Research consortium works to grow data pool

The Consortium of Oral Health Research and Informatics (COHRI) held their sixth Annual Summer Meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan on July 25-26.

COHRI Members of COHRI at their sixth annual meeting in Ann Arbor Michigan

COHRI, which has close ties with TUSDM, is a consortium made up of 34 dental schools and institutions around the United States, Canada and Europe.  COHRI members include clinicians, researchers, epidemiologists, statisticians and informaticians. The organization’s primary mission is to create, standardize, and integrate data, and link resources in order to better facilitate research and patient care.

“We want to create an economy of scale for research projects around the country,” said Dr. Paul Stark, Director of the Division of Advanced and Graduate Education at TUSDM and the Chair-Elect of COHRI.

Dr. Stark attended the July meeting as a TUSDM representative, along with Dr. James Hanley, Interim Chair for the Department of Periodontology and Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs. Dr. Chuck Friedman, Director of the Health Informatics Program at the Schools of Information and Public Health at the University of Michigan was the keynote speaker of the two-day meeting, and gave a presentation titled “Achieving a Learning Health System.”

In the course of the meeting, participants broke up into working groups in order to address specific facets of the organization, including data integration across different schools, health history standardization and quality improvement of health data. There are several projects that the consortium is focusing on: the creation of a large repository for patient data that all COHRI members can access, the development of a uniform set of diagnostic codes, standardized medical history and intake forms and the development of virtual patients that can be used in clinical simulations. Dr. Stark said the consortium’s members are highly collaborative partners who are driven by the same goal: to get more research material for their institutions.

“Everyone checks their egos at the door when they come to these meetings,” Dr. Stark told Tufts Dental Medicine Magazine in fall 2012. “That helps us accomplish as much as we have.”

The consortium was developed in 2007 by Dr. Stark and Dr. Robert Chapman, A63, D67, DG74, Professor Emeritus and former TUSDM Chair of Prosthodontics and Operative Dentistry.  At an AxiUm user’s meeting, the two proposed that institutions share data to facilitate clinical research in dentistry. In June 2007 they invited representatives from interested schools to meet at Tufts, where they developed the framework for what COHRI would become. COHRI members meet twice annually, and work through conference calls and in working groups throughout the rest of the year.

“This meeting re-energizes people and helps to carry us forward into the next stage,” Dr. Stark said. “Most people are working on this on their own time, and the meetings reiterate how important the work really is.”