Oral Health Core
The Oral Health Core seeks to identify and remove the educational, political, psychological, social, and nutritional barriers to the prevention and treatment of dental disease in the Richmond Region. Tooth decay is the most common childhood disease. Youth who suffer tooth decay have lower academic achievement in school and are at higher risk for systemic diseases as an adult. Uncontrolled oral disease in childhood leads to progressively declining oral health in adults which are associated with numerous negative outcomes, including health concerns (e.g., cardiovascular disease, preterm birth), employment issues, and lack of social acceptance.
This transdisciplinary core promotes teamwork toward innovative solutions for improving oral and overall health outcomes for children and adolescents. This core also provides a rich environment for the recruitment and engagement of diverse and underrepresented faculty and students to work and learn through solving oral health problems that disproportionately affect underserved populations.
Transdisciplinary core team
- Tegwyn Brickhouse, D.D.S., Ph.D.
- Professor and Chair, Department of Dental Public Health and Policy, Phillips Institute for Oral Health Research, School of Dentistry
Brickhouse guides the partnerships for core activities within the university, health system and community to improve and integrate this oral health core into overall health and health care. She works to broaden access to education in oral health careers for students, create an inclusive environment for faculty and foster innovative oral health services research and solutions to improve the oral health of children.
- Aderonke Akinkugbe, B.D.S., M.P.H., Ph.D.
- Assistant Professor, Department of Dental Public Health and Policy, Philips Institute for Oral Health Research, School of Dentistry and Division of Epidemiology, School of Medicine
As a chronic disease epidemiologist and dental public health researcher, Ronke Akinkugbe focuses on epidemiologic and psychosocial research of oral diseases and systemic health across the life course. Her research agenda includes: the application of causal inference methods to oral health research, developing better and more efficient methods to screen and diagnose oral diseases, identifying modifiable risk factors for poor oral health outcomes across the life course and, translating research findings into actionable population-level interventions. She brings her expertise in oral-systemic health associations to the oral health core to identify the short- and long-term impacts of poor oral health on the overall health and wellbeing of children and adolescents in Richmond.
- Sarah Jane Brubaker, Ph.D.
- Professor, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs
Brubaker is responsible for the core’s activities and collaboration with the teaching and research faculty. She also contributes her expertise in public policy related to health, economics or poverty, and advancing social justice.
- Dina T García, M.P.H., Ph.D.
- Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior and Policy, School of Medicine
Garcia’s research program aims to uncover the underlying causes and mechanisms of oral health inequities to develop and implement interventions targeted at different causal pathways. Her research interests include community-based participatory research; oral-systemic health associations; racial disparities in health; social epidemiology; and the social, cultural and political-economic determinants of health. She is trained in qualitative and quantitative methods as well in science communication and journalism.
- Oswaldo Moreno, Ph.D.
- Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology - Counseling, College of Humanities and Sciences
Moreno's research involves understanding and addressing mental healthcare disparities in the U.S. that affect individuals from low-income and racial/ethnic minority backgrounds. His research program includes applied research that lie at the intersection of cognitive-behavioral theories and cultural and contextual approaches including psychology of religion and spirituality, culturally sensitive interventions, as well as substance use and mood disorders.
- Erica Brody, MPH, MSLS
- Assistant Professor Health Sciences Library, Research and Education
As VCU Libraries' liaison to the School of Dentistry, Erica Brody provides course-integrated instruction and research assistance to students and faculty in dentistry and dental hygiene. Brody came to librarianship after a 15-year career in health sciences research, collecting and analyzing quantitative and qualitative data. In addition, she has experience managing multi-site projects, coordinating data collection, analysis, and report writing among geographically dispersed, multi-disciplinary teams.
- Shillpa Naavaal, B.D.S., M.S., M.P.H.
- Assistant Professor, Department of Dental Public Health and Policy, Philips Institute for Oral Health Research, School of Dentistry
Naavaal brings expertise in oral health services and policy research. She specializes in public health dentistry and her primary research interests include oral health disparities, dental-medical integration and access and use of health care services among vulnerable populations.
- Sarah Raskin, M.P.H., Ph.D.
- Assistant Professor, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs
Raskin is a medical anthropologist whose work on oral health disparities and access to dental care in central Appalachia won the Society for Medical Anthropology’s Rudolf Virchow graduate student paper award. Her research interests include health services; health policy; the health care workforce; race, class, and the body; stigma; community engagement; qualitative methods; and intersectional frameworks for advancing health and health care equity.
- Mike Taylor
- Executive Director, Henrico Education Foundation
Mike Taylor is the Executive Director of the Henrico Education Foundation (HEF) in Richmond, Virginia. Through a dynamic public-private partnership with the Commonwealth’s sixth largest school district, HEF serves more than 51,000 students in 72 educational facilities. These facilities are located in suburban, rural and urban communities. Mike has a passion for creating strong public schools that ensure all children reach their fullest potential. His work at HEF is focused on transforming public education through the expansion of best practices, the creation of innovation in the classroom and the development of researchbased solutions that bring a Continuous Improvement approach to addressing the challenges facing public education.
- Carlos Smith., DDS, MDiv, FACD
- Associate Professor, Department of Dental Public Health and Policy, and Director Diversity Equity and Inclusion and Director of Ethics Curriculum, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry
As a general dentist and ethicist, Smith’s work lies at the intersection of dental student and faculty wellbeing, belonging and inclusive excellence, professional identity formation and dental ethics. He has authored groundbreaking work in dental student and faculty resilience and most recently published a book chapter on the unique ethical considerations within geriatric dentistry. Smith brings his expertise in the oral health workforce, climate studies in dental education, narrative ethics and racism in healthcare to the oral health core. His work includes the development of a public oral health and equity certificate program.
- Tiffany L. Williams, M.S.D., D.D.S.
- Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatric Dentistry, School of Dentistry
Williams specializes in pediatric dentistry and brings a wealth of knowledge about peri- and prenatal oral health care. She is focused on preventive oral care for the pediatric population and improving oral health outcomes for children both locally and abroad.