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Research Explores How Oral Health Relates to Public Health

Parth Patel

January 30, 2023

New research conducted by Parth Patel, an MPH student in the department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Dornsife School of Public Health, titled “Differential Profile of Primary and Recurrent Ameloblastomas Among Afro-descendants and non-Afro-descendants-a Systematic Review” was published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities on January 3, 2023.

Afro-descendants are not researched as much as other races for the presence of BRAF V600E gene mutation, despite the higher prevalence and more destructive nature of a tumor in that racial group.

This research was conducted during his Applied Practical Experience (APE) at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine as a Research Intern in summer 2022. He worked closely with Sunday O. Akintoye, BDS, DDS, MS, Associate Professor and Director of the Oral Medicine Research Program at UPenn.

To learn more about this work, Patel answered questions about this research and what these findings tell us.

Q&A: Can Screening for a Specific Gene Mutation Improve Treatment of Ameloblastoma?

What compelled and drove you to do this work for your APE?

I was interested in studying how being born into a certain race can put an individual at higher risk of developing certain diseases.

While looking for my APE, I found that professor. Dr. Akintoye from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine was working on a project aimed at assessing the racial and genetic distribution of ameloblastoma so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for me.

In addition, I am a foreign trained dentist, so my existing knowledge related to jaw tumors made me a perfect fit for that position.

Why is research significant?

Our work was a systematic review project. In our literature search, we found that Afro-descendants are at higher risk of developing recurrent (secondary) ameloblastoma.

Studies have found that BRAF V600E gene mutation is highly associated with this tumor's development, but there are few studies that assessed Afro-descendants for its presence. So, this kind of research is needed to promote studies that specifically aim to assess Afro-descendants for the presence of BRAF V600E gene mutation in Ameloblastoma development.

What impact do you hope this research will have?

It will prompt researchers to assess Afro-descendants for the presence of BRAF V600E genetic mutation. Screening for this mutation may help understand why this tumor is more prevalent and destructive in Black populations as opposed to other populations. It will also open a way for targeted molecular therapy in the general population.

Why is the APE valuable in the MPH program?

It is a crucial part of this program. It gives us an opportunity to apply our classroom learnings in real life scenarios. It enhanced my understanding of public health skills that I learned in the first two quarters of the program.

What are your future goals for your career? Where do you see yourself?

In future, I would like to use my clinical and public health skills to advocate for disparities in oral health in the US.

According to CDC, among working-age U.S. adults, more than 40 percent of low-income and non-Hispanic Black adults have untreated tooth decay. Untreated oral disease has a large impact on quality of life and productivity. I want to use my public health skills to reduce this disparity.

Review Patel's research paper in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.

Learn more about Drexel Dornsife's MPH in Epidemiology.