Strides in Science
AADR Strides in Science is a monthly feature highlighting an AADR member’s accomplishments and comments on how his/her involvement with AADR has been an important part of his/her career in research. If you would like to nominate a colleague to be featured, please send his/her name to email@example.com.
Bennett T. Amaechi, B.Sc., B.D.S., M.Sc., Ph.D., F.A.D.I., is a professor of dentistry and director of cariology in the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He has been with the University since 2001. He earned his B.Sc., B.D.S. from the University of Ife, Nigeria (now Obafemi Awolowo University), his M.Sc. from Guy's Hospital Dental School, University of London, UK, and his Ph.D. from the University of Liverpool.
Amaechi’s research expertise is in dental caries, with particular interest in clinical and laboratory trials of anticaries agents and caries diagnostics. He has mentored students, faculty and fellows, both in the United States and overseas, in these areas of research through his funding from industry and the National Institutes of Health. Through his collaboration with institutions worldwide to promote international interaction, he has mentored students and faculty members in countries such as China, Egypt, India, Iran, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nigeria, Singapore, Slovenia and Uganda. He has published extensively in scientific literature, including book chapters.
He joined IADR in 1996 and has been an AADR member since 2001. To enhance his membership, he is a member in the IADR Cariology Research Scientific Group—where he has also served as the president and group program chair, among other roles—and the IADR Global Oral Health Inequalities Research Network. He has also served as the president of the San Antonio Section of AADR and the chair of the IADR Fellowship Committee, member of the IADR Recruitment & Membership Committee, and is the current chair of the IADR Constitution Committee. He completed a service in a task force of the IADR-Global Oral Health Inequalities Research Agenda® (IADR-GOHIRA®) that was charged with developing a research agenda to combat global oral health inequalities. He credits IADR and AADR for helping to advance his research career and enjoys being an active member.
How did you first get involved with AADR?
In 1996 I produced my first abstract and that’s when I joined IADR through the British Division. That’s also the first year I attended an IADR General Session. In 2001 I moved to the United States and that’s when I joined AADR. Since the time I joined I have attended either a General Session or Annual Meeting each year.
Describe the first time you attended an IADR or AADR meeting.
The first time I attended a meeting I wondered where had I been that I hadn’t attended a meeting. I realized that I had missed a lot of valuable science by not attending earlier. Through attending that first meeting I met a lot of scientists, especially people I had heard about and only knew through reading their published work. I was also able to gain a better satisfaction for my research because people gave me feedback about my presentation. Since then, the value I place on attending a meeting cannot be overemphasized—the meetings have been of great value to me.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
I find the networking that I do at meetings and through my Cariology Scientific Group to be the best membership benefits. Attending the meetings provides a platform for me to network with my colleagues and to meet future collaborators to create opportunities for collaboration. I’ve also been able to meet sponsors of my research through attending industry-sponsored symposia at the meetings. Additionally, the opportunity to belong to Scientific Groups creates a bigger interaction with your colleagues. When you attend the Scientific Group/Network business meetings at the Annual Meetings or General Sessions, you’re able to meet in person with your fellow Group/Network colleagues and learn about each other’s research. If you’re having difficulty in an area your peers in your Scientific Group/Network can help you and they can give suggestions and ideas for how to pursue your work.
How important has AADR been in your career?
Being an AADR member has allowed me to grow in my research career. It provides the opportunity for you to showcase your work, and gain national and international recognition in your field of expertise. Today, I’m known all over the world in my area of research, which is cariology—this is through showcasing my work at the IADR and AADR meetings. When I was applying for my promotion, I listed 15 contacts that I had met through IADR/AADR, and having those connections was valuable to my career growth. Additionally, it provides opportunity to learn emerging areas of science for possible expansion of your research field. Being part of AADR has grown my research and it has been a very valuable platform for me.
How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
Science has grown so much that we are no longer in early-man days where one could single-handedly innovate and produce a device to point of application. Today you cannot create innovations without collaborations with others who bring expertise to the project. Science is growing because of collaborations and the more you collaborate the more your research will grow.
What advice do you have for the future dental researchers?
Young investigators are multipotentialites, who have the opportunity to choose any area of research to develop. Attending the AADR meeting provides them with the opportunity to see existing and emerging areas of science, and areas of national and international interest, to enable them make the best decision on the field to follow. Additionally, it creates opportunity to meet potential mentors, who are authorities in their fields, to discuss career opportunities. Of more fun is the fact that, it is the platform where you can put faces to publications and innovations.
Tamanna Tiwari, M.P.H., M.D.S., B.D.S., is a research associate in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, Denver. She earned her B.D.S. and M.D.S. at Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune, India; and her M.P.H. from New York University.
Her main area of work is at the Center for Native Oral Health Research (CNOHR) in Colorado, which is one of the three Early Childhood Caries (ECC) disparities research centers funded by NIH-NIDCR in the United States. CNOHR conducts research aimed at developing culturally acceptable and effective strategies to prevent infectious oral diseases in American Indian and Alaska Native populations. Although both caries and periodontal disease are entirely preventable, disparities in oral health for American Indians and Alaska Natives are among the highest reported.
In her current position, she works in the implementation and management of behavioral intervention research to reduce ECC and oral health disparities experienced by American Indian (AI) children and adolescents living on reservations and in urban settings. She also develops training materials and conducts training for the staff in oral health related topics. She is formulating new developmental studies for CNOHR to work in a principal investigator capacity. Tiwari is also engaged as a lead or co-author in several manuscripts and frequently serves as a liaison to the statistical team in management of databases, data analysis, and quality assurance.
She’s a member of the IADR Women in Science Network and the IADR Behavioral, Epidemiologic and Health Services Research Scientific Group, and she manages the social media for both. She joined AADR in 2013.
How did you first get involved with AADR?
I first got involved through my mentor Dr. Judith Albino. When I joined the University of Colorado, she encouraged me to join IADR/AADR. Then I went on the website and found the organizations to be really helpful, so I joined immediately and became a member.
Describe the first time you attended an AADR meeting.
The first time I attended a meeting was the IADR World Congress on Preventive Dentistry in Budapest. I presented a poster and I met a lot of researchers from different parts of the world who were doing similar research as mine. That was a great experience and it led me to attend the 2014 AADR Annual Meeting and 2014 IADR General Session.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
I think the most valuable benefit is the networking with other researchers. Through AADR, I’m able to meet people who are doing research in similar areas as me, as well as different areas that might impact my field of research. When you are involved in one area of research you might not always be in contact with people who are doing research in other dental-related fields. However, through AADR I have access to research and new ideas, and that’s enlightening. I have made many connections through AADR and IADR. I am applying for a career development grant and some of the mentors that are involved in the grant application are researchers I met at the IADR meeting in Cape Town. While I was at that meeting I discussed my research design, and they were interested and volunteered to work with me on my research. Attending the meetings is more than just meeting new people—there’s actual collaboration that happens.
What is the role that cross-collaboration plays in your research?
The Center for Native Oral Health Research is a part of the Early Childhood Caries Collaborating Centers (EC4) along with University of California San Francisco and Boston University, and is funded by the NIH-NIDCR. Our main goal is to reduce the increase of early-childhood caries and improve the behavioral and psychosocial aspect for the parents involved in the research. At the upcoming meeting in Boston, the EC4 will present a workshop and symposium that will showcase the work done over the years by this collaborative. I look forward to seeing how people receive this collaborative work.
What are some ways newer members can be active in the Association?
One of the ways new members can get more involved is by presenting their research at the meetings. I believe that presenting your research at IADR/AADR meetings helps other researchers become aware of the most up–to-date findings and also you can receive feedback from colleagues. This may also lead to new collaborations. I also encourage new members to attend the business meetings for their Scientific Group/Network because that’s how I met future collaborators and mentors. I’m a member of the Women in Science Network and the Behavioral, Epidemiologic and Health Services Research Scientific Group. I’m not an officer of either group but by attending the business meetings I was able to volunteer to manage the Facebook page for the Women in Science Network and the LinkedIn group for the BEHSR. Managing the social media has also allowed me to meet many scientists who have similar research interests.
This month, AADR is featuring AADR Institutional Section Member the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in the Strides in Science. AADR interviewed Associate Dean Russell Taichman to learn more about the scientific advances the school is making.
Currently, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry is an AADR President’s Circle Level Institutional Section Member. They have been a member since 1999 and have exhibited at many IADR and AADR meetings, including the 2014 AADR/CADR Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Charlotte, N.C.
Last year, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry set a goal to raise $35 million during the University’s Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign. The School’s effort is part of a larger University goal to raise $4 billion, the largest fundraising effort in the history of public higher education, before the campaign ends in 2018.
The School’s $35 million goal includes the following objectives:
- Scholarship and Fellowship Support: $11.0 million;
- Clinical Facilities Support: $18.0 million;
- Curriculum Support: $1.0 million;
- Faculty Support: $1.5 million;
- Research Support: $1.5 million; and
- Discretionary Support: $2.0 million.
In 2012, the University announced the MCubed program, which is a two-year seed-funding program designed to empower interdisciplinary teams of University of Michigan faculty to pursue new initiatives with major societal impact. The program minimizes the time between idea conception and successful research results by providing immediate startup funds for novel, high-risk and transformative research projects. The funds are intended to generate data for groundbreaking, high-impact publications, or preliminary results for new, innovative research proposals. The program also includes high-visibility, campus-wide research symposia to showcase the resulting groundbreaking research. Taichman and 22 other School of Dentistry investigators are participating investigators in the 200 pilot projects funded through the MCubed program. More information may be found at www.mcubed.umich.edu.
University of Michigan faculty researcher Yvonne Kapila in her lab.
What is one of the main research goals of the School of Dentistry?
Research and discovery are integral to the School of Dentistry’s mission. The overarching goal is to facilitate clinical excellence by moving discoveries in the clinic to the bench top and back to the clinic. Working toward that goal, we have invested heavily in basic, clinical and translational research as well as educational and leadership research. Many of our faculty move across these platforms. One of our major efforts is to provide opportunities for all of our students to be involved in scholarship. In their first year, DDS students have a choice to get involved in three major scholarship venues. They can select a project in the research track, clinical-translational care track (health care delivery), and the leadership track. The expectation is that even at the earliest entry phase into the profession, these students are looking at their profession differently and the project they chose facilitates a deeper dive into the profession. This is our Pathway Program.
What is some of the research the School of Dentistry is producing?
The very best thing about the University of Michigan School of Dentistry is the people. We have many investigators engaged in very impressive science. Our excellent faculty and inspired students allow us to build on the strengths of our research enterprise, specifically in the areas of craniofacial and developmental biology; mineralized tissue and bone biology; oral and pharyngeal cancer; oral sensory pain neuroscience; oral infectious and immunologic diseases; and tissue engineering and regeneration. Projects are underway that involve the use of gene therapy to stop the progression of periodontal disease; tissue engineering approaches to repair head/neck/facial injuries; the mechanics of chewing and TMJ disorders; examining the oral health of women who are undergoing breast cancer therapy; and the regeneration of tissues, such as lips. A group of investigators are studying craniofacial development, genetics and infectious diseases, and many investigators are involved in cancer research. Important clinical investigations are being conducted on dental caries, restorative biology and quality of life issues. My research focus is on the role of osteoblasts in normal bone marrow function. It is exciting to be part of this incredible research enterprise.
How is the School of Dentistry encouraging students to pursue careers in dental research?
Matching students with mentors who have similar research interests is one of the ways we help students see how a career in oral health research can be rewarding. It’s exciting when students find research mentors who are willing to take them under their wing. Some students come into the dental school with a significant background in research and some come with none at all. I have a student in my lab who had no background in research, but a very keen interest. He was given an opportunity to do research and he enjoys it. We also support students who want to participate in an on campus year-out period to conduct basic or clinical research. Through the Intensive Clinical Research Training Program and the Medical Research Scholars Program, students may travel to the NIH-NIDCR for this training. We also have an Oral Health Sciences PhD Program. This Program is designed for exceptional students who aspire to a career in academic dentistry as a dental scientist. Training options include a dual degree in DDS/OHS PhD, Specialty MS/OHS PhD, and the PhD. Most of our graduates have gone on to academic careers with peer U.S. universities or international universities.
How do you prepare students to present their research at scientific meetings?
Once we match students with mentors, the students are given the opportunity to do an individualized research project that can range from basic science to clinical / translational research. Working with their research mentors, students who have a goal of presenting their work at IADR/AADR meetings are able to plan and do research that is appropriate for those meetings.
What are you telling students to encourage them to pursue careers in dental research?
I frequently say that it is the absolute best career choice you can make. You can pursue your dreams in science and dentistry, and there are relatively few barriers to make that happen. The doors that get opened are absolutely stunning. If you are passionate about dental research and you can secure the resources needed, you can do almost anything! I am very grateful that I made the choice to pursue dental research—even on the difficult days I’m still grateful for making this my path. I started out as a bench scientist and my work is now moving into clinical trials. I never thought that I would be engaged in those opportunities but this university setting has made that a reality. I’m excited for the next generation of scientists who will also contribute to the field.
David C. Johnsen, D.D.S., M.S., is dean and a professor at the University of Iowa, College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics, Department of Pediatric Dentistry. Johnsen received his D.D.S. degree from the University of Michigan in 1970 and his M.S. in pediatric dentistry from the University of Iowa in 1973. He became board certified in pediatric dentistry in 1978.
Johnsen served on the faculty of West Virginia University from 1974-1980, where he taught predoctoral pediatric dentistry. There, he received the Outstanding Teacher Award in 1976. In 1980 he joined Case Western Reserve University, where he continued teaching predoctoral pediatric dentistry. He remained on the faculty until 1995, serving as a department chair, intermittently as director of the residency program, and as interim dean in 1993. From there he moved to the University of Iowa, where he has been the dean of the College of Dentistry since 1995.
His university service at the University of Iowa has included chairing the search committee for the CEO of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in 2002; being co-convener of the Health Sciences Policy Council from 2003-04; co-chairing the University Task Force on Clinical and Translational Research in 2005-06; being the chair of the nursing dean search in 2006; and serving as chair of the university presidential search in 2007.
Johnsen’s research has focused on innervation of teeth as an indicator of capacity to transmit pain sensory impulses and also on caries patterns in preschoolers. The latter area included demonstration projects and consulting at the national level in the Women and Infant Clinics (WIC) and the Head Start programs. He has also published on a variety of clinical and educational topics.
Johnsen has been an active AADR member since 1973 and has served as the chair of the AADR Government Affairs Committee since 2011.
How did you first learn about AADR?
I first learned about AADR while I was a student at the University of Michigan, through my dental histology professor Jim Avery, who later became an IADR president (1974-75). After that I did pediatrics at the University of Iowa where another future IADR president, Stephen Wei (1993-94), was one of my professors. From early on I knew about the importance of IADR and AADR because those two mentors were members and they explained to me why I should be involved. At the encouragement of Jim Avery, I made my first presentation at an IADR meeting in 1970 and I’ve attended nearly every meeting since then. Thanks to my mentors I was indoctrinated into IADR/AADR early on in my career!
Describe your first time presenting at an IADR/AADR meeting.
I was a student the first time I presented at a meeting. I’m not sure how many students presented from my school that year but it was with the coaching of my mentor Jim Avery that I had the ability to present my research. He showed me how to structure my presentation—we practiced it together and he would ask questions to allow me to rehearse my answers. I still recall the experience of presenting my research at the meeting and getting questions from famous researchers in the room. I was honored that these famous researchers I had read about were there and they liked my presentation. It was definitely a valuable experience and one I’ll never forget.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
One of the most valuable benefits of my AADR membership is being part of the AADR network, in addition to the advocacy the Association provides. AADR, with IADR, is the touchstone for dental research, and AADR is the place I turn for gathering with other dental researchers and people in the field. When I was just becoming involved in AADR and doing my research in Jim Avery’s lab, I really became hooked on research when he introduced me to the AADR environment. It wasn’t just the intellectual stimulation that I enjoyed but also the IADR/AADR members from all over the world who would visit the lab. I realized early on that I had never been around a group like that and I found them really enthralling. I’m proud to be part of this group that I found so enthralling as a junior researcher. I’m also fortunate that my institution supported my efforts to be involved in AADR because there isn’t a better place for meeting with other researchers and learning about dental research.
What is one of the best ways for other AADR members to become more involved in the Association’s advocacy efforts?
When I’m in DC I always stop in Senator Tom Harkin’s office to meet with him. There’s value in meeting with your representatives in person. However, if you’re not able to meet with them, send them a letter. It’s critical that we explain to them the importance of biomedical research and we need to explain how our research impacts the health of the public. It’s up to us to share our stories with representatives and policymakers because no one else can. Years ago, when then NIH Director Francis Collins visited the NIDCR Advisory Group, I asked him how we could help. Without hesitation he said “Get your elected officials into your institutions to see the great work you are doing!” A year later at the NIDCR Advisory Group meeting when we were asked how many of us tried to get our elected officials to visit our institutions, only a few hands went up. As a dean I think that it’s important to get more dental deans involved collectively to get dental research supported. I think we’re going to have a real battle to maintain the level of support that we’ve had. Higher education has become a lot tighter and we do have to subsidize research. To keep that going, I think it’s going to take the grassroots of the dental deans, too.
He earned his B.V.Sc. in veterinary medicine and surgery from Madras University, Chennia, India, in 1971; his S.C.C. in advanced statistics from the Institute of Agricultural Research Statistics, New Delhi, India, in 1975; and his M.Sc. in medical microbiology from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, in 1979. Additionally, he was a post-doc fellow at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, Denver and at the University of Texas at San Antonio Health and Science Center, where he worked on a National Institutes of Health-National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research project under his research mentors Jeffrey Ebersole and Stanley Holt.
Currently Lakshmyya is conducting several research studies, including a clinical study on the association between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, periodontal pathogens and induction of periodontal disease and atherosclerosis in ApoE-/- mouse model, caries pathogenStreptococcus mutans role in atherosclerosis in ApoE-/- mouse model, polymicrobial periodontal disease and localization of periodontal pathogens in periodontium, the association between periodontal pathogens and rheumatoid arthritis in DBA1 and B10 RIII mouse model, and the association between periodontal pathogens and Alzheimer’s disease in humans and animal model.
Recently, he and a team of researchers released findings about how gum disease can lead to heart disease, which could change the way heart disease is diagnosed and treated. Funded by the NIH-NIDCR, that study is part of a larger one on the effects of gum disease on atherosclerotic vascular disease. Similarly, last year he and a team of UK researchers released findings on the potential link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Lakshmyya has been an AADR member since 1990. As an active member, he has served as an AADR Section officer, and has been a member of the AADR Council and AADR Fellowships Committee. Additionally, he has served as a reviewer for the IADR/AADR Journal of Dental Research.
What motivated you to join AADR?
I joined AADR at the encouragement of my mentors when I was a post-doc fellow. At the time I was working on an NIH-NIDCR project in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Ebersole and Dr. Stanley Holt. My mentors explained to me the benefits of AADR membership and why I should attend the meetings. Since then, I have attended the meetings and been an active member in the Association.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
I have found the access to information and to dentists and other researchers to be one of the most valuable benefits of my AADR membership. Being an AADR member enables me to attend the Annual Meetings and present my research, but it also gives me a platform to network with others in the field. I am not a dentist—I rely on my AADR membership to help me meet dentists and researchers in other specialties because that is of interest to me and my research. Being a member of AADR and especially attending the Annual Meetings gives me exposure to all the people I need to meet in order to help further my research. Attending the meetings is a significant resource for a dental researcher and it’s helpful that AADR offers this experience at a discounted rate for members.
How important has AADR been in your career?
AADR is really the bread and butter that has helped build my career and I am fortunate for the opportunities that my membership has provided to me. I am also grateful to my mentors Dr. Jeffrey Ebersole and Dr. Stanley Holt for introducing me to AADR, I am very fortunate to have them as my mentors. One of the biggest gifts of being part of AADR is being able to collaborate with others in the field of dental research. Having that opportunity available has made a positive impact on my career, and I encourage others who are not members to join and be part of this Association so that they, too, may partake in the membership experience.
What role does cross-collaboration play in obtaining your research findings?
Cross-collaboration plays a big role in my research and being part of AADR has helped me identify future research collaborators in different disciplines. I have been collaborating with other universities and faculty to do various research projects. In order to have more access to information and to do better research, it’s important to collaborate with others globally.
What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
My advice is really to mentors and faculty but it benefits future dental researchers. I encourage faculty members to mentor students and support them in their growth. I am fortunate that the University of Florida is able to send some of my students and junior researchers to the AADR Annual Meetings so that they have exposure to the specialty science that’s presented at the meeting. We all should encourage more students to attend these meetings and, if we’re not able to help off-set the cost of meeting registration, help them find funding. Grad students and post-docs will benefit enormously from the meetings because they will be the future dental researchers and the future academicians.
AADR Strides in Science, September 2013-July 2014
AADR Strides in Science, November 2012-August 2013
AADR Strides in Science, January 2012-September 2012
AADR Strides in Science, March 2011-December 2011
AADR Strides in Science, June 2010-February 2011
AADR Strides in Science, October 2009-May 2010
AADR Strides in Science, February 2009-September 2009
AADR Strides in Science, June 2008-January 2009