their careers in public health, medicine and dentistry.

“How can we do our best to improve the health of children, and how can we do our best to mentor the students and give them this good hands-on opportunity?” asks Sokal-Gutierrez. “I’m always trying to pay attention to both of those things.”

In the decade since it began, nearly 200 volunteers have participated in the program. Most are UC Berkeley undergraduates who plan to pursue careers in public health, medicine, and dentistry. They also include graduate students and professionals from the fields of medicine, dentistry and public health. Additionally, Sokal-Gutierrez and Ivey often seek out students whose families emigrated from countries where this program might be needed. It offers a chance for students to connect abstract concepts to real-world scenarios, take on positions of leadership, and be mentors in medicine and public health.

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How nanotechnology can help fight cancer


UCLA researcher highlights advances.

Dean Ho, UCLA

Dean Ho, UCLA

As cancer maintains its standing as the second leading cause of death in the U.S., researchers have continued their quest for safer and more effective treatments. Among the most promising advances has been the rise of nanomedicine, the application of tiny materials and devices whose sizes are measured in the billionths of a meter to detect, diagnose and treat disease.

A new research review co-authored by a UCLA professor provides one of the most comprehensive assessments to date of research on nanomedicine-based approaches to treating cancer and offers insight into how researchers can best position nanomedicine-based cancer treatments for FDA approval.

The article, by Dean Ho, professor of oral biology and medicine at the UCLA School of Dentistry, and Edward Chow, assistant professor at the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore and the National University of Singapore, was published online by the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine. Ho and Chow describe the paths that nanotechnology-enabled therapies could take — and the regulatory and funding obstacles they could encounter — as they progress through safety and efficacy studies.

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Free health care clinic


UCLA health care staff help treat thousands at Care Harbor clinic.

A team of more than 200 UCLA health professionals helped staff a free health care clinic last week that provided vital basic medical services to approximately 3,000 uninsured and underserved people in Los Angeles.

They were among the nearly 3,000 medical and general volunteers at Care Harbor’s annual urban health clinic — held Oct. 31 through Nov. 3 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena just south of downtown Los Angeles — who provided more than 5,700 medical, dental and vision exams.

“To me it’s part of the mission of being a physician to care for people,” said Dr. Colin McCannel, a UCLA ophthalmologist. ” It’s part of what I should be doing so doing it makes me feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to.”

There were 16 volunteers from UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute, who conducted eye exams, donated 10 free cataract surgeries and prescribed free eye glasses. UCLA’s team also included seven doctors from family medicine, 17 general internists, and one physician from internal medicine/pediatrics, as well as some specialists and medical students.

The Care Harbor clinic provides a wide range of services for people who lack the means to get medical care on a regular basis. The health professionals screened for diabetes and hypertension, administered immunizations, offered mental health counseling and provided teeth cleanings, among many other basic services. For those patients who had more severe problems or conditions that required longer term care, the volunteers provided referrals to followup services.

The UCLA School of Dentistry staffed 10 dental chairs providing oral hygiene services for hundreds of patients.

“Service is part of the core missions and I want to take every opportunity I can to give back,” said Dr. Edmond Hewlett, a professor in the school of dentistry.

In addition to the doctors, UCLA volunteers included nearly 80 nurses from Ronald Reagan UCLA and Santa Monica medical centers; six clinical lab scientists and a pathologist from the department of pathology who interpreted the pap smears; and six nurse practitioners.

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UCLA dental school teams with community bank to serve neighbors in need


Nearly 250 local residents receive free oral health screenings.

A woman being examined at the UCLA dental clinic inside the lobby of Wilshire Bank in Koreatown.It was anything but a typical Saturday at the bank. On Oct. 12, inside the lobby of Wilshire Bank in Koreatown, nearly 250 local residents lined up for oral health screening appointments offered free of charge by UCLA School of Dentistry students, residents and faculty.

For many of the primarily Korean participants, this was their first dental check-up in several years — not so surprising in the low-income community, and a factor that had prompted the bank to collaborate with UCLA to bring free dental care to its neighbors in a new program set to take place every year for five years. A $100,000 pledge to the dental school from Wilshire Bank – which is headquartered in Los Angeles but has 28 branches in four states — helped cover the costs of bringing in 30 dental students and 17 supervising faculty and residents who volunteered their services during the inaugural event. The funding also helped pay for topical fluoride treatments and dental home care kits given to those in dire need of dental care.

In addition, the School of Dentistry will contribute more than $100,000 in in-kind donations including faculty time and expertise, and additional supplies and staff support in the school clinic.

But the check-ups at the bank were just the beginning: Of the 250 people who were seen, about half were referred for free follow-up treatment a week later, on Oct. 19, at several of the dental school’s more than a dozen clinics in Westwood, with Wilshire Bank providing the patients with free transportation.

A number of the patients presented very complex cases requiring multiple procedures and treatment from multidisciplinary dental teams.

“I was told by some patients that the service and attention they received at the screening and treatment days was much more thorough than what they experienced at a private dentist,” said Dr. Paulo Camargo, associate dean of clinical dental sciences, who was in charge of coordinating the treatment day.

Ultimately, it is hoped, this collaborative effort will prompt patients from the Koreatown community to maintain their oral health by becoming regular patients of the UCLA dental clinics.

“The partnership we have embarked on with Wilshire Bank is a testament to both organizations’ commitment to the health of the people in the community,” said Dr. No-Hee Park, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry. “These screenings and corresponding treatment create an opportunity for those severely lacking in access to receive definitive dental care and oral health education at the UCLA School of Dentistry’s clinics.”

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