Marquette School of Dentistry professor partners on multi-million-dollar NIH grant for no-show prevention in underserved populations

Feb. 28, 2022

Dr. Chris OkunseriMILWAUKEE — Dr. Christopher Okunseri, professor and director of the predoctoral program for dental public health at Marquette University School of Dentistry, is part of a research team that has been awarded a grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research for a research project titled “No-Show Prevention Practices in Dental Care Settings Serving Underserved Populations.” The NIDCR is a federal branch of the National Institutes of Health.

The phased award starts with $337,401 in first-year funding. If set project milestones are met, Marquette may be awarded $1.3 million for a five-year clinical trial phase.

“Appointment no-shows are an all-too-common occurrence in dental offices. Rather than blaming patients for failing to show up, we believe dental clinics can take the lead to reduce no-shows with a systematic approach,” Okunseri said. “With this project, we will test an organizational change model which has been shown to reduce missed appointments in medical settings but remains untried in dentistry. This award represents one more step in breaking down the barriers to dental care.”

Okunseri and his fellow investigator have been piloting an evidence-based organizational change model that employs principles of systems engineering and has been proven effective in more than 3,300 organizations. Wisconsin-area clinics are working to build appropriate and effective tools into their systems — practices such as regularly calling and texting patients more frequently and closer to appointment times, creating shorter and more convenient appointments, and using motivational interviewing to help patients prioritize oral health.

“Dr. Okunseri is a great example for Marquette dentists with his commitment to expanding access to vital dental care for underserved populations,” said Dr. William Lobb, dean of the School of Dentistry. “The problem of no-shows in dentistry is an issue of access to care. This project appeals to his community-based focus of making sure access to care is available to the people who need it.”

This is a multi-investigator award partnering Marquette—the only dental school in Wisconsin—with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If the investigators meet the project milestones, the grant has the potential to garner $4.2 million over all seven years.

The NIH is made up of 27 institutes and centers, each with a specific research agenda, often focusing on particular diseases or body systems. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research is the federal government's lead agency for scientific research on dental, oral and craniofacial health and disease. The mission of the NIDCR is to advance fundamental knowledge about dental, oral, and craniofacial health and disease and translate these findings into prevention, early detection, and treatment strategies that improve overall health for all individuals and communities across the lifespan.

About Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

Kevin is the associate director for university communication in the Office of University Relations. Contact Kevin at (414) 288-4745 or