Triple sweep

Caruth dental hygiene students clinch state research competition
February 15th, 2018
Caruth School of Dental Hygiene students celebrate their win during the Texas Dental Hygienists' Association meeting.

Caruth students celebrate their win during the Texas Dental Hygienists’ Association meeting.

Every year, students in the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene at Texas A&M College of Dentistry attend the Texas Dental Hygienists’ Association meeting, and from time to time, a couple would participate in the research poster competition, sometimes even earning accolades. During the weekend of Feb. 2, something special happened. Caruth students earned first, second and third place rankings in the TDHA’s informative research poster competition. It’s an unprecedented milestone for the school.

Dr. Faizan Kabani, assistant professor and research course director in dental hygiene, attributes this year’s success directly to increased interest. Competitions in the past saw perhaps just one Caruth student research group entry every few years; however, in 2017, that grew to two groups who, coincidentally, placed second and third.

“This year, TDHA limited the number of submissions per school. Interestingly, this year we had five student groups interested in competing. This was a record high of student groups interested,” says Kabani. “In fact, we had to pull three random names out of a hat to choose our TDHA candidates. Quite interesting!”

There was also another notable difference in 2018: an uptick in the number of students in each research group. While only a few groups may choose to compete at TDHA, all 30 second-year dental hygiene students must participate in research projects. Changing the dynamic to three students per group instead of two allowed Kabani, who serves as primary mentor in addition to the faculty member assigned to each group, to be more engaged with each topic. Collaboration with the Texas A&M University Writing Center, whose consultants review students’ research to ensure it demonstrates academic thinking, served to improve communication skills in the process.

Caruth students competed against their peers at dental hygiene programs throughout the state, including Texas Woman’s University, the University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston, Collin College and more.

It’s safe to say that the results will go down as a highlight for more than one Caruth student.

“We had all decided, if anyone from our school places, that would be awesome in and of itself,” says Sydney Dennis. “They announced third, and they announced second, and we looked at each other like, ‘This could be it.’ We were squeezing each other’s hands under the table. I heard the first word of our research titles, and everyone started screaming.”

The achievement is one for the entire second-year class — and dental hygiene program, for that matter — to enjoy.

“Our class was so supportive of each other,” says Morgan Hardison. “You could feel them being proud of us, us being proud of ourselves, and our professors being proud of us. We were just so excited.”

Snapshot of the winners’ circle

First Place

“Dental Stem Cells: An Untapped Resource with Unlimited Potential”

  • Students: Sydney Dennis, Morgan Hardison and Emily Stone
  • Faculty Mentor: Lisa Mallonee

Second Place

“A Heart Stopping Moment: Preventing Sudden Cardiac Death in the Dental Office”

  • Students: Ashlyn Atwell, Briana Garza and Nina Matheney
  • Faculty Mentor: Eric Fox

Third Place

“Taking Remineralization to the Next Level: Incorporating Hydroxyapatite in Dental Caries Prevention”

  • Students: Sabina Hernaiz, Breanna Irvin and Emily Vaughan
  • Faculty Mentor: Kathleen Muzzin


— Jennifer Fuentes