Center for Dental Informatics

Contact: Titus Schleyer, DMD, PhD: cdi@pitt.edu For immediate release (02/12/2002)

University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine establishes Center for Dental Informatics

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 12 - The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine has recently formed the Center for Dental Informatics, making the school one of a select few in the United States to focus on the use of information technology in the field of dentistry.

Leading the program will be Titus Schleyer, D.M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, School of Dental Medicine, and Heiko Spallek, D.M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, School of Dental Medicine. Both come to the University of Pittsburgh from Temple University, where they helped to establish the nation's first department of dental informatics in 1996.

According to a paper published by Drs. Schleyer and Spallek in the May 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, dental informatics is the application of computer and information sciences to improve dental practice, research, education and management.

"Dental informatics is derived from medical informatics, which has established itself firmly as an academic discipline over the past several decades. In the future we hope to be able to develop similar programs and resources for the dental community. Our partnership with the Center for Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh will be a key point of leverage in this effort," said Dr. Schleyer. One of Drs. Schleyer and Spallek's projects will be to implement a computer-based oral health record - the dental part of the Electronic Health Record.

"The field has the potential to help address many long-standing problems in dentistry, from simply reducing overhead in our daily clinical practices to improving patient care. Only through growing research will we be able to realize this potential," said Dr. Spallek.

The new center will primarily focus on research and education, enabling the school to establish a presence in academic dental informatics. Projects will build on Drs. Schleyer and Spallek's research accomplishments in computer-based oral health records, information needs in dentistry, controlled vocabularies, dental Internet applications and educational software. In addition to their work, the center will integrate informatics concepts and applications in areas such as genomics, oral cancer, bone biology and public health.

"We are pleased to have Drs. Schleyer and Spallek join our faculty. With their expertise aligned with the significant informatics assets available at the University of Pittsburgh, the School of Dental Medicine will be able to create a strong presence in the emerging field of dental informatics," said Thomas Braun, D.M.D., Ph.D., dean of the School of Dental Medicine.

Drs. Schleyer and Spallek are nationally and internationally recognized experts and leaders in dental informatics. As recipients of one of the first National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) training grants in dental informatics, they have trained several dental informaticians. Together they have published over thirty papers on dental informatics in the past five years, given several hundred hours of continuing medical education on a variety of topics to audiences at local, state, national and international meetings, and have presented at many related conferences.

The center will house a NIDCR-funded training program in dental informatics. Prior to the creation of the center, the program was offered through a collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh and Temple. By consolidating the program, students will be able to take advantage of the established resources available through the university's National Library of Medicine-funded Center for Biomedical Informatics.