A "Crain’s 2016 Health Care Hero" Hails from School of Dental Medicine at Case Western Reserve University
Dr. Suchitra Nelson Works to Improve Oral Health of Cleveland’s Low-Income Children
CLEVELAND—Suchitra Nelson, PhD, assistant dean for clinical and translational research and professor of community dentistry at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, has been named a Crain’s Cleveland Business 2016 Health Care Hero.
Nelson, who was selected in the Advancements in Health Care category, is responsible for promoting clinical and translational research programs at the school.
She is currently developing and leading a study backed by a $4.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health that is designed to reduce cavities and improve the oral health of low-income children.
“Good oral health in children is critical for overall health as they grow into adults,” said Nelson. “I’m honored to receive this award together with my research team, which validates the importance of ensuring that low-income children receive the same high-quality dental care and access as their peers. This is vital since evidence has clearly linked poor oral health, particularly gum disease, to such chronic diseases as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.”
The study will involve nearly 90 Northeast Ohio-area pediatricians who will apply a fluoride varnish to the teeth of nearly 3,700 participating children. The physicians will also deliver core oral health messages to parents and guardians, including the importance of baby teeth and information on how untreated cavities can lead to problems in the permanent teeth, serious infections and pain, trouble with eating and speaking, loss of time in school and other negative effects.
By the project’s end, Nelson hopes to pinpoint messages that most effectively sway parents and caregivers to take their children to the dentist. She will then translate the findings into a scalable model that could be adopted by pediatricians across the country.
“Dr. Nelson is a superb choice for this prestigious award,” said Kenneth B. Chance, DDS, dean of Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. “Studies show that only one in three children from low-income and various ethnic backgrounds visit a dentist in their early years. As a result, they are more susceptible to oral diseases, including tooth decay. African American and Hispanic/Latino children are nearly twice as likely as white children to have untreated tooth decay in baby teeth. Dr. Nelson’s current and previous research is crucial to rectifying this imbalance.”
Nelson has received funding for approximately 30 other research projects and published approximately 60 peer-reviewed studies and 100 abstracts. She has taught in the dental school’s Master of Science in Dentistry Program since 1992 and has mentored and supervised theses for dozens of dental students.
Nelson has a PhD in epidemiology and an MS in both epidemiology and nutrition from Case Western Reserve University and an MSc and BSc in nutrition & dietetics from the University of Madras in Madras, India. She has received many professional honors including a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the White House Office of Science and Technology.
About Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine: https://dental.case.edu/