Awards: Dr. Noha Gomaa receives Colgate Award for Research Excellence

Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Dr. Noha Gomaa, Assistant Professor, Oral Medicine and Associate Director for Dentistry Research, is a recipient of the Colgate Award for Research Excellence (CARE).

The CARE program is a one-year research grant of USD $30,000 to foster the development of early career investigators in dental research. Recipients of this competitive award are selected from dental schools from across North America.

Gomaa’s project is titled “From Home to Epigenome: Unraveling the links between oral diseases and developmental vulnerability in children from low-income families.” It will explore the biological links between children’s oral and developmental health, and whether the social and psychosocial environments and experiences can play a modifying role in these relationships.

“We know that children in Ontario with unmet dental needs have almost four times higher odds of having lower scores on physical, social and cognitive developmental assessments, than children without such needs. We also know that there are social inequalities in children’s health and development, with most of the burden of these conditions affecting children of families from lower socioeconomic backgrounds,” Gomaa explained.

“In this project, we are partnering with Merrymount Children’s Centre in London, Ontario, to understand the role of the social environment in children’s biological responses to stress through epigenetics and how this may contribute to the risk of oral and developmental conditions,” she continued.

Gomaa will collaborate with Kathy Speechley, PhD, Professor, Paediatrics and Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Dr. Jacqueline Ogilvie, Assistant Professor, Paediatrics, and Christina Castellani, PhD, Assistant Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, on the study.

“It’s important that we focus on identifying the modifiable factors that lie within the social environment so that we can effectively enhance oral and developmental health and improve quality of life,” Gomaa said.

The goal of the CARE program is to advance innovation in oral health in basic science, translational science and clinical care.

“The support we have received from CARE will be instrumental in kick-starting this emerging area of research that helps us see children’s oral health inequalities through a new lens, and that allows us to realize the impression that the social determinants of health may have on our biology, down to the level of our genes,” Gomaa said.