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Yvonne Kapila - 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. 


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