Fatahzadeh Honored by New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award

Professor of Diagnostic Sciences Mahnaz Fatahzadeh was selected as one of the 2022 New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Awards honorees in the health care service category.

Mahnaz Fatahzadeh Professor of Diagnostic Sciences Mahnaz Fatahzadeh

“I feel truly humbled and am grateful for this recognition,” said Fatahzadeh, who was honored for raising public awareness about oral cancer and its risk factors as well as educating medical professionals about early signs of this malignancy and the impact of timely detection on its prognosis.

Fatahzadeh advocates for improved health outcomes for oral cancer through community outreach, education, training of non-dental health professionals, HPV vaccination in the dental setting, and opportunistic screening as part of primary care.

“Advanced oral cancer could prove fatal, and its survivors often suffer significant therapeutic complications,” noted Fatahzadeh. “Improving oral cancer survival requires engagement on multiple fronts such as education directed at prevention, screening for early detection, and health policy development for access and equity.”

To that end, she has organized walks, directed and participated in screening events, conducted research, and shared her expertise through articles, seminars, and interviews.

At RSDM, Fatahzadeh was the director of school's annual oral cancer screening event, offered by faculty and students, for high-risk underserved community residents. Following the event's 20th anniversary in 2018, she began collaborating with other Rutgers units to provide these screenings in an inter-professional setting. The events were sponsored by the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at University Hospital and offered comprehensive health screenings, such as mammography, pap smear, prostate screening, hearing and vision tests, and more, to individuals with no or limited access to care. Fatahzadeh noted, "Participating in collaborative projects is key in improving the health of the community, bringing attention to oral-systemic health connection and demonstrating the broad role of dental professionals within the health care team."

Additionally, she has served as a member of the NJ Oral/Oropharyngeal Cancer Work Group, the chair of the NY/NJ Oral Cancer Consortium, and a member of the Oral Cancer Task Force of the American Academy of Oral Medicine. Through these roles, she has helped shape overarching public health policies to reduce the burden as well as the associated morbidity and mortality of oral cancer throughout the state of New Jersey.

“I realize there is much work left to be done,” Fatahzadeh said, “and I hope to do my share and motivate others to join me."