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April 2015

This month, AADR is featuring AADR Institutional Section Member the University of California, San Francisco, School of Dentistry in the Strides in Science. AADR interviewed Dean John D.B. Featherstone to learn more about the research opportunities available to students and the scientific advances the school is making. 

The UCSF School of Dentistry’s mission is advancing oral, craniofacial and public health through excellence in education, discovery and patient-centered care. Its research efforts are continually revitalized and expanded, and it remains at the forefront of basic science and translational research, bringing the benefits of its efforts into the clinic and into the classroom. The students are sophisticated consumers of scientific information and often accomplished scientists as well, expanding knowledge with beneficial implications for patient care and beyond. 

In addition to research, following are some of the specific ways the UCSF School of Dentistry is serving the community and fulfilling its educational mission in San Francisco, throughout California, and beyond:

  • Admissions - Its redesigned online admissions process speeds access to information and answers for applicants through the increasing use of technology and procedural refinements. The UCSF School of Dentistry continually seeks ways to broaden and diversify the pool of potential applicants, to create entering classes reflective of the community.
  • Predoctoral Education - A more rigorous and better-designed academic program, provides its predoctoral dental students with a quality educational experience that prepares them for the real world of their profession, and for the highest standards of practice.
  • Clinical Services – The UCSF School of Dentistry’s excellent patient-centered care is available to the public at a reasonable cost, on the main San Francisco campuses and at community clinics throughout the State of California. In these clinics patients are assessed and treated with humanity and respect, as individuals, in a way that's best able to meet their needs in basic dentistry and in a variety of orofacial disciplines.
  • Outreach - The UCSF School of Dentistry seeks to provide services and educational opportunity to a broad and diverse constituency of patients and students. To accomplish this, it reaches out to understand who is not being served and why, making it a goal to provide opportunities to receive care and to learn — for all of California.

The USCF School of Dentistry is committed to training the next generation of dental scholars and faculty members. It offers Ph.D. and master’s degree programs in oral and craniofacial sciences, a combined D.D.S.-Ph.D. program, and a combined Ph.D.-dental specialty training program. Other graduate programs include craniofacial and mesenchymal biology and bioengineering. 

What is one of the main research goals of the School of Dentistry?
Our vision is to be a worldwide leader in dental education and public health, clinical practice, and scientific discovery. The School of Dentistry has the highest NIH funding for any dental school in the country. With that, the research varies from basic biological science to applied clinical science, epidemiology and public policy—it’s a very broad spectrum. 

How is the School of Dentistry encouraging students to pursue careers in dental research?
We have several ways of encouraging students to enter the field of dental research. We have a summer research fellowship that students may take advantage of after their first year. Between their first and second year they typically have about 8-10 weeks. They are encouraged to apply for a research fellowship that funds them to work in a research laboratory or in clinical sciences during that 8-10 week time period so that they can do a genuine research project that’s very intense. We have a highly competitive Dental Scientist Training Program, which is an eight-year program in which students participate in a D.D.S./Ph.D. program that has the potential to create amazing future faculty members. This program is partially funding by the school and an NIH Training Grant. We also have a Master of Science program in oral and craniofacial sciences that we encourage our residents to complete. These are people who are coming in for specialty programs, including pediatric dentistry. This is a three-year residency program and this encourages our residents to experience research. Annually in October we have a research and clinical excellence day where students are encouraged to share their research. The most recent program, held on October 17, 2014, was the largest ever, featuring nine research presentations and 61 poster presentations. The best of those students go on to present their research at national and international meetings and we find ways to fund these opportunities. 

How do you prepare students to present their research at scientific meetings?
Mentors really play an integral part in preparing students to present their research. The mentors help with coaching and rehearsals, and the fact that we have a research day also helps because the students are able to experience presenting their research, being question and receiving feedback. 

What is some of the research the School of Dentistry is producing?
The School of Dentistry is producing exciting research that will improve the future of dental health. A few projects to note include Sarah Knox’s work on the regeneration of salivary glands that have been compromised. Another is Dan Fried’s research on early detection of dental decay using laser light—he has some very successful technology there that hasn’t yet been commercialized. The kinds of detection that can be done with that technology will partially displace the use of x-rays, which is exciting from a preventive dentistry point of view. Years ago the School of Dentistry created a system called Caries Management by Risk Assessment that is a way of providing a risk assessment up front. Every patient that comes into our clinics has a caries risk assessment preformed at the first exam. That determines whether they have risks for future decay and also determines the underpinning for their treatment plan, which includes chemical therapy as well as general restorative work. We have outcomes research on that now and it’s spreading across the world and being adopted by dental schools worldwide. That was derived partially on my team’s research combining with similar research groups across the world. Also, although we have a strong push in research we’re also strong in clinical dentistry. We have an amazing clinical teaching program with many experts in the clinical dentistry field. 


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