Gold Medal fellow's research focuses on oral issues in childhood

ADA awards fellowship to University of Missouri — Kansas City professor

The American Dental Association has awarded its Gold Medal Fellowship to an assistant professor at the University of Missouri — Kansas City School of Dentistry, whose areas of research include craniofacial bone formation and the impact of adverse childhood experiences on the emergence of permanent teeth.

Erin Ealba Bumann, D.D.S., Ph.D., who teaches in the department of oral and craniofacial sciences, was selected for the fellowship by Martha Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D., winner of the 2021 ADA Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Dental Research.

"I am so grateful to be selected by Dr. Somerman for this fellowship and thankful to the ADA and their members for their support to me as an early-stage dental researcher," Dr. Bumann said. "When I found out I was selected, it brought tears of joy. It means so much to me that Dr. Somerman would look at my body of work in dental research, my leadership potential, mentoring qualities, as well as my commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and select me for this fellowship. She has been an incredible leader of dental, oral and craniofacial research, an outstanding mentor to dentist-scientists, and I am fortunate to count her as one of my mentors."

As part of winning the Gold Medal Award, Dr. Somerman had the opportunity to select a fellowship recipient who would receive $20,000 to support their own research. Dr. Bumann will be awarded $10,000 this year and $10,000 in 2023, as well as a commemorative plaque and the chance to present her research at a continuing education course in 2023. The Gold Medal Fellowship, like the award, is supported by Colgate.

"Dr. Bumann is a model for a rising star in academia, focused on advancing the translation of basic science into clinical practice," said Dr. Somerman, past director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at the National Institutes of Health. "Within her short tenure in academia, Dr. Bumann has been successful in obtaining funding from NIDCR/NIH, which speaks highly of her research acumen. Further and importantly, she is an advocate and strong voice for diversity and inclusion, an excellent communicator, educator, collaborator across disciplines, and mentor."

Part of Dr. Bumann's research includes identifying molecular and cellular pathways involved in controlling the shape and size of craniofacial bone, which could help children born with craniofacial abnormalities, who undergo multiple invasive surgeries over the course of their lives.

"We aspire to create nonsurgical techniques to help modify the shape of developing craniofacial bone, so these children need fewer — or, ideally, no — surgeries to correct their malformations," she said. "We envision this treatment being delivered postnatally or even in utero, before the child is born, to help modify their craniofacial growth so they do not need immediate interventions upon birth, like a tracheostomy."

Dr. Bumann's other research examines how adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse, neglect, poverty or other traumatic experiences, impact the emergence of permanent teeth. These experiences are known to be linked to chronic health problems, including heart disease, depression and obesity, and impacted children also have a risk of advanced biological aging, Dr. Bumann said.

"Our recent work shows that the timing of permanent first molar eruption occurs earlier in children impacted by poverty," she said. "This research has the possibility to make dentists the primary health care providers to be able to first identify these children impacted by adverse childhood experiences in a noninvasive manner to get them the early interventions they need most."

Dr. Bumann said it is an honor to receive support for her research through the Gold Medal Fellowship.

"It means a great deal to have this support for my lab coming from the ADA," she said. "As the preeminent dental organization in the U.S., awards like this encourage new and innovative research, as well as support researchers and their work in the wider dental community."