Leena Palomino - November 2012
Leena Palomo, D.D.S., M.S.D., has taught at Case Western Reserve University since 2005. There, she is an assistant professor of periodontics and the director of D.M.D. periodontics.
Palomo earned her B.A., D.D.S. and M.S.D. from Case Western Reserve University, along with a certificate in periodontology. She earned another certificate, from St. Elizabeth Health System, in general practice dentistry. Palomo is a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology.
Her research focus is on postmenopausal women and bone changes after the ovaries decline their production of estrogen. This year, she was awarded the AADR William B. Clark Fellowship, which will allow her to continue to study microbial species and cytokine responses in women with periodontitis.
She has been an AADR member since 2003.
What motivated you to pursue the research as your career?
When I finished my education, I started off with an overarching goal to do something useful for society. As time went on, I started to realize that seeing patients was great but I felt I could do more. So I thought academics would be the right direction. It involved teaching, which allows me to reach more people; and research, which serves the larger goal to improve society through discovery, new knowledge and the continuous assessment of what we know as a profession. Through that career path, teaching, research and treating patients all seemed to fit together in the main goal of making the world a little better, focusing on oral health.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
As a member of a larger research community, it’s important to have a group such as AADR that promotes the advancement of our field, and looks to develop the people active in it. It’s valuable to have access to quality resources and services, and a group that makes all of those things a reality is the most important thing to me as and as a member of this larger community.
What are you currently researching?
Right now, I have an award through AADR—the AADR William B. Clark Fellowship—and my team is looking at the biomarkers of women who use bone-sparing medications and comparing them to the biomarkers in the periodontal environment for women who don’t use bone-sparing medications.
What did it mean for you to win the 2102 AADR William B. Clark Fellowship?
It meant so much to me. My hope is that our profession will continue to expand its valued tradition as a learned profession committed to research and investigation. For those sorts of things to happen, there needs to be recognition and awards; but there is also a need for more dentists to be committed to research careers. For me, the award meant professional development since I am already in the profession, but to my students and would be researchers, it demonstrates there that the AADR is committed to developing us. Through AADR, there is a forum for us to show our work and there is advocacy. All of those things came together for me in that award.
Where do you feel the community would be without the advocacy efforts of AADR and its members?
Without advocacy, the obvious missing component would be funding. Less so obvious but equally important, we need more dentists to be committed to research careers. The more we advocate, the more people are aware of research careers and they will be more willing to commit those careers. We have a critical mass of people who are looking at research careers and there are people, such as myself, who are already in it, and advocacy leads to resources made available for professional development. Outside of that, anytime there is opportunity for scientific meetings where we can capture the imagination of the folks in charge of resource allocation, I think we can get our message out for improving oral health to a larger scope.
How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
Cross-collaboration is critical, especially in terms of improving societies through research. Other disciplines and basic sciences have been using different tactics and methods that, with a little imagination, can be applied in our focused area. It seems that we can gain a lot by observing how other disciplines have dealt with similar challenges. We all need to be proactive in reaching out to other disciplines because they don’t always reach out to us. That is another area where AADR has been helpful in facilitating inter-professional, interdisciplinary thought groups and collaborations.
What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
You can’t do it alone, it’s important to join with a group that enhances the transfer of scientific information. You have to belong to like-minded societies, and AADR does that for educators, clinicians and corporate-type people who drive research endeavors. AADR really brings together a brain trust. To future researchers I say take all you can from this brain trust, and use it to better society.