My research investigates biological, social, and psychological factors that may influence the experience of pain. Pain is perhaps the most widespread and expensive health problem in the United States. My research uses standard psychophysical, or sensory testing, procedures to assess individual differences in responses to pain.
One major line of research in my laboratory focuses on how women and men experience pain differently. Women generally report more pain in daily life than men, and they also show lower pain thresholds. We are interested in understanding the reasons for these differences, which probably include psychosocial factors (e.g. mood, coping, sex roles) as well as physiological variables such as hormone levels and blood pressure. In addition, we are studying whether pain-relieving medications work differently for women and men and whether. Specifically, we would like to identify genetic markers that are associated with analgesic responses, and whether there are different genetic markers of medication response in women versus men.
We are also investigating whether people from different ethnic and racial groups experience pain differently. Some evidence suggests that ethnic minorities may experience higher levels of pain and disability compared to whites. We are trying to determine whether ethnic differences in pain perception contribute to these differences in clinical pain. In this research, we are also exploring the contribution of sociocultural and psychological factors to ethnic differences in pain. We are also interested in the contribution of genetic factors.
We are also involved in a multicenter prospective cohort study designed to identify risk factors for development of orofacial pain. This study is called OPPERA (Orofacial Pain: Prospective Evaluation and Risk Assessment), and more information can be found at www.oppera.org. My research is primarily funded by the National Institutes of Health.
One of my current research areas is examining the stability in cardiovascular and neuroendocrine reactivity to pain stimuli across a 1-year period. This line of work is identifying patterns of response that may be predictive of the development of cardiovascular disease. Currently I also funded from the Center for Autoimmune Diseases to study daily stress, coping and changes in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) Symptoms. This project includes membership in a mentoring team to facilitate research training for a member of her division, Dr. Michelle Graham. She has facilitated the awarding of a loan repayment grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparity to Dr. Graham and a minority supplement from National Institute of Arthritis and Musculosketal and Skin Disease to examine the dental implication of SLE symptom changes. In addition, Dr. Logan is collaborating with Dr. Tomar to study the role cultural mistrust plays in decisions to participate in cancer screenings among members of under represented minority. These projects are funded through the Center for Disease Control and National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparity. She is currently co-investigator on a grant jointly funded by NIDCR and NCI entitled Florida State Model for Prevention and Control of Oral and Pharyngeal Cancer (Scott Tomar PI).
My overarching interests have been in the study of behavioral, emotional, and cognitive responses to pain. Most of my early studies involved identification of interrelationships between pain, negative mood, coping strategies, and outcome among patients seeking care for chronic pain. A number of these studies involved patients receiving care in an orofacial pain clinic. As females are more likely to seek care for orofacial pain, I began to focus on sex differences in pain and determinate of health seeking behavior, particularly as they relate to psychological responses to pain. I have recently taken my expertise in measuring pain and its impact and applied them to the study of oral epidemiology – the study of orofacial pain in community samples. Topics of recent publications include the longitudinal links between pain, negative mood, and sleep; health care behaviors among minority females; the sex-differentiated effects of financial status as a risk factor for orofacial pain; and pain-related communication patterns among community-dwelling adults.
Dr. Thomas maintains a full time practice in hospital dentistry at the VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida. In this capacity he manages the dental care of primarily geriatric patients, many of whom have significant medically compromising conditions. His residency and fellowship training are in Oral Pathology and Geriatrics, respectively. His primary interests are in education for both undergraduate and post-graduate dentists, as well as other health care providers, in the dental management of medically compromised older adults. Dr. Thomas has been involved for over 20 years with continuing education and contributions to the literature in oral medicine, oral pathology and geriatrics.
As a public health dentist and oral epidemiologist, my research interests involve the understanding and control of modifiable risk factors for disease in populations. One primary area of interest is tobacco use and its effects on oral health. My research in this area has included tobacco-associated oral diseases, the epidemiology of tobacco use, and improving the outcomes for people with oral cancer — a disease largely associated with tobacco use. I am currently involved in a number of inter-related research projects on oral cancer, including a social marketing effort for the prevention and control of oral cancer in Florida and an investigation into quality of life among survivors of head and neck cancer. Other projects in which I’m involved include increasing access to dental care for persons living with HIV/AIDS and a dental office-based intervention on childhood obesity.
I’ve had the privilege of serving the profession and public in a number of capacities. I currently serve as Vice President of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, the world’s largest organization dedicated to optimum oral health for all. I recently completed a term as President of the Behavioral, Epidemiologic and Health Services Research section of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) and currently serve on the IADR Publications Committee. I serve as a consultant for a number of agencies and organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the American Dental Association.