A rare disease, a targeted mission and unexpected recognition
On average, patients with pemphigus and pemphigoid — two rare autoimmune blistering diseases — see as many as five doctors in a 10-month span before they receive a correct diagnosis. These disorders span multiple health disciplines, including dentistry, as two-thirds of patients experience oral symptoms first, often in the form of lesions, water blisters and fragile tissues in the mouth. Educating more health professionals about pemphigus and pemphigoid translates to quicker diagnoses and treatment, which means awareness is key.
Two periodontics faculty members at Texas A&M College of Dentistry have made significant strides on this front: Dr. Nancy Burkhart, adjunct associate professor, has written several articles on the subject and presented lectures on oral care and hygiene for pemphigus patients. Dr. Terry Rees, recently retired professor and director of the school’s Stomatology Center, has spent years equipping patients and dentists with information through phone consultations and continuing education presentations.
Rees’ and Burkhart’s work for this patient population recently resulted in joint recognition with the 2017 Dental Professional of the Year Award from the International Pemphigus & Pemphigoid Foundation. The award, presented Sept. 16 at the organization’s Annual Patient Conference in Newport Beach, California, recognizes dental professionals who have gone “above and beyond” to educate the dental community about the diseases. Rees and Burkhart have worked to help this patient population through their faculty roles at the College of Dentistry and as members of the foundation’s IPPF Dental Advisory Council, with Burkhart also serving on the organization’s Content and Curriculum Committee.