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The Ohio State University College of Dentistry  

  1. Clinical professor of pediatric dentistry Dr. Marcio da Fonseca

  2. The 3rd International Symposium on the Oral-Systemic Health Connection in Children takes place October 9th.

Pediatric Dentistry Professor Marcio da Fonseca Leads International Symposium on Children's Health

August, 2009

Dr. Marcio da Fonseca is a dentistry professor who has dedicated his career to making children healthier. Now a clinical professor of pediatric dentistry at Ohio State and at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Dr. da Fonseca’s work with children began when he was a dental student at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora in his home country of Brazil. As a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) student, da Fonseca did a training rotation in pediatric dentistry, and his life was changed as a result of that experience. “After I worked with those kids, I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life and my career,” da Fonseca said.

After graduating with his D.D.S. degree, Dr. da Fonseca completed a Master of Science degree in pediatric dentistry at the University of Minnesota, where he spent two years learning about oral health care for children. Following that experience, he received a pediatric dentistry fellowship at The Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado, which is an affiliate of the University of Colorado and one of the nation’s top ten hospitals for children and adolescents.

While completing his post-doctoral fellowship at The Children’s Hospital, Dr. da Fonseca began working with young patients whose health problems were life-threatening, including those who were chemotherapy and organ transplant patients. For those critically ill children, an oral cavity infection or an abscessed tooth could mean the difference between life and death, and it was then that Dr. da Fonseca discovered another calling.

“Children who have cancer or some other critical illness often have dental and oral health care needs that tend to be overlooked, even by the other doctors involved in their medical treatments,” da Fonseca said. “As a pediatric dentist, I knew that an infection from a decaying tooth could kill a child whose immune system was already compromised from chemotherapy or an organ transplant, but that was a revelation to some of my medical colleagues. And that was when I realized I could use basic, preventive dentistry to save children’s lives.”

Determined to expand his expertise in working with critically ill children, Dr. da Fonseca spent the following year as a Fellow in the Oral Medicine Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, where he completed his second post-doctoral training program in 1995.

“I spent a year studying the oral health care needs of children who were getting bone marrow transplants,” da Fonseca said, “and that was a great learning experience. At the same time I was a post-doctoral student, Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, a Nobel Laureate who pioneered the development of bone marrow transplants was a professor at the Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and his presence helped make that an extraordinary environment to be in.” Da Fonseca added, “Working at the Hutchinson Center was another life-changing experience that moved me toward the work I do now in pediatric dentistry.”

As a clinical professor of pediatric dentistry at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the College of Dentistry, Dr. da Fonseca teaches and trains Ohio State’s dental students, and he also spends a substantial part of each day treating children whose needs are as simple as cavities that require a filling. But he also works closely with children who are fighting for their lives as they receive chemotherapy treatments and organ or bone marrow transplants.

When asked what it’s like to work with young patients who are struggling with critical health care problems, da Fonseca said, "I know I’m doing something good for these kids every day, and that gets all of us through the hard moments. But we also know there’s always something more we can do to make a difference, and that includes educating our colleagues about the best ways to help these kids get better."

The goal of bringing the most current oral health care knowledge to his pediatric dentistry colleagues inspired Dr. da Fonseca to develop an annual symposium that draws pediatric dentists and adolescent health care specialists from the U.S. and abroad.

Co-sponsored by the College of Dentistry, this year’s symposium on October 9th will be the 3rd International Symposium on the Oral-Systemic Health Connection in Children (OSHCC), and it will include an international panel of pediatric health care specialists. Held in Columbus at the Conference Center at NorthPointe, the goal of the symposium is to discuss the connections between oral health and systemic health in children, and to examine those connections as they relate to providing medical care for children and adolescents.

Commenting on the importance of this symposium, Dr. da Fonseca said, “As pediatric health specialists, we always need to keep learning because what we know as health care providers makes a dramatic difference when we’re treating sick kids who are trying to get healthy.” He added, “And for those of us working each day with children who are critically ill, our level of expertise and knowledge can mean the difference between losing a life or saving one.”

For more information about the symposium, visit the OSHCC web site or contact Dr. Marcio da Fonseca at 614-722-5648.