The work behind the research: Assoc Prof Gustavo Nascimento

As the winner of the 2024 International Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research (IADR) Distinguished Scientist Young Investigator Award, Assoc Prof Gustavo Nascimento was recognised for his dedication and remarkable contributions to dental research on 13 Mar 2024 in New Orleans, US, at the 102nd General Session of the IADR.

This includes publishing over 160 peer-reviewed articles, serving as a reviewer for 65 international journals, and obtaining more than S$1.5m in grants in his 16-year-long career since graduating with a DDS from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul of his home country of Brazil.

Assoc Prof Gustavo Nascimento
Winner of the 2024 International Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research (IADR) Distinguished Scientist Young Investigator Award, Assoc Prof Gustavo Nascimento

With a PhD in oral epidemiology, Assoc Prof Gustavo Nascimento investigates the relationship between oral and systemic diseases as the core focus of his research. Based in Singapore, he holds appointments as an Assoc Prof of the Duke-National University of Singapore Medical School and principal investigator of the National Dental Research Institute Singapore (NDRIS) and National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS).

Assoc Prof Nascimento is currently engaged in research such as the establishment of the NDCS oral disease registry (ODR), an ongoing project to leverage big data in investigating the relationship between oral health and systemic health through the entire SingHealth cluster, comprising four hospitals, three community hospitals, five national specialists centres and eight polyclinics.

While the prestige of these awards and projects represents proud moments for Assoc Prof Nascimento, he is equally reminded of the hard work involved behind the scenes. He hopes that this milestone in his career inspires others. “I hope that this award can also inspire other researchers to aspire to greater achievements. For a public health guy from Brazil to be in the spotlight, I hope that they will see their goals as reachable regardless of their geographic or cultural background,” said Assoc Prof Nascimento.

“I must say that while a research path sometimes can be very lonely, this award is definitely a result of teamwork. I have had the privilege of working with excellent researchers as my mentors, colleagues, and students. While this prize was awarded to me, I must acknowledge that I could not have done it by myself if I did not have the wonderful partners I had along the way.”

Assoc Prof Gustavo Nascimento
Assoc Prof Nascimento with colleagues from National Dental Research Institute Singapore (NDRIS) at the IADR General Session in March 2024

CHARTING A PATH FROM BRAZIL

Supported by P&G Professional Oral Health, Crest Oral-B, the IADR Distinguished Scientist Young Investigator Award is designed to stimulate basic research in all dental research disciplines and is awarded to nominees within 10 years of completing their last terminal degree.

Assoc Prof Nascimento shared that his choice to venture into dental research was not a result of planning but rather of curiosity. “It was a very natural path while I was doing my dental school, as I was involved in research since the first year, which I grew curious about,” he said.

After graduating with his DDS and an “intense” experience during clinical training residency, Assoc Prof Nascimento felt disconnected from academia, which led him to pursue a PhD in oral epidemiology where he discovered his research interest. “I realised that it should not be a coincidence that the unprivileged have the heaviest burden of disease. This is the same with oral disease, so I wanted to understand why some people get sick and why some do not,” he explained.

He added: “During the time I started doing my PhD 12 years ago, we would still focus on dental disease as infectious disease, where you treat the bacteria as a solution for dental disease. But when I started one of the studies within my PhD, we showed that irrespective of the bacteria, if you accumulate health detrimental behaviours, you will increase the risk of periodontitis regardless of the frequency of toothbrushing.”

The paradigm shift of dental diseases from an infectious disease to a non-communicable disease and the understanding of it as a similar disease to diabetes or cardiovascular disease is one of the proudest contributions of Assoc Prof Nascimento’s research to date.

Since winning the distinguished award, Assoc Prof Nascimento has noticed an uptick in attention to his work, which he hopes will open more opportunities and visibility in his field of research. He added that while the field today is more open to accepting oral disease as a chronic disease, the treatment for oral diseases is still largely based on scaling and removing plaque.

“I do hope that with my current and future research, we can place the dentist beyond a technical role and as part of a multidisciplinary team of health professionals to treat patients. Dental treatment can be isolated in the sense that we have a difficult time reaching out to other professionals, so I do hope that we can expand our horizons,” said Assoc Prof Nascimento.

As the 2024 IADR Distinguished Scientist Young Investigator, Assoc Prof Nascimento has also been named to the IADR board of directors as the Young Investigator Representative on a two-year term lasting till March 2026. With this seat, Assoc Prof Nascimento has been allocated to the strategic planning committee and will assume responsibilities such as judging recipients for the next edition of the awards.

Having spent time in South America, North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia across his career, Assoc Prof Nascimento incorporates his exposure into his outlook as a researcher and professional.

“I will try to advocate for a very inclusive organisation, meaning to push focus on regions that somehow have been neglected. It is easy for an organisation to be focused on the regional interests where its members originate, but I believe the organisation should represent everyone. I will try to advocate for more representation and think that IADR is ready to embrace the diversity of everyone,” he said.

To read the full article, click here or refer to Dental Asia May/June 2024 issue.