Ananda P. Dasanayake - February 2015
Ananda P. Dasanayake, B.D.S., M.P.H., Ph.D., F.A.C.E., is a professor of epidemiology and health promotion at the New York University College of Dentistry and School of Nursing. He also holds appointments in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health as an associate and at the New York University School of Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center as a member.
Dasanayake’s earned his B.D.S. in dentistry at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Afterward, he went on to earn his M.P.H. in dental public health and Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Additionally, he is a fellow of the American College of Epidemiology.
His research interests include the epidemiology of dental caries, prevention of transmission of Mutans Streptococci from mother to infant, dental health services utilization by minorities, oral cancer epidemiology, and perinatal periodontal health and poor pregnancy outcomes. He also has an interest in the barriers in meeting Healthy People 2020 objectives in relation to dental sealants.
Dasanayake has been an active IADR/AADR member since 1991 and has presented his research at numerous IADR and AADR meetings. He has remained engaged in the Associations by serving on the JDR Editorial Board, and being an IADR symposium organizer and a Lunch & Learning organizer. He is a 1994 co-recipient of the IADR/AADR William J. Gies Award, which is named after the founder of the IADR/AADR Journal of Dental Research.
How did you first get involved with AADR?
I decided to join IADR/AADR when I was a graduate student at the University of Alabama. Once I joined, I submitted my abstract for presentation at the 1991 IADR General Session in Acapulco, Mexico, and my abstract was accepted. I was excited to attend my very first IADR meeting because I was going to present my research and meet some of the researchers I had read about in publications. Some of the people I met at that very first meeting later became my friends.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
The most valuable benefit of my AADR membership is meeting researchers and having the opportunity to network and collaborate with them. I also enjoy the sharing of knowledge and science that takes place at the meetings. People who are interested in dental research should definitely attend the meetings because attending provides an opportunity to meet other scientists, which could lead to future collaborations. If someone is not attending the meetings but they are interested in research, they are missing a wonderful opportunity.
How important do you think cross-collaboration is to the future of the field?
I think cross-collaboration is critically important to the advancement of science. There was a time when people did their science by themselves. However, now science is multidisciplinary and collaborative—a single person won’t possess all of the expertise to answer the complex questions that we are addressing in oral health. It’s important to assemble a team of people who can come together to answer the questions that we face today. For instance, as a clinical researcher, I often try to interact with the basic science researchers so I can better understand ‘their’ world—and educate them about ‘our’ world—and identify the opportunities for mutually beneficial collaborations.
What’s a message you want to give to dental students to encourage them to pursue careers in dental research?
In my observations I have noticed that a small percentage of students go on to pursue a career in dental research. However, I encourage all students to at the very least explore dental research, participate in a research study and present their research at an IADR or AADR meeting. This way, by the time they graduate from dental school they will have done some dental research and presented it at a major scientific meeting, and they know if dental research is in fact a career they want to pursue. Not only that, the research training or experience they may obtain will make them better future dentists, in my opinion. AADR has programs geared toward students and junior researchers and I encourage students to take advantage of those opportunities to help them achieve their research.
What is the best way to get involved in AADR?
I think one of the best ways to get involved in AADR is to attend the AADR meetings. If you can present your research at a meeting that will add value because you will have more exposure and attendees will provide feedback on your research. When you attend the meetings you are essentially expanding your network, which is important if you want to further your research.