Rhodus receives accolades for oral cancer work

Nelson Rhodus, DMD, MPH

Nelson Rhodus, DMD, MPH, director of the division of oral medicine, received a number of accolades recently in recognition of his distinguished work with oral medicine and oral cancer.

Rhodus was elected to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, became an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Oral Medicine, and was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for the Philippine Dental Association, all within one week.

Rhodus is renowned for his work in oral medicine, having written a textbook that’s used in 43 dental schools around the country and developed an oral cancer screening model that’s used throughout the Philippines. He’s developed a similar screening model particularly for the Somali community in Minnesota, and he and his students have provided oral cancer screenings and information at the Minnesota State Fair for six years. He also travels throughout the world to educate providers on early oral cancer detection, and he works with the Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota on training and education.

Oral cancer is still very prevalent,” he explained. “It’s the fourth leading type of cancer that causes death in the world,” so its early detection and proper treatment is crucial.

His work in oral cancer detection is what led to the Certificate of Appreciation from the Philippine Dental Association, thanks to the screening program he created for the country. “Now they’re doing a lot with that program, and it’s been very successful,” Rhodus explained.

The election to the Royal College of Surgeons represents Rhodus’s accomplishments in study and work in oral medicine more generally. Typically reserved for researchers in the United Kingdom, the College extended membership to Rhodus due to his work across specialities and borders.

Formed in 1505, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is the oldest Surgical College in the world, with approximately 30,000 members spanning disciplines. The College focuses on “ensur(ing) the safety of our patients and providing them with the best possible care...by championing the highest standards of surgical and dental practice,” according to the Society. Membership in the Royal College is an academic distinction.

As an Academic Fellow in the American Academy of Oral Medicine, Rhodus joins a select group of oral medicine practitioners “who demonstrate proficiency in the diagnosis and management of oral mucosal diseases, difficult oral/dental diagnoses, orofacial pain, and dental management of medically complex patients,” according to the Academy.

In a sign of high respect for Rhodus and his achievements, the Academy granted him Fellowship status on top of his previous role as a Diplomate, awarded for passing the American Board of Oral Medicine’s certifying examination. Typically, practitioners and researchers who become Diplomates are not provided status as Academic Fellows. The election of Rhodus to both roles is a testament to his dedication to his field and the impact he’s had on oral medicine.

Rhodus remains humble in regards to his wins, focusing on the role his work has in changing lives.

“The fact that everything we’re doing is being recognized is really rewarding,” Nelson reflected on receiving the honors. “But really, the biggest reward isn’t the recognition. It’s knowing that what I do is helping diagnose cancer early, so people can survive. That’s the bottom line.”