Faculty Spotlight: Yau-Hua Yu
Yau-Hua Yu, DG19, is looking to crack the code on the links between periodontal disease and systemic conditions.
Yu, an assistant professor in periodontology, is already making a name for herself in dental research, with a recent K23 grant award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The “Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award,” is a five-year grant that provides support for the career development of dentist-scientists who are committed to academic careers and patient-oriented research. The grant allows Yu the freedom to pursue her work in genomic medicine, and the intersection between periodontology and chronic diseases.
Yu’s grant will cover her work exploring three primary research aims. Her first stop is to work with researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital to include data about oral health into the Women’s Health Study, a longitudinal cohort study ongoing for more than 20 years, using an updated instrument developed by the CDC and the American Academy of Periodontology.
“They have significantly extensive data,” she said. “These participants have been following up annually every year for more than 20 years now. But an oral health and periodontal health question hasn’t been asked since 2006. So I want to add that back in.”
Yu’s second major aim is to determine a genetic link between periodontal disease and several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis, using new techniques in computational analysis. According to Yu there is currently not much information about the contribution of genetics to gum disease, and she hopes her background in bioinformatics will enable her to detect any existing connections. Finally, she hopes to develop a collaborative network with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Framingham Heart Study, for future development of a dental-genomic platform.
“In genomic dentistry we have been a little behind, compared to the medical field,” she said. “But we're trying to catch up, so I think now is a good time to make those connections.”
When she’s not conducting research, Yu teaches in the periodontology clinic. She teaches in the Basic Science Clinical Science Seminar Series, and conducts lectures in special topics of periodontology and epidemiology for dental students and postgraduate residents. She also sees patients as a member of Tufts Dental Faculty Practice.
“I really love the interaction with the students,” she said. “When you give a lecture, it’s a very rewarding experience to know that almost 200 students are learning from you.”
Yu has been a faculty member in periodontology at the dental school since July 2015. She started as a part-time clinical faculty member and researcher in a collaboration with Brigham, and began her current role in March 2016. She received her dental degree from National Yang-Ming University in Taipei, Taiwan, and received both a doctorate in dental informatics and a certificate in periodontology from Harvard School of Dental Medicine. She lives with her husband and three children in Bedford, New Hampshire.
Yu began working under the NIH grant last September, and submitted an abstract of her work for presentation at the American Association of Dental Research this year.