Ann Arbor, MI — August 1, 2012 — Dr. Margherita Fontana, associate professor in the Department of Cariology, Restorative Sciences, and Endodontics, received the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers during a ceremony at the White House yesterday.
Fontana received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for her studies on the prediction of caries risk for toddlers in underserved communities. Fontana was one of three U-M researchers and among 96 nationwide to receive the award that recognizes scientists who are beginning their careers and show exceptional potential for continuing America’s leadership in science and engineering.
Following the ceremony, Fontana said, "It was great. We each had an opportunity to shake hands with the president."
Nominated by the National Institutes of Health, Fontana’s research focuses on oral health care inequities among underserved and minority preschool-aged children in the U.S., specifically related to dental caries.
She is developing a tool that can be used in primary medical health care settings to identify children ages 1 to 4 with the highest risk of caries. The long-term goal is to reduce disparities by developing preventive and therapeutic strategies that can be used interprofessionally by dentists, physicians, and other health care professionals.
Researchers will ask parents of 1,326 infants to complete a questionnaire about their child’s oral health. Dental and medical professionals will then perform three dental examinations of the children to see how well the risk tool predicts caries risk as the children age.
Award recipients received a citation, plaque, and funding from their agency for up to five years to advance his or her research.
The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care, and community service. General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the School to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan. Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia, and public agencies. Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide. For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at: www.dent.umich.edu.