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 scienceadvocate@aadr.org.

June 2016

 

Harold C. Slavkin, D.D.S., is currently professor and dean emeritus of the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles. He is one of the world's leading authorities on craniofacial development and genetic birth defects. He began his tenure as dean of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry in August 2000, and completed his tenure on December 31, 2008. 

He received with honors a B.A. in English literature in 1961 at USC and earned his D.D.S. from the School of Dentistry in 1965. As dean, his leadership team was responsible for many innovations in education and teaching, research and discovery, patient and community health care, and leadership. They introduced “learner-centered” education, community outreach programs from San Luis Obispo, California, to the Mexican border, interdisciplinary education and research programs, globalization programs, increased professional continuing education programs, a new Oral Health Center, major renovations of all clinics, new imaging and microbiology testing facilities, and expansions of research.

Prior to his tenure at USC, Slavkin served as the sixth director of the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Under his leadership, the NIDCR became the lead agency on the first-ever “Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health in America,” which was released in June 2000 by David Satcher. His directorship was also marked by the development of the NIDCR's first strategic plan (“Shaping the Future”), the renaming of the Institute to better reflect the scope of its activities (NIDR became NIDCR in fall 1998), and a $110 million funding increase between 1995 and 1999. 

As a scientist, Slavkin is the author of “Developmental Craniofacial Biology,” which was published in 1979. He has edited nine books, contributed chapters to 91 biomedical science books and published 478 peer-reviewed scientific papers emphasizing craniofacial molecular biology towards understanding how the craniofacial-oral-dental complex is formed. In 2012, his latest book “Birth of a Discipline: Craniofacial Biology” was published as well as his first novel (as part of his bucket list) “Atlanta.” More recently, he collaborated with Mahvash Navazesh and Pragna Patel to contribute an invited chapter “Basic Principles of Human Genetics: A Primer for Oral Medicine” in the 12edition of Burket’s Oral Medicine edited by Michael Glick (2015), and he contributed another invited chapter “Personalized Oral Health Care and the Contemporary Health Care Environment” for Personalized Oral Health Care edited by Peter Polverini (2016).

Slavkin is a founding member of the non-partisan Santa Fe Group, which is a nonprofit organization that serves as advocates for underserved populations to achieve comprehensive and integrated health care (including mental, vision and oral health), with membership that includes business, law, medicine, nursing, public health and oral health professionals. Additionally, he is a member of many dental and scientific organizations, including IADR/AADR, and served as the AADR president from 1993-94. As a leading researcher in the field, he has received many accolades for his research, including the 2016 AADR Jack Hein Public Service Award. He also won the IADR Distinguished Scientist Award (DSA) for Craniofacial Biology Research and the IADR DSA Isaac Schour Memorial Award.

How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join?
I first learned about IADR when I was in dental school. I was invited as a senior dental student to attend the IADR General Session and while I was there I met many exciting people. That experience made me realize that IADR was an organization in which I wanted to be involved. I signed up as a member and I’ve been one ever since then. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
Having opportunities to network with other members has been one of the most valuable benefits of my membership. Doing research can sometimes be a lonely and frustrating experience. Being in a community where there are available mentors and people who can inspire and motivate was priceless in the early part of my career. Later, it became apparent to me that when you take from an organization, you have an obligation to in turn give back. At the beginning of my IADR membership I was taking, and my membership participation evolved as I advanced in my career and experience. 

How important is it for researchers to cross collaborate with other scientific disciplines to advance the field?
Science is no longer a personal, private experience—it is a group sport. In order to practice science, it is imperative to form collaborations and to learn to communicate. If you look at the papers that were published in the 1950s-1970s, there often were just one to three names on a paper. If you look at today’s research, there can be dozens of names on a scientific paper. I have lived through that genesis and I applaud it. Ultimately, all of this translates into faster, smarter scientific discovery. 

Throughout the course of your AADR membership, what has been your most memorable experience?
There are many memorable moments. In the early phase of my career, I had the opportunity to give an oral presentation in which my oral presentation was a film that I had made in Los Angeles. It was a 10-minute film titled “Intercellular Communications.” People enjoyed it and I received some valuable feedback. It was a great experience as a very young investigator. Later in my career, to be elected as president of AADR was a momentous feeling. It was extremely gratifying for my peers to elect and support me. Being an AADR member has also facilitated some of my community outreach. This outreach has included programs with inner-city schools and working with programs to inspire the less fortunate high school age children and get them excited about science. My colleagues and fellow AADR members supported my outreach efforts, and I was very proud of them and pleased with them for bringing up some of those ideas for outreach.

 

June 2016

This month, the AADR Strides in Science features Tarek Metwally, a third-year dental student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Metwally was the only dental student accepted into the 2015-2016 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP). In its fourth year, the 2015-2016 class was comprised of 55 scholars, which is the largest class to date. 

The NIH MRSP is a yearlong residential program that introduces dental, medical and veterinary students to cutting-edge research, as part of NIH's goal of training the next generation of clinician-scientists and biomedical researchers. The program places creative, research-oriented students in NIH laboratories and clinics, including within the NIH Clinical Center, to conduct basic, clinical or translational research in areas that match their career interests and research goals. 

A mentored research training experience forms the core of this program and allows these future clinician-scientists and biomedical researchers to carry out research across the full spectrum of science in the interest of improving public health. In addition to a rigorous research agenda, MRSP scholars participate in courses, journal club seminars, a structured lecture series and clinical teaching rounds. They also present their research to the NIH community and at domestic professional conferences. Each scholar is assigned a tutor/advisor, who provides guidance in defining a well-articulated career development plan and in selecting a dedicated NIH research mentor. 

Dr. Bruce Baum was Metwally’s assigned tutor. He was mentored by Dr. Michael T. Collins and worked in his lab on a project titled “Molecular and Cellular Characteristics of FGF23-Secreting Phosphaturic Mesenchymal Tumors.” When Collins was asked to describe Metwally, he exclaimed “Tarek is a very smart, hardworking pleasant person, and it was great working with him. He was dedicated to finding ways to take the project forward to finish the project. I’ve worked with nearly 10 MRSP students over the years and I see it as an opportunity it inoculate young clinicians with the research bug to get them interested in translational and basic research. As with Tarek, it was a very fulfilling experience.”

Students interested in applying for the 2017-2018 class should visit www.cc.nih.gov/training/mrsp/index.html. The next application cycle will open on October 1, 2016.

The NIH MRSP is a public-private partnership supported jointly by the NIH and generous contributions to the Foundation for the NIH from AADR, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Colgate-Palmolive Company, as well as alumni of student research programs and other individual supporters.

Did you have any concerns about applying to be in the NIH MRSP?
I was concerned about leaving my dental school for a year because it’s not something that’s traditionally done. During your last two years of dental school, you’re the one treating patients and dictating treatment plans, and coordinating with specialists. Taking a year off really requires a lot of conversations with the school’s faculty and administrators to ensure that you’re leaving at the right time and that patient care needs are dispersed to the right providers as well. The University of Michigan was very supportive of my enrollment in the NIH MRSP. In the past, other University of Michigan students have participated in the program and the university really encourages students to pursue this opportunity.  

What are some of the benefits of participating in the NIH MRSP?
Having the opportunity to network with other professional students and the mentorship are by far two of the best benefits of being in this program. As a dental student, a lot of the things I’ve seen working in Dr. Collins’ lab are things I wasn’t exposed to in traditional dental curriculum. Through my mentor Dr. Collins I’ve been able to learn how there are other routes than the traditional private dental practice and see how a successful academic career looks—one that blends research with service and mentorship. I’ve seen glimpses of this with my mentors at Michigan, in particular Dr. Nisha D’Silva, but seeing the combination of clinical care and research at the NIH is an entirely different experience. 

How do you want your career to look?
I want to be in academic setting and have balance that includes clinical care, research and teaching. I really want to do more teaching in the future. 

Why should more dental students apply to be in the NIH MRSP?
The experience of taking a year away from school to participate in the program seems daunting at first but the work you will do here is incredible. You will meet some of the kindest, smartest people and being able to be part of that for a year is rewarding. You’ll return to dental school refreshed, with a new perspective and see that there’s more to healthcare than just what you were exposed to in school. You don’t have to come from the strongest research background—what they really look for here is someone who is interested in learning and wants to give it a shot. It’s about your attitude, determination and willingness to learn. I'm thankful for the opportunity to participate in the NIH MRSP and I hope that other dental students will read this piece and be encouraged to apply for the 2017-2018 program. 

May 2016

Yvonne Kapila, D.D.S., Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has accepted an appointment at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) as vice chair of the Division of Periodontology, Department of Orofacial Sciences, effective June 1, 2016. 

Kapila obtained her B.A. in human biology from Stanford University, and her D.D.S., Ph.D. in oral biology, periodontics specialty certificate and postdoctoral fellowship training from UCSF. She became an assistant professor at UCSF in 1999 and was recruited to the University of Michigan in 2004, where she rose through the ranks to full professor with tenure. She was the first director of Global Oral Health Initiatives for the University of Michigan from 2011-2015.

Kapila’s lab focuses on two main areas of research. One area involves understanding the underlying cell-matrix and host-bacterial interactions that govern disease progression in inflammatory periodontal disease. The other area focuses on understanding the pathogenesis of head and neck cancer.

Currently, her lab is investigating the properties of nisin, a common food preservative that may lead to a potential novel therapeutic for head and neck cancers and for oral biofilm related diseases like caries and periodontal disease. Her lab has studied nisin in cancerous tumors and as an antimicrobial to combat diseases of the mouth.. 

She is a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and a fellow of the International College of Dentists. Kapila has been an AADR member since 1988 and is a 2014 winner of the IADR Innovation in Oral Care Award for her research titled “The Effect of Nisin on Dental Plaque Biofilm Communities.” 

How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join?
I joined AADR when I was a dental student at UCSF. I had always been involved in research and I had a passion for it. I got involved in a research project the summer of my freshman year at UCSF and my mentor encouraged me to present my research at an AADR meeting. At the time, I didn’t understand what it meant to attend an AADR meeting but that year, I presented my research at my very first AADR meeting. It was spectacular to be able to share my work in that environment as a first year dental student and that experience was a great introduction to AADR. 

What is the most valuable benefit of your AADR membership?
I think certainly connecting with colleagues is a valuable benefit. Over the years working in academia, I have met a lot of faculty and trained many students. Similar to a reunion, by attending the AADR meetings I’ve been able to reconnect with those people and forge new collaborations with researchers from around the world. It’s exciting because every time I attend an AADR or IADR meeting, I know that I’m going to learn about new things that are happening not only in my field but other fields related to dentistry, and I know I will meet new people. 

How important has AADR been in your career?
With so many aspects related to research presentation, making connections with colleagues through AADR has been extremely important to my career growth and I’m able to elevate my science by bringing it to the AADR and IADR meetings. Also, through AADR I’m able to learn about the trends in science and dentistry, and AADR has been significant for training and for seeing where science is going. The AADR Fall Focused Symposium series is also another wonderful aspect of AADR. The 2013 Fall Focused Symposium (themed Personalized Oral Health Care: Concept Design to Clinical Practice) was held at the University of Michigan and I was able to participate in it. There are other meetings in that series that also have cutting-edge topics and AADR keeps current with these types of activities. AADR has made a great impact in my professional life and career growth. 

What would you say to AADR nonmembers to encourage them to be involved in the Association? 
AADR brings us all together and makes sure that important oral health issues receive the attention they deserve, and AADR members rally around those issues collectively. One thing that’s very important in science today is collaboration and it’s no surprise that financially it’s very difficult to do research, and that’s why it’s important to establish connections, which one can do by being active in AADR and attending the meetings. Joining AADR is very beneficial to finding a way to enhance your research collaborations with people you normally wouldn’t meet. 

What is a message you give to dental students to encourage them to stick with research?
Over all the years that I have been engaged in research, as funding has waxed and waned, the key for me has always been to follow my passion and dreams. One of the things I tell my students and people who come to interview at the school is to always follow your heart because it will never lead your astray. I also tell them to make sure they’re doing research for the right reasons and to stay excited about science. 

APRIL 2016

Matthew J. Doyle, Ph.D. is currently director and senior researcher – Global Human Product Safety, Environmental Science & Sustainability and Oral Care New Business Creation with responsibility for human safety for all P&G Businesses and innovation programs. He also serves as vice-president of the Live Well Collaborative, which is a 501 C6 Corporation focused on development of products and services for consumers – across life stages. He leads a large, globally diverse organization (Cincinnati, Boston, London, Brussels, Frankfurt, Beijing, Singapore and Kobe).  His Team has launched more than 75 new products (including an AD Age top 10 New Products of the Decade – Crest Whitestrips; and several IRI Pace Setter winners – Crest ProHealth and Crest 3DWhite) generating more than $900 million in incremental net outside sales over the past seven years.

Doyle graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell with a dual B.S. degree in biology and chemistry. He earned his M.S. in chemistry, Ph.D. in analytical chemistry and Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. He is an honor graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, Quantico, Va. 

Doyle’s research focusses on oral and systemic health. He has authored one textbook, five book chapters, over 65 scholarly articles and abstracts, and presented more than 80 invited lectures—many internationally. He has been awarded 20 patents, which are outcomes of his research in oral biology, inflammation and host response modifiers.

He is part of the inaugural class of the American Association for Dental Research Fellows Program (2016), is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2014) and a University of Cincinnati McMicken College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Alumnus (2011).  He is also a recipient of the Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research Award and is an Eagle Scout.

Having been an active AADR member since 1989, Doyle has served AADR as an AADR Board of Directors member-at-large and several times as an AADR Section officer. He has also served as a member of the AADR Fellowships Committee and the AADR ad hoc Governance Task Force. Currently, he is active in three IADR Scientific Groups: Cariology Research Group, Microbiology/Immunology Research Group and the Periodontal Research Group.

How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join?
I had just moved in my research career into the oral care department of P&G’s Discovery R&D organization. As I moved into the oral care department, I learned that my new colleagues were all members of AADR. It was very clear that AADR played a pivotal role in their lives as oral health researchers and I knew that joining would be pivotal for me as well. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
I think the most valuable part of my AADR membership has been having the opportunity to really contribute broadly to the oral health research enterprise—the field at large and the profession. My involvement across an array of vectors, including private sector, academia and government, are all fundamentally traceable to my AADR membership. Being part of AADR has given me the privilege of making a difference in a field that benefits so many people at large. 

How important has AADR been in your career?
AADR has given me an appreciation of the diversity and complexity of healthcare across the oral health spectrum, whether that’s education, research, policy or delivery of care and services to people who need them. AADR has been critically important in all of those ways. I look at AADR as being a mesocosm that can enable and enrich an individual personally and professionally, and create an environment in which discovery and scientific breakthroughs can happen. In addition, I have had the good fortune of making a number of genuine friends through my AADR experiences (including via many enjoyable “pick-up” basketball games organized coincident with I/AADR meetings over the years).

How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
Science these days is very much a team sport, and we all can add a very unique perspective and unique contribution. Much of my research involves inflammation, immunity, host response and the connection between oral and systemic health. When you get into that spectrum, you appreciate the fact that the oral cavity is intimately linked to our overall health status and you have to interact with people in a broad array of medical sub-disciplines. 

What advice would you give to a dental student who is interested in pursuing dental research as a career? 
I would encourage them to get really clear on what it is they want to achieve and then be deliberate in mapping how to make those elements come to fruition. One also needs to be open to the surprises that can come along the way. Unique opportunities will present themselves that can help further research.

 

MARCH 2016

Kathryn Atchison, D.D.S., M.P.H., is professor in the Division of Public Health and Community Dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry and at the Department of Health Services, UCLA School of Public Health. At UCLA she also serves as the vice provost for new collaborative initiatives. Her past administrative experience includes serving as vice provost for intellectual property and industry relations and as the School of Dentistry’s associate dean for research & knowledge management. 

She earned her D.D.S. at Marquette University Dental School, Milwaukee, Wis. and her M.P.H. at Boston University, School of Public Health. Atchison’s current NIDCR-funded research with the University of Maryland, College Park, is to examine the association of health literacy and oral health. She has had substantial experience conducting and leading collaborative multidisciplinary, community-based research. She served as a principal investigator (PI or Co-PI) of a HRSA-funded evaluation of the impact of federal support on postgraduate general dental training; an RO1 of an NIH study of dental predictors of osteoporosis, an RO1 to study patient preferences for treatment of mandibular fracture; and an RO1 for an AHCPR four-year study to measure the efficacy and effectiveness of the FDA Guidelines for ordering dental radiographs. 

Atchison has also served as program coordinator for an NIDCR-supported study to examine the physical, psychosocial and economic impact of orofacial injury. This five-year, multidisciplinary study involving the UCLA Schools of Dentistry, Medicine and Public Policy and Social Research, as well as Drew University School of Medicine and Science, was funded through the UCLA/Drew Minority Oral Health Research Center. She has published extensively on outcomes assessment and quality of care issues, such as perceptions of oral health and development and evaluation of psychosocial outcome measures, for which she developed the Geriatric/General Oral Health Assessment Index, which is a much-sought-after measure of determining patient-assessed oral health status.

Since joining in 1986, Atchison has remained an involved AADR/IADR and has served on several Committees. She is the 2008 recipient of the IADR Distinguished Scientist Award in Behavioral Science and Health Services Research. 

What led you to join AADR?
I learned about AADR when I was a Robert Wood Johnson Dental Health Services Research scholar. I was told that being an AADR member was the best way to get integrated into dental research in the US and internationally, and that’s what prompted me to join. 

What is the most valuable benefit of your AADR membership?
The ability to develop mentors and collaborate with other AADR members has been a valuable benefit. Also, when you’re an academic leader—especially at a tier 1 university—you need outside letters of promotion. The people you turn to for those letters are other experts in the field and through my AADR membership I’ve been able to identify these leaders in the field. Having that access is very instrumental to an academic. 

What role has AADR played in your career?
Through AADR, I was able to make my introduction into dental research. I learned who my collaborators and mentors would become and it really gave me access to people around the US who were interested in similar research. It also gave me my first opportunities into dentistry. 

How important has cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines been to advancing your science?
I have been able to learn from other scientists through collaborations that I have established. I’ve also been able to help junior scientists and help them with their careers. It has been a pleasure to talk to them each year at the IADR and AADR meetings and learn how they have advanced in their career. 

What would you say to newer AADR members to encourage them to be more engaged in AADR?
I would encourage new members to get involved in their primary IADR Scientific Research Group/Network but to also get involved in a few others. This is an excellent way to expand your network and learn more about people who aren’t in your field of research who can help you and collaborate with you. Working with the members of your Scientific Group/Network will allow you to get a deeper impact of your research. 

What is a message you would give to current dental students to encourage them to pursue a career in dental research?
I was an associate dean of research for six years and I told all of the students they should make time to get involved in dental research because that was going to be the practice of the future for them. Ultimately, what happens in dental research will become dental practice. You want to be part of the change mechanism.

 

FEBRUARY 2016

Frederick Curro, D.M.D., Ph.D. is currently an adjunct clinical professor, Department of Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology and Oral Medicine, New York University College of Dentistry. He’s also director of the Practitioners Engaged in Applied Research & Learning (PEARL) Practice Based Translational Network.

His career spans academia, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries and back to academia. Curro is a dentist, trained as a cardiovascular pharmacologist and has spent most of his career as a clinical pharmacologist. He has conducted hundreds of clinical studies in a broad range of therapeutic areas including dentistry, cardiovascular, dermatology, gastroenterology, oncology, antibiotics and gene therapy. 

Curro's areas of expertise are design of clinical trials, pain management and pharmacokinetics. He conducted one of the first analgesic studies for the FDA looking at the pharmacokinetics of an analgesic compared to its clinical peak effects. Curro’s corporate responsibilities included heading up the Reed & Carnrick Pharmaceutical division of Block Drug, Co. and achieving the level of Corporate Vice President of Clinical, Medical & Regulatory Affairs. Curro, while at Block Drug Co. (later acquired by GlaxoSmithKline), oversaw the Sensodyne brand's clinical program and has conducted a large number of studies on dentine hypersensitivity throughout the world. As a worldwide director he interacted with many regulatory agencies as well to support the clinical portfolio of the company.

Curro has been an AADR member since 1978 and has served on IADR and AADR committees, including the AADR Science Information Committee. He is the winner of the 2014 IADR Distinguished Scientist Award in Pharmacology/Therapeutics/Toxicology Research.

How did you first learn about AADR?
I learned about AADR when I was a dental student at Tufts University. There was so much research going on that you couldn’t even walk in the halls without hearing about research. I knew that if I wanted to be serious about research, I would need to be involved in AADR as a member. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
The networking opportunities and visibility that I have through my AADR membership are definitely two of the most valuable benefits. AADR is a great forum for networking and for finding a field of interest you want to explore and develop. If you’re a faculty member or involved in research, you want to be in AADR so that you meet your peers and they have a sense of who you are. 

How important has AADR been in your career?
Being an AADR member has been very helpful to me because through AADR I’m able to learn about the interests of my fellow AADR member colleagues. I’m also able to network with those colleagues at AADR meetings and through my AADR membership; I’m able to get a pulse of where the profession is going. If you want to have a career in dentistry or dental research, you really should be part of AADR. 

Why is it important for dentists to be involved in dental research? 
I believe that every dentist should have the experience of doing research because it's added value to what he or she can contribute to the patient. Also, dental research has to continue to be mainstreamed into other scientific disciplines so that the opportunities for research can be broadened and expanded, and so that the value of dental research in dentistry can continue to be appreciated by dentists and other sciences.

What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
I think students need to ask themselves what they think is the value of dental research. I believe that people who have exposure to research can think differently, deeper and broader. When they are faced with a situation—either with a patient or in a clinical situation—they have increased options and can figure out a much better treatment plan than someone who doesn’t have that research background. Research can be tough in that rejection is part of the pathway to success but I think that having a research background makes one better and more disciplined at their profession. Also, it’s important that students who intend to pursue dental research as a career identify mentors who have similar interests.  

 

JANUARY 2016

Jan Ching Chun Hu, B.D.S., Ph.D., is the Samuel D. Harris collegiate professor of dentistry in the Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor. There, she is also director academic program, Oral Health Science Ph.D. Program, in the School of Dentistry. 

She earned her Bachelor of Dental Surgery from the National Taiwan University School of Dentistry; and her Doctor of Philosophy and certificate in pediatric dentistry from the University of Southern California, School of Dentistry, Los Angeles, USA. She also completed her post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, University of Southern California, School of Dentistry, Los Angeles, USA. 

Hu has a long and distinguished career in the field of mineralized tissue research where her primary emphasis is on the tissues that make up the mammalian tooth. She has made major contributions to the science of enamel formation, genetics and biomineralization. 

Her research has won many accolades, including the 2001 and 2005 IADR/AADR William J. Gies Award, given for the best paper published in the Journal of Dental Research; and most recently the 2015 IADR Distinguished Scientist Award in Basic Research in Biological Mineralization. Since joining AADR in 1991, she has served on several IADR/AADR committees, including the AADR Constitution Committee, the AADR Fellowships Committee and the JDR Editorial Board to name a few.

How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join?
I first heard about AADR when I was a Ph.D. student, through my mentor. It was the expectation of my mentor that we present our work and be able to convey what we did in the lab to other people in the scientific field. My mentor encouraged me to attend my first AADR meeting and that’s how I ended up joining the Association. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
The most valuable benefit of my AADR membership is having the opportunity to talk to collaborators face to face in an open and interactive environment, which has been instrumental because the AADR setting is intellectually stimulating. In the setting of the meetings I can talk about science but at the same time, there is the atmosphere of social interaction. It’s an effective setting to encourage scientific exchange and acquisition of advances and breakthrough in many areas of dental sciences. 

What are you currently researching?
Our research program focuses on tooth development. We started identifying genes that control tooth enamel and dentin formation. We went on to establish animal models that allowed us to study specifically if a gene is absent how it will affect tooth development. From there we went on to recruit human families with tooth defects. Based on the genetic information that we learned, we identified the specific genetic mutations that are responsible for human tooth defects. We have many long-term interactions with collaborators at the Istanbul University, National Taiwan University, the Forsyth Institute and the University of Pennsylvania. Many, if not all, of our collaborators are also AADR/IADR members. We often meet at the meetings to plan out projects.

How important is it for you to cross-collaborate with other scientific disciplines and scientists to achieve your research and advance the field?
It is critical because our primary focus is developmental and clinical genetics. Broad based collaboration allows us to recruit a diverse pool of study cases, apply specific research approaches and incorporate collaborators’ expertise toward advancing projects. We work closely with scientists who share the scientific interests and passion so that together we can better understand tooth development and enamel mineralization, which is a positive result of the collaboration. 

How has being an AADR member helped to advance your career?
Starting very early on, being a Ph.D. student and post-doc follow, I was encouraged to attend the AADR meetings and present my research. As a student, if I had not had that encouragement and the support of my mentor, I don’t think I would have consistently attended the AADR meetings and have the ability to interact with experts and trainees in the field. Since then, attending the meetings has become a very important part of my scientific and academic endeavor. Specifically, now I am directing the Ph.D. training program at the University of Michigan, I feel attending the AADR meetings is becoming an important venue for the trainees entering dental research. In their initial years of training, they may not have research results to present but it’s beneficial for them to attend the meetings and talk to other trainees, program graduates and faculty. Doing so may help them solidify their career goals and develop a comprehensive understanding of how AADR can help in terms of scientific and academic career development.

 

 

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