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/ Categories: Strides in Science

Alexandre Vieira - January 2013

Alexandre Vieira, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., is an associate professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, in the departments of oral biology and pediatric dentistry, and the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics. At the School of Dental Medicine, he is also the director of the Dental and Craniofacial Clinical and Translational Research Center and he is Director of Student Research.

Vieira is a pediatric dentist with more than 15 years of experience working on the genetics of craniofacial anomalies and other oral conditions. He received his D.D.S., M.S. and Ph.D. from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and completed his postdoc at the University of Iowa.

Aside from the ongoing projects in his laboratory, Vieira has a project entitled “Dental Registry and DNA Repository.” The main purpose of that project is to request that all individuals who visit the dental school for treatment allow Vieira and his team to extract information from the patient’s clinical records and keep a biological sample from where DNA can be extracted. The registry currently includes approximately 3,800 subjects and is the only project of its kind in the world.
 
Vieira has been an IADR member since 1997 and has served on several IADR/AADR Committees including the JDR Editorial Board, the AADR Fellowships Committee and the AADR Ethics Committee. During his career, he has mentored more than 60 undergraduates along with more than 10 graduate students and five post-doctoral fellows.
 
What motivated you to become a pediatric dentist?
When I was 11 years old, I went to an orthodontic clinic in a dental graduate school. The dental school had residents and faculty, and many people being treated at the same time. I thought it was a fascinating environment and I think at that time I decided that I wanted to be a dentist. Years later—after I graduated—the first residency program I had was with patients who had special needs. There were several pediatric cases that I had the experience to deal with that year in that program. It was then that I became interested in pediatric dentistry and I decided that I wanted to know more, which led me to do my residency afterward in pediatric dentistry.
 
What prompted you to join AADR?
Being from Brazil, I initially joined the Brazilian Division of the IADR. After I completed my residency at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I decided that I wanted to get a Master’s degree and the Master’s program was very research oriented. While in the program, I had the opportunity to present my research and the typical venue to present my research was at IADR’s Brazilian Division meetings. After learning more about IADR, I joined in 1997 and when I moved to the US in 2000 I immediately became a member of AADR.
 
How did you feel the first time you attended an AADR meeting?
My first meeting was in 1997 in Orlando, Florida and I was very impressed with the size of the meeting. The format was very unique and research intensive, with people presenting their research. I thought the format would be a good way for me to network and interact with people, and learn from their research.
 
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
AADR has given me a chance to be very active in an organization. Since I joined, I decided to take a very active role in the organization. I joined Committees, I submitted my ideas for organizing meetings in our area and I barely miss a meeting. I try to attend every meeting and have someone from my lab go and present our work. There is a lot of value in being a member of AADR and everyone who is a member should motivate trainees to attend meetings and become members. If you know anyone who isn’t a member of AADR, you should approach that person to show them that AADR is a good forum for presenting their ideas and research.
 
What role has cross-collaboration played in your research?
Cross-collaboration has been very important to my research. I was very fortunate that after I finished my training in pediatric dentistry, I decided to do a Ph.D. in the genetics of cleft lip and palate. That allowed me to work with Jeff Murray at the University of Iowa and Jeff is a pediatrician interested in the genetics of cleft lip and palate. Jeff is a perfect example of someone who successfully puts a lot of people together, and working with him was the best thing that could have happened to me because I observed how he interacted with everyone and how he brought people together. I took the same approach in my current projects because we rely on many observations to try to draw conclusions. There’s no way one person could do that efficiently, it’s much more efficient to collaborate with other researchers. IADR and AADR—especially with the meetings—have allowed me to not only present my ideas, but also identify people who would be interested in participating in aspects of the work I’m doing and sharing in the wealth of resources. I use the meetings as my main venue for identifying people and working with them. Therefore, I try to be very active and send many people from my lab, and myself, to present the work. In addition, I have presented symposia and Lunch and Learning’s, and that allows me to get in touch with many people in a short period of time. That has proven to be very successful in my cross-collaboration efforts.
 
As someone who is very active in AADR, what is some advice you would give to someone to encourage them to be more involved in the Association?
I think that anyone who is interested in becoming more involved in AADR should look or offer their time or service, and participate in the different areas of the Association, from the political aspect and advocating in Washington, DC, to participating in the meetings. It’s important for people to attend the meetings and present their research, and try to bring more people from their institution. If they are an investigator, they should try to bring their trainees. There are several sections available for the members to propose presentation ideas and doing so creates the biggest opportunity for visibility. Other ways to become more involved are to participate on a Committee or the Board of Directors in some level. People need to be proactive; AADR is very open to anyone who is looking to support the Organization.

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