Olga J. Baker – July 2017
Olga J. Baker is an Associate Professor at the University of Utah School of Dentistry. She received a D.D.S. from the Central University of Venezuela School of Dentistry in 1992, as well as a Ph.D. in Physiological Sciences from the Central University of Venezuela School of Medicine in 2003. Dr. Baker worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and as a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Missouri Department of Biochemistry. In 2009, she became an Assistant Professor in the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dentistry, where she obtained multiple grants from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Dr. Baker moved to the University of Utah in 2014, where she has continued her research programs, developed several novel saliva substitutes and started a company for producing and distributing dental products. Her primary research focuses on therapeutic options to treat salivary gland hypofunction, including use of resolvins to alleviate chronic inflammation and fibrin hydrogels to promote tissue regeneration.
Dr. Baker is a standing member of the Oral, Dental and Craniofacial Sciences NIDCR Study Section. She also serves as a member of the University of Utah Academic and Executive Senate and Equity and Inclusion Committee in the School of Dentistry. Finally, Dr. Baker has held multiple leadership positions for the International Association for Dental Research and the American Association for Dental Research (IADR and AADR, respectively), including President of the Salivary Research Group for IADR as well as chair of the Science and Information Committee, U.S. Congressional advocate to promote dental, oral, and craniofacial research funding. Finally, she was the President of the AADR Buffalo section and more recently founded the AADR Utah section and serves as the Faculty mentor for the upcoming AADR Student Research Group (SRG) at the University of Utah.
How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join?
I first learned about AADR when I came to the United States in 2000. I came here to complete my Ph.D. studies and I presented a poster at an AADR meeting. My main motivation was to connect with my colleagues in the field and establish my academic and research career.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
AADR has helped me to launch my academic career because you get to know so many people in different dental schools. Going to AADR meetings allows me to see what the most recent scientific discoveries in dentistry are. Lastly, I have enjoyed being an advocate for NIH research funding and learning first hand that we have a voice as clinicians and researchers.
What do you want to see in the future for AADR?
I want to see the young generation grow even stronger than we did. I want to see AADR grow as an organization and help improve the current research techniques, technologies and systems for treating oral diseases. In my case, I like bringing as many students as I can to AADR meetings. The students get fired up and when they come back to the lab they are full of new ideas and are very excited to work. That has helped my lab a lot.
What is the best way for other members to become more involved in AADR?
I think the members should be engaged by joining scientific groups, attending meetings, volunteering in committees and reaching out to colleagues that are more experienced. I recently founded the AADR Utah section and I serve as the Faculty mentor for the upcoming AADR Student Research Group (SRG) at the University of Utah. I also nominate colleagues for different awards to show my support and excitement for their work so they continue to grow. When there is excitement, everything gets better.
How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
Cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is essential for the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research because those interactions bring new ideas to old problems. Sometimes these problems can get solved quickly by looking at them from a different angle. For example, if you see someone working in periodontal disease, they may have some input on saliva research. This type of cross-collaboration is critical.