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Former CU President Albino leads oral health project

Public health research center focuses on American Indians, Alaska Natives

Judith Albino, PhD
Judith Albino, PhD

The leader of a CU project to address crucial oral health issues among American Indian and Alaska Native children said this kind of research is why she loves being at the university.

Her outlook is particularly interesting given that, two decades ago, she ran the place.

The first female president of CU, from 1991 to 1995, Judith Albino, PhD, now is director and principal investigator of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Center for Native Oral Health Research (CNOHR). The center has launched a research project involving 2,000 children on Indian reservations, where kids’ oral health is a major challenge.

CNOHR is one of the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health and part of the Colorado School of Public Health, where Albino is a professor. Through CNOHR, Albino takes on health issues for underserved people -- and remains in the academic environment she’s embraced since she growing up in small-town Tennessee.

“At least I’ll be in school”

“Even when I was a little kid,” she said with a laugh, “I could hardly wait to start school and, on numerous occasions, I’ve found myself saying that I never really wanted to do anything but go to school. But at some point that gets embarrassing. So if I can’t go to school at least I’ll be at school.”

The oral health project is both daunting and crucial. American Indian and Alaska Native populations suffer from “certainly the worst oral health in the country as a group of people, and perhaps in the world,” Albino said. Her focus is on early childhood caries (ECC), characterized by severe tooth decay in infants and young children.

The CNOHR works closely with the School of Dental Medicine, where Albino also is a professor.

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