Peggy Liu, PhD, of Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, and Jacqueline Burgette, DMD, PhD, from the School of Dental Medicine, are one of three teams to win $115,000 in the 2021 Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh).

Their “Healthy Teeth Healthy Me Family Activity Box” to prevent tooth decay in vulnerable children was among the proposed creative solutions to address important health problems including diagnostics, treatments, and interventions. The challenge, which is in its ninth cycle, was sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

“The PInCh competition is designed to support projects that solve important health-related challenges,” said Steven E. Reis, MD, director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and associate senior vice chancellor for Clinical and Translational Research at Pitt. “This year’s participants put forth a wide range of bold solutions to daunting problems. The winning ideas ranged from a novel program to assist Black parenting to creating a new endotracheal tube that will prevent pneumonia in patients on ventilators to improving dental health among children – are all are creative approaches that will improve the health and well-being of millions of individuals.”

Besides the $100,000 awards announced Oct. 13, 2021, all three finalists qualified for and received an additional $15,000 bonus award for addressing health disparities, determined by a separate review panel.

Full details of the “Healthy Teeth Healthy Me” project, including a video of the final presentation to the judges, can be found here. The activity box, which includes videos, dental supplies, a book, and an activity, is designed to prevent child tooth decay, which is a major public health problem. Approximately 25% of American children ages 2-5 have untreated tooth decay. 

Liu is the Ben L. Fryrear Chair in Marketing and an associate professor of business administration with research and teaching expertise in consumer behavior, with a focus on work that increases the appeal of health activities in social contexts. Burgette is a board-certified pediatric dentist trained in delivering and teaching infant oral health care, leading the box development and clinical trial.

“This is a project that we’re both really passionate about because we think it really has a chance of helping young kids who are in low-income, disadvantaged neighborhoods helping them to have better health,” Liu said. We’re really passionate about this project and I really enjoyed working with Jackie. This is something I’m very excited about.”

Burgette added: “What’s great is that we get to work with the CTSI partners and PInCh projects. I know that working them that everything goes smoothly and efficiently and we’re really excited to continue working together this year.”