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IU School of Dentistry Colleague Receives Presidential Early Career Award

Published:

July 30, 2012

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Former IU School of Dentistry professor Margherita R. Fontana, PhD, DDS, who continues to collaborate on research with her IU colleagues through an appointment at the IU School of Dentistry as an adjunct professor of preventive and community dentistry, is among the 96 recipients of the 2012 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the nation's highest honor for professionals at the outset of their independent research careers.

Fontana earned her PhD in Dental Science from IU in 1996. She was a visiting assistant scientist at the dental school’s Oral Health Research Institute and served as a full-time faculty member from 1998 until accepting a faculty position at the University of Michigan in 2009.

According to the University of Michigan, Fontana was nominated for the award by the National Institutes of Health. She was honored "for studies on the ability to predict caries risk for underserved toddlers in primary health care settings."

Her research addresses inequities in tooth decay and cavities, formally known as dental caries, among preschool-aged U.S. children. The work was inspired by the shift and increase in tooth decay among certain populations, especially from underserved and minority populations. Tooth decay, the most common chronic disease of childhood, is a largely preventable disease.

Fontana is developing a tool that can be used in primary medical health care settings to identify children ages one through four with the highest risk of dental caries. The long-term goal is to reduce disparities in tooth decay and cavities in young children by developing preventive and therapeutic strategies that can be delivered through new models for oral health care, including in the primary care setting.