Perio researcher earns Prichard Award

April 5th, 2023

Dr. Panos Afouxenides

Dr. Panos Afouxenides, periodontics resident in the class of 2023, recently won the John F. Prichard Clinical Research Award for his work in mucogingival surgery. The award was presented in January at the Southwest Society of Periodontists meeting in Irving, Texas.

“Residents from schools across Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska and Louisiana submitted their research, and there was a competition with multiple judges,” Afouxenides said. “The top three research projects were selected for the final competition, which was held during the conference.”

There are two divisions in the competition, scientific and clinical, with three finalists chosen in each division. These six finalists were chosen to present their work in the Prichard competition. Afouxenides’ research showed that, contrary to what the specialty of Periodontology widely understood, gum grafts can sometimes impair the healing process post-surgery rather than aid it. Afouxenides began this particular research project in his first year of residency in 2021. It all started when he and his co-residents attended a seminar on periodontal surgery complications by Dr. Pat Allen and observed a trend.

“When the grafts were sutured coronally, there was almost always wound opening during healing,” Afouxenides explained. “There was some reported evidence that could explain this hypothesis. With our research, we were able to demonstrate this relationship for the first time in the literature and propose what the ideal graft position is to prevent wound opening. Our discovery made us very proud.”

With this research, Afouxenides said future periodontists will be able to better place gum grafts during surgeries to lower the chances of a wound opening during the healing process. This directly affects daily clinical practice by enhancing clinical outcomes and by making grafting procedures more predictable for patients, he said.

Afouxenides did not manage this all alone, though. He thanked many people across the school who have helped and supported him, including his co-authors Drs. Carlos Parra and Stephen Harrel, without whom this project would not have been possible.

“We’re very proud to represent our school at such an important moment,” Afouxenides said. “I really hope our research continues, and we can continue to compete for the Prichard Award and other research awards. I also want to comment on our supportive environment here at the school. I’ve been blessed through my residency.”

Harrel said Afouxenides has shown a high level of skill for designing clinical research.

“While all periodontal residents are required to perform a masters level research project, Panos has completed several research projects during his periodontal residency,” he said. “In addition to highlighting Panos’ talent for research, winning this prize shows that our periodontal residency program is a leader in the training of periodontal residents and performing periodontal clinical research.”

This is not the first time Afouxenides’ work was recognized.  In December 2022, he tied for first place in a nationwide clinical case competition during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Periodontology.

In the contest, residents from across the nation presented their surgical cases. His case was on vertical ridge augmentation surgery and the use of a custom titanium mesh to aid in bone regrowth. The other first-place team was from Columbia University. Also in the top five were Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania and Louisiana State University.

“Panos is a very skilled clinician and has a true love for periodontics,” Parra said. “He is also an out-of-the-box thinker, which combined with his skills, has led to several clinically relevant research projects. Being the winner of the Prichard Award for Clinical Research is a great honor, not only for him, but also for Texas A&M, and all the faculty and residents involved in the project. Everyone in the Department of Periodontics is very proud of him, and we are sure he will be one of the future leaders in the profession.”

— Caleb Vierkant