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Christy McKinney - September 2016

Christy McKinney, Ph.D., M.P.H. is an associate professor in the Division of Craniofacial Medicine, Department of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine at the University of Washington. She is also an investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, and part of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Craniofacial Center. 

She received her doctorate in epidemiology from the University of Washington in 2006. Her research interests are focused on craniofacial, oral, and nutritional health in young children. She spearheaded the development of the NIFTY cup –  an infant feeding cup for infants with breastfeeding difficulties such as infants with oral clefts and preterm infants in low resource settings – with a team of multidisciplinary experts from Seattle Children’s, PATH, the University of Washington,  and Laerdal Global Health. The NIFTY Cup is expected to be commercially available in low resource settings by the end of 2016. She is also the principal investigator of a grant from NIDCR investigating the extent to which children are exposed to the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) during dental treatment. 

McKinney is the new director of the Summer Institute in Clinical Dental Research Methods at the University of Washington and associate director of the Institute of Translational Sciences (ITHS) KL2 Career Development program, which trains KL2 Scholars through weekly seminars and small group sessions. She joined AADR in 2011, and has served as a section officer and is currently serving on the AADR Board of Directors as a member-at-large. 

What motivated you to join AADR?

I learned about AADR in 2004 as a pre-doctoral student in epidemiology when I was at the University of Washington. I was part of an NIDCR training grant and the director Tim DeRouen and my faculty advisor encouraged me to present my thesis idea at the Epi Forum, which took place the day before the AADR meeting. I presented at the Epi Forum several times as a pre-doc and then as a post-doc, and I found that I had a professional home through the individuals I met at that meeting. I would talk to them after my presentations and that’s really what motivated me to join AADR. 

Which AADR member benefit is most valuable to you?

One of the most valuable benefits has been having the opportunity to connect with people, including people who are at my institution. I find that when I attend the AADR and IADR meetings, I’m able to connect with colleagues from my institution who I haven’t seen, even though we work in the same building. It’s at these AADR meetings where I get to learn more about their science as well as other people’s science. Getting to know these scientists on a personal level is valuable—I come to the AADR meetings and I’m able to meet the person behind the work that I’ve learned about. AADR has created a wonderful community and an environment where you can meet the people behind the science. 

How important has AADR been in your career?

AADR has definitely been very helpful in my career. I think it was one of the factors that kept me in craniofacial research. Epidemiologists at the core are methodologists and we can apply our methods to different topics. I think that if I hadn’t felt as though I had a home in AADR, I don’t know that I would have been as compelled to progress in the field. Being a member of AADR has helped me to connect to the broader community of dental and craniofacial epidemiologists and biostatisticians. When you’re part of the AADR community, you realize that you’re not alone.

How can newer members become more involved in AADR? 

I think newer members should initially join a Scientific Group or Network that resonates with them. Then, they should attend the Annual Meeting and their Scientific Group or Network’s business meeting and events. Before they go to the Annual Meeting, they should look at the program and find presentations that really interest them and talk to those presenters. A lot of times, poster presentations are where you have the best conversations. 

What encouragement would you give to future researchers to help them achieve career success?

One thing that is important for our next generation to know is persistence is the name of the game. I didn’t always have the NIFTY cup; I didn’t always have research grants. I had lots of struggles and failed attempts, but persistence really moved me forward in my career. It’s hard because sometimes you hear a lot of no’s and you wonder how much rejection can you handle, but persistence pays off. There are many talented researchers who will be coming up that need to know that this isn’t an easy course but it’s a gratifying one and they really have to just keep trying. In addition to persistence, students should know themselves and seek out mentorship that will fulfill their specific needs. 

 

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