Member Spotlight: Romesh Nalliah

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Member Spotlight: Romesh Nalliah

Our member spotlight this month features Dr. Romesh Nalliah, DDS, MHCM, FACD. Dr. Nalliah is a Clinical Professor and serves as the Associate Dean for Patient Services at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.

Since graduating from dental school in 2000, Dr. Nalliah’s career interest has been in public health, working in rural Australia, on mobile dental vans, in community health centers and in private practices that also serve publicly insured patients. He has studied vulnerable populations and equity for the last 15 years. Dr. Nalliah works with Michigan OPEN (Opioid Prescriber Engagement Network) and together they pursue collaborative efforts focused on dental opioid prescribing.

  • What is most interesting about working with Michigan OPEN?

What is exciting to me about collaborating with Michigan OPEN is that our research has identified previously unknown prescribing patterns. We’ve been able to identify high risk prescriber groups, as well as trends in prescribing that were previously not described. Understanding these trends puts us in a better position to educate and improve outcomes.

  • What is the anticipated outcome of your work and research with Michigan OPEN?

What I love about Michigan OPEN is that it isn’t just research – it’s research to inform intervention. This has been my goal with my research prior to collaborating with Michigan OPEN and a dedication to make change (not just publish papers) is what has elevated the work we’ve done together. With Michigan OPEN, we have coordinated drug take-back events, advocacy meetings and seminars with our state’s leadership in Lansing and disseminating in ways other than scientific journals.

  • How does the work benefit patients and clinicians?

Our work includes education of patients and clinicians and we seek to be a resource to both. Our website has lots of free resources for dentists and for their patients. We recognize that part of the opioid problem is patients demanding them and another part in clinician hesitance to move away from opioid prescribing. However, based on the evidence we have generated, I truly believe we can cut opioid prescribing in dentistry to a fraction of what it is today.

  • How is Precision Health is supporting this research? 

All our collaborators are part of Precision Health and our ultimate goals are to identify high risk prescribers and patients before they have a critical event.

  • What are your research interests, broadly?

I never set out to be a race researcher and am far from an expert in this space. However, 15 years studying various public health issues in medicine and dentistry almost always seem to intersect with race and I’ve come to understand that race is a critical public health issue. I used to focus on health outcomes and published broadly in that space, however, I want to learn and grow in my understanding of how race affects health outcomes.

  • How does your work apply to the field of precision health?

The ultimate goal of precision health is perfectly aligned with what I do with Michigan OPEN and in my own research on vulnerable populations. That is, we need to deliver the right treatment to the right person at the right time. Race shouldn’t matter. Insurance status shouldn’t matter. And in a way, precision health is also a strong public health value that is associated with no waste and highly efficient care – another concept I hold dear.

  • What do you like to do when you aren’t doing research?

I love spending as much time as possible with my wife and two daughters. I love seeing the world through their eyes.