Student Research Showcased on Balbo Day

Presenters on Balbo Day

Balbo Day at RSDM is a reminder that the field of oral healthcare expands beyond cavities and crowns. At the annual exhibition last month, students showcased research that ranged from the effects of Vitamin D on periodontal disease to fascinating cases studies of patients with rare disorders.

First-place post-graduate winners, Vaishnavi Ramavajla and Giannina Katzmann, presented research on a patient treated for temperomandibular disorder (TMJ) triggered by her belief that a fly had been crawling around her mouth and throat for more than a year. The condition is called “delusional parasitosis,” which refers to the imaginary sensation of insects or parasites on the skin or inside the body.

“She said she swallowed a fly while she was talking on the cell phone and it never went away,” said Ramavajla, who, like Katzmann, is an orofacial pain resident. The patient — who except for the delusion, seemed perfectly reasonable — had been to several specialists to find and remove the fly. But there was no evidence that it existed.

The patient’s constant fidgeting with her jaw in an attempt to locate the fly resulted in TMJ. Ramavajla and Katzmann successfully treated the jaw disorder with a regimen that included anti-inflammatories but so far they’ve been unable to convince the patient to receive treatment from a psychiatrist.

The yearly research event is named for Michael Balbo, an RSDM faculty member and student advocate who started the exposition. Students presenters are judged not only on the scientific merit of their work  but the clarity of their explanations. Posters with eye-catching graphics that help make  research easier to understand also score points.

Other considerations are whether students — who swap scrubs and white coats for a more corporate look — are dressed professionally and can clearly describe their work.  They’re also judged on their ability to add context and explain how their research could be applied.

For Dr. Mahnaz Fatahzadeh, one of this year’s faculty judges, the most important quality is whether research has the potential to some day help patients.  “It has to be clinically relevant,” she said.

Below are the Balbo Day winners:

Summer Research Program (Predoctoral)
1st Jennifer Navatto
2nd (TIE) Jason Tsai and Matthew Mannella
3rd (TIE) Melissa Ciandella and Refka Salib

PG Clinical
1st Vaishnavi Ramavajla and Giannina Katzmann
2nd Mohammed Ahmed and Manvitha Kuchukulla
3rd Francisco Nieves

PG Research
1st Hafsa Affendi
2nd Marjan Sharifi
3rd Siddhi Pawar