Dr. William (Bill) F. Vann, Jr., research professor in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, was named this year’s recipient of the Class of 1958 Distinguished Service Award. The award is the highest award granted to recognize meritorious research conducted under the sponsorship of the School of Dentistry.
This award recognizes a paper that is deemed the most important and clinically-relevant research activity published in a peer-reviewed journal during the calendar year 2011. Vann received this award for his paper, entitled “Oral Health Literacy among Female Caregivers: Impact on the Oral Health Outcomes in Early Childhood” which was published in the June 2011 issue of the Journal of Dental Research.
“Receiving this award is a true honor,” said Vann. “I’m humbled that the committee held my research in such high regard when compared to all the other exceptional research that’s ongoing at our school.”
Vann’s clinical investigation helps advance our understanding of the complex issues surrounding the dental caries epidemic in U.S. children. He and his colleagues gathered data on 1,158 low-income caregivers’ literacy, knowledge and behaviors, and their children’s oral health status. The research showed that, independent of caregiver age, education and number of children, low health literacy scores were associated with decreased oral health knowledge and poorer child oral health status. Lower caregiver health literacy was further associated with poor oral health care, such as lack of daily brushing. Investigators concluded that caregiver oral health literacy has a multidimensional impact on reported oral health outcomes in infants and young children.
The paper was co-authored with department colleagues: Dr. Jessica Lee, professor and director of the Pediatric Graduate Program; Ms. Diane Baker, research coordinator; and Dr. Kimon Divaris, research assistant professor.
Members of the UNC School of Dentistry’s D.D.S. class of 1958 established the award with contributions to the Dental Foundation of North Carolina. The award was presented for the first time in 1985 to recognize research, conducted and published by a School of Dentistry faculty member, that has “the greatest potential for direct contributions to the practice of dentistry and dental health generally.” It carries the recognition of excellence by colleagues and peers and a cash award.