University at Buffalo PhD Graduate Wins First Place in Poster Competition

Sonia Sharma

Published October 5, 2018

“ It truly is an honor to receive this award as further recognition for the contribution that the OPPERA project is making to increasing our understanding of pain.”
Sonia Sharma, PhD, Recent SPHHP PhD graduate
Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health

A recent graduate of the University at Buffalo’s doctoral program in epidemiology and environmental health recently won first place in an international poster competition for her study assessing whether injury and types of injuries increased risk among adults for development of temporomandibular pain disorders, an orofacial pain condition.

Dr. Sonia Sharma won the award in the pre-doctoral category of the International Network for Orofacial Pain and Related Disorders Investigator Awards held in July during the International Association for Dental Research annual meeting in London. The awards were sponsored by Quintessence Publishing and the Journal of Oral & Facial Pain and Headache.

Data for Dr. Sharma’s study were from the Orofacial Pain Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment (OPPERA) project, an NIH funded study that assessed for risk factors associated with development of TMD. This seven-year study was conducted at four universities: UB, University of Florida, University of Maryland-Baltimore, and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Findings from Dr. Sharma’s dissertation showed that jaw injuries identified at the time when the injury occurred during the observational phase of the study are strongly associated with TMD.

“The strength of that association is influenced by using a statistical model that is sensitive to the element of time from when the injury occurs to when TMD begins, and we believe that this better merges with what we know about the process of injury,” Dr. Sharma said.

In addition, types of jaw injuries, that is, injuries from usual jaw function and obvious external types of jaw injuries, are equally strong risk factors for developing TMD. Given the potential risk that a jaw injury represents, post-jaw injury surveillance is recommended in order to better identify individuals who now have yet one more risk factor, in addition to the broad set of risk factors already identified that increase the probability of developing TMD, according to Dr. Sharma.

“Receiving this award was greatly facilitated by Dr. Mirdza Neiders’ coaching on effectively communicating the essence and importance of my research work. It truly is an honor to receive this award as further recognition for the contribution that the OPPERA project is making to increasing our understanding of pain,” Dr. Sharma said. Dr. Neiders is a professor of oral pathology in UB’s School of Dental Medicine.

Dr. Sharma received her PhD in March 2018 from UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions (SPHHP). She is now a research assistant professor in the Department of Oral Diagnostic Sciences in UB’s School of Dental Medicine, and is a post-doctoral fellow in the Faculty of Odontology at Malmö University.

Drs. Richard Ohrbach, professor of oral diagnostic sciences in UB’s School of Dental Medicine, and SPHHP Dean Jean Wactawski-Wende co-chaired Dr. Sharma’s dissertation committee, which also included Drs. Michael LaMonte, research associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health at UB, and Jiwei Zhao, assistant professor of biostatistics.