For Patient’s Sake
Professor Creates Program to Accelerate Science Transfer
By Ashley Festa
Frustrated with the length of time between a breakthrough discovery and actual dental practice, John D. Rugh, Ph.D., decided to accelerate the process.
“The scientific information generated in dentistry was not getting into the patient’s mouth,” said Dr. Rugh, professor and director of the Evidence-Based Practice Program in the School of Dentistry at UT Health San Antonio. “On average it takes about 10 to 16 years before research is integrated into practice.”
Science transfer—taking evidence from the lab and bringing it to the dental chair—can be time-consuming and overwhelming. Scientific papers are often 10 pages or more, and mountains of research are available for review. Dr. Rugh recognized that dentists simply couldn’t implement all the new research in a timely manner.
To address the issue, Dr. Rugh developed a program he named Critically Appraised Topics (CATs). Students and faculty write CATs after reviewing and summarizing published research papers. Then they are published in a searchable online database for dentists looking for answers. CATs have been used in medical practice, but Dr. Rugh championed them for the field of dentistry.
“Dentists search for the best evidence in a synthesized and more manageable, more user-friendly way,” Dr. Rugh said. “The question and answer are in the title. They can spend a few more minutes reading the one-page CAT. It refers to the original articles with hot links to the National Library of Medicine.”
The CATs website has published more than 1,100 topics and has become a resource for practitioners around the world. The topics are also indexed in the Trip database, one of the most widely used online sources of evidence-based research to support clinical care.
To recognize the significance of Dr. Rugh’s work with the CATs program, the American Dental Association and the American Association for Dental Research presented him with the Evidence-Based Dentistry Faculty Award for accomplished faculty members.
Dr. Rugh also gave credit to dozens of colleagues for their contributions to the program.
As for his next project, he is working on a new program in dental sleep medicine.
“It’s a whole new area for dentistry,” Dr. Rugh said. “We’ll be getting that rolling and doing research, getting funding and setting up the clinic. That’s the current mountain.”
Those kinds of mountains keep Dr. Rugh happy at his job. At age 76, he says he isn’t ready to retire. Besides enjoying new challenges and having fun at work, Dr. Rugh says it’s a gratifying career.
“Being in academics helps students get to where they want to go,” Dr. Rugh said. “Bottom line, I enjoy teaching because it allows me to be in a position that helps someone.”
Besides teaching and developing new programs, his other love is his high school sweetheart, Annie. The two recently celebrated 60 years together. “I was lucky to find my wife when I was about 17, and I still have her,” Dr. Rugh said.
“I was a junior, and she was a sophomore. I sure was lucky I got the right one.”