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UIC assistant professor receives inaugural ADA award for new investigator in dental informatics

August 10, 2015

Dr. Taneva
The ADA Council on Dental Practice selected Dr. Emilia Taneva of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry as the first recipient of the Robert H. Ahlstrom New Investigator Award for Dental Informatics Research.

The award, named after the first chairman of the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics, aims to highlight the crucial role that dental informatics standards play in improving the quality of patient care, assuring patient health and safety and increasing efficiency through use of information technology.

Dr. Taneva, clinical assistant professor at the Department of Orthodontics, received the honor for her paper, “3-D Evaluation of Palatal Rugae for Human Identification Using Digital Study Models.

Her winning research focused on evaluating whether 3-D scanning technology could facilitate the computerized matching of palatal rugae patterns for identity verification and identification, similar to the way fingerprints are assessed.

“My master’s thesis project involved developing and utilizing a 3-D approach for human verification and identification using the palatal rugae pattern,” she said. “I am currently working on a continuation of this research, which aims to evaluate the matching process in identical and fraternal twins, siblings and parents, and to determine longitudinal changes in palatal rugae individual patterns.”

Dr. Taneva said she sees 3-D digital study models obtained with intraoral or model scanners for diagnosis and treatment planning being “integrated in the personal electronic health record, which can be requested and accessed by forensic institutes and law enforcement.”

The implementation of the algorithms, she added, could bring a major impact to the biometrics and forensic odontology fields and create new standards for interoperability and transmissibility, and for acquiring and transferring patient data in open source formats.

Dr. Taneva earned her D.D.S. at the University of Illinois Chicago orthodontics program in 2014. In the informatics and digital technology fields, Dr. Taneva has studied biometrics, 3-D imaging and 3-D printing.

Dr. Taneva credits her mentors — Dr. Carla Evans, who heads the Department of Orthodontics; Dr. Andrew Johnson, associate professor of Computer Science; and Grace Vianna, statistician, Department of Orthodontics—for the award.

“[The award] is an acknowledgement of strong collaborative research,” she said. “The award is a testament to the UIC College of Dentistry’s commitment to excellence in education and research through innovative technologies.”

As the recipient of the Ahlstrom award, Dr. Taneva will receive airfare and accommodations to present the award-winning project at the ADA SCDI’s annual meeting Nov. 4 in Washington, D.C.

As the first chairman of the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics, which was formed in 1999, Dr. Ahlstrom brought together dental informatics experts from across the dental profession, representing dentists, government, academia, and industry. He led the group’s successful efforts to develop standards for information exchange, clinical informatics systems and knowledge management. Dr. Ahlstrom served as chairman of the SCDI until 2006.

The award highlights annually the crucial role dental informatics standards play in improving the quality of patient care, assuring patient health and safety and increasing efficiency through use of information technology. The award also aims to encourage more new dentists and dental students to conduct standards-based research and to participate in standards development. For more information on the award and submission of papers, email standards@ada.org.