Athena Papas, D.M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.D., J67 has been named a Distinguished Professor at Tufts University. The honorary title of “Distinguished Professor” was created in 1985 and is reserved for a very small number of senior professors who have made exceptional contributions to their disciplines, to their students, and to the University as teachers/scholars exemplifying the finest of Tufts’ traditions. Distinguished Professors are recognized as pre-eminent authorities in their fields and their accomplishments are exemplified by outstanding teaching, mentoring, discovery and service.
Dr. Athena Papas is the Dr. Erling Johansen, D49, Professor in Dental Research and the Division Head of Oral Medicine in the Department of Diagnostic Sciences. A 1967 graduate of Tufts’ Jackson College, Dr. Papas received her Ph.D. in Oral Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1971 and her D.M.D. from Harvard University in 1974.
Dr. Papas is a beloved member of the TUSDM faculty and Tufts University has been her home throughout her entire career, beginning in 1974. At TUSDM, she has risen through the ranks to her current appointment as the Erling Johansen Endowed Professor in Dental Research in 2000, the first TUSDM faculty member to receive an endowed professorship. She has also taught at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
A prolific scientist for more than 40 years at Tufts and with expertise in the oral healthcare of the elderly, medically compromised, Sjögrens, cancer and bone marrow transplant patients, Dr. Papas has been the principal investigator for over 65 clinical trials and has secured more than $20 million in research grants.
Among her achievements are her pioneering work with patients with the autoimmune disease Sjögren’s syndrome, as well as her work with patients with complex medical issues that affect their oral health. Many of her discoveries have led to treatments that have improved people’s lives. For example, a rinse that heals mouth sores in patients who have received a bone marrow transplant or undergone radiation therapy and a drug that stimulates saliva production in Sjögren’s patients who suffer from extreme dry mouth.
Dr. Papas’ career reached a milestone in 2014 when the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited TUSDM’s new Oral Medicine Residency (OMR) program, a full-time, two-year certificate program with a third-year Master of Science option. It is one of only seven accredited oral medicine programs in the nation. Oral medicine epitomizes a multidisciplinary approach to patient care and represents the intersection between dentistry and medicine, and we are proud that Dr. Papas has helped Tufts become a leader in the science.