UNMC dental student tops competition with research project

Image with caption: Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson, a fourth-year dental student at UNMC's College of Dentistry in Lincoln, earned first place in the Clinical Research/Public Health Category at the American Dental Association /DENTSPLY Student Clinician Research Program -- only the second time in 54 years a UNMC student has taken first place at the event.

His presentation, entitled "Alveolar Bone Loss in Subjects with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis," competed against students from 56 U.S. dental schools at the American Dental Association annual session in New Orleans on Nov. 2.

The study found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis were at a greater risk for more severe alveolar bone loss in comparison to the control group (osteoarthritis patients). Alveolar bone supports and anchors the roots of teeth.

Johnson received an engraved glass trophy, $750 and a travel award to attend the 102nd Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting in Atlanta in March.

Johnson, a native of Brookings, S.D., graduates in May and will enter UNMC's postgraduate program in periodontics.

"This award ranks among the highest dental student research honors in the world," said John Reinhardt, D.D.S., dean of the UNMC College of Dentistry. "We are extremely proud of Paul's achievement. The award also speaks very well of his faculty mentors and the high quality of research in which our students are engaged."

Johnson's study team, who worked on this project, included Jeffrey Payne, D.D.S., Shawneen Gonzalez, D.D.S., and Marian Schmid from the UNMC College of Dentistry; Fang Yu, Ph.D., and Harlan Sayles from the UNMC College of Public Health; and Ted Mikuls, M.D., from the UNMC College of Medicine.

"I can't thank Dr. Payne, Dr. Gonzalez and the rest of the staff enough for their support throughout the past two and a half years," Johnson said. "It was a great experience seeing an interdisciplinary team work together toward a common goal and realizing such great results. I was just the lucky one who had the opportunity to present the poster."

Johnson said he had a "neat" story to tell with the project, emphasizing the idea that oral diseases like periodontitis may play a role in systemic health problems like rheumatoid arthritis (or vice versa).

"To be awarded first place out of the 56 institutions was just a surreal moment," he said. "It was quite humbling to know I was among individuals who will undoubtedly guide the future of our profession."


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Marlene Novotny
November 26, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Woot, woot! Great job!

Project supporters

Paul Johnson's project was supported by the American College of Rheumatology Research Foundation (Dr. Mikuls, principal investigator) and by the F. Gene and Rosemary Dixon Endowed Chair in Dentistry (Dr. Payne, endowed chair), with additional support provided by the UNMC Clinical Research Center.