Featured Faculty: Orthodontist Making Dental Injury a Public Health Issue

Featured Faculty: Orthodontist Making Dental Injury a Public Health Issue

By: Mark Gudmastad Date: November 10th, 2015

Capote_HeadshotDr. Raquel Capote is an associate member of Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, a full-time faculty member at the University of Washington and a practicing orthodontist. She is also a researcher, a scholar, leader and a mentor. While it might seem an overbearing workload, there is a reason Dr. Capote works so much.

“I care,” said Dr. Capote. “I went to dental school to learn the technical skills and knowledge, and then purposefully obtained research training to apply to the field of dental public health. Why? Because I have an abiding interest in helping people. I want to meet the challenge of improved oral health for all.”

To find the roots of her motivation, one has to travel to Belize, 15 years ago. In 1999, Raquel Capote went to Belize where she spent time living and working in a small village. She noticed that farmers and their families took breaks from their work harvesting sugarcane to chew on the sugary plants while they rested. The resulting tooth decay that plagued the majority of people in the village inspired the future orthodontic researcher to go to dental school.

“Living in Belize was a defining moment for me,” said Dr. Capote. “That was when I really began to think critically about how to improve oral and overall health across social, economic and geographic sectors.” Her foresight has landed Dr. Capote a prestigious federal grant that allows her the freedom to pursue her professional and research interests.

After graduating summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Dr. Capote received a merit scholarship to attend the University of Connecticut where she obtained her dental degree She went on to earn a certificate in orthodontics, as well as a Master of Science in Dentistry and, most recently, a Master of Public Health at the University of Washington. Her commitment to her work, though, goes far beyond the typical bounds of orthodontic researchers.

Dr. Capote is the president of the Hispanic Student Dental Association and the Student National Dental Association and founding member and vice-president of the Western Washington Professional Chapter of the Hispanic Dental Association. These are a few among the many mechanisms Dr. Capote has demonstrated her leadership in eliminating oral health disparities. . She is constantly working to guide youth and young adults from racial, ethnic and other disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Every person has worth,” said Dr. Capote “and I want that core value to permeate through my work. I’ve seen the absence of oral health care in the smiles of faces throughout the world. Unfortunately such disparities are present everywhere.”

Capote_teachingDr. Capote was able to pursue her passions, in part, because in 2012 the Institute of Translational Health Sciences (ITHS) selected her as a scholar for the distinguished National Institutes of Health-funded KL2 Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Career Development Program (KL2

The KL2 program in which Dr. Capote participates offers rigorous training and mentorship in clinical and translational research. She has completed extensive study in epidemiologic methods, applied biostatistics, research ethics, and health services and policy.

Her unique combination of degrees and training allows Dr. Capote to really delve into a topic she is passionate about: dental injury.
“It is a great honor to have such an accomplished and hard-working scholar in the ITHS KL2 program. Her innovative work on dental injury will change the way such injuries are treated and prevented and help countless individuals” said Dr. John Amory, MD, MPH and director of the ITHS KL2 program.
Dr. Capote’s research through the KL2 grant, which extends through 2017, is particularly focused on youth.
“The prevalence of dental trauma is significant and disproportionately affects children,” she said. “It’s an understudied area, particularly when we talk about prevention.”

“In my clinical practice I saw the impact of injuries ranging from an elbow to the mouth on the basketball court to a fall from a bike or skateboard,” said Dr. Capote. “I thought that while providing orthodontic care to manage the sequelae has value, greater benefits could be derived from the study of dental trauma.”
Her ability to challenge the norm through creative thinking and innovative research landed Dr. Capote a position as an associate faculty member for the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (HIPRC), an organization at the University of Washington on the Harborview Medical Center campus, education and prevention programs aimed at reducing the impact of trauma.

She is collaborating with the Harborview Injury Prevention Research Center with the goal of collecting and translating injury and treatment data into programs, policies and education aimed at preventing, mitigating and treating traumatic dental injuries more effectively.

“I benefit from interactions with many of the injury research experts at the HIPRC,” said Dr. Capote.

Alongside a cadre of faculty researchers at HIPRC, Dr. Capote is beginning to collect data that will help to answer a number of important unanswered questions: Where do children receive treatment for dental trauma and how much does it typically cost? Are appropriate guidelines followed during treatment? Are athletic trainers, coaches, physicians, nurses, EMTs, police and others receiving training in dental trauma first response? What sports are causing the most dental injury to youth?

“Dental injuries can be especially devastating because they are generally irreversible and involve long-term management that will likely continue over a patient’s lifetime,” said Dr. Capote. “Traumatic dental injuries cannot be completely eliminated, but injury rates and severity have the potential to be reduced. This is the focus of my current research.”

“The research questions I developed at HIPRC will ultimately allow our communities to create stronger policies and practices that target those most at risk for dental injuries,” said Dr. Capote.

Ultimately, Dr. Capote envisions creating a national database of dental trauma, allowing researchers nationwide access to information that was previously unavailable.

“A national database has the potential to move the field of dental injury forward by leaps and bounds,” said Dr. Capote.

“We really value Dr. Capote’s contributions to reducing dental injury,” said Dr. Monica S. Vavilala, director of the HIPRC. “She brings a unique perspective, which enriches everybody’s injury research at the Center.”Capote_Fishing

When she isn’t practicing orthodontics, researching, or studying Dr. Capote somehow finds the time for leisure activities. In her free time, Dr. Capote often heads to the mountains. In fact, the mountains are one of the reasons she was attracted to the West. She frequents the streams of Washington and Colorado to perfect her fly fishing cast and can often be found skiing and cycling.

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