AADR Strides in Science, January 2012-September 2012

AADR Strides in Science is a monthly feature highlighting an AADR member’s accomplishments and comments on how his/her involvement with AADR has been an important part of his/her career in research. If you would like to nominate a colleague to be featured, please send his/her name to scienceadvocate@aadronline.org.

September 2012

Mildred Embree, D.M.D., Ph.D., is an assistant professor of clinical dentistry at Columbia University, College of Dental Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center. She is also the principal investigator of an NIH NIDCR-funded project titled “NIDCR Dentist Scientist K99: Improve TMJ Regeneration Strategies.” Currently, she is working on a postdoctoral project titled “Improve Temporomandibular Joint Regeneration Strategies,” under the mentorship of Jeremy Mao (AADR member) at Columbia University.  
In 2002 Embree earned a B.S. in biochemistry and a B.A. in chemistry from the College of Charleston, South Carolina; and in 2010 she earned a D.M.D and Ph.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina. That same year, the Medical University of South Carolina awarded her with the distinguished thesis award for her dissertation titled “The Role of Extracellular Matrix Proteins, Biglycan and Fibromodulin in Temporomandibular Joint Osteoarthritis.” The research for her thesis was carried out under the supervision of Marian Young (AADR member) at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. 
Embree continues to receive many accolades, including the 2012 AADR Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Hatton Award, placing first in the post-doctoral category; and the 2012 IADR/Unilever Hatton Award, placing first in the senior category (basic science). Embree joined AADR in 2008. 
What motivated you to enter the research field?
I started in research in the middle of my first year of dental school thinking that I would be a clinician. I had the opportunity to do a fellowship at the NIH NIDCR with Marian Young through the Summer Dental Student Research Award. It was during that time that I discovered that I really love research, I was really floored at the breadth of possibilities that science could play in dentistry. At that time, I discussed with my dean at the Medical University of South Carolina the possibility of completing a Ph.D. At that point, I simultaneously did my D.M.D. and Ph.D. training, and it was through an institutional training grant that I was able to do that. It was an incredible experience and my career really took off from there. 
How did you first get involved with AADR?
I got involved in AADR by attending my first dental meeting, the AADR Annual Meeting. That was also the same year I became a member of AADR and the Association was really great to me. When I first attended an AADR meeting, I was really excited about how much the Association supported student research through the AADR National Student Research Group, and numerous awards and acknowledgments. The opportunity for students to be showcased at the meeting was incredible and I believe it’s unique to the Association. AADR really serves as a platform to celebrate students who are interested in science and it has been very encouraging to attend the meetings. 
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
AADR provides a platform for researchers to meet each other, and a huge benefit of my membership is definitely the networking and the collaboration opportunities the Association offers. Dentistry and dental research are so innovative and exciting, and it’s an exciting time to be involved in dental research. It has been exciting for me to watch it grow and develop at AADR meetings. 
How important has AADR been in your career?
AADR has been very important to my career. Just from meeting leaders in the field, you keep hearing the same names over and over again in dental research, and as a first-year dental student I would see those leaders at the AADR meeting and admire them from afar. As I have become a little more experienced, I have become more well-known among those dental researchers I admired in the earlier stages of my career. Every year that I attend the meetings, I see those researchers and they’re beginning to know my name. As a young dental student, I never thought that I would be interacting with and be known by those I look up to as leaders in the field. It has definitely been exciting to be part of that.   
What do you think is the best way for people to get involved in AADR?
I think the best way for people to get involved in AADR is to be proactive and get to know the leaders in their specialty. If you are entering a field of dental research, look up the people in that field, connect with them and find them at the AADR Annual Meetings. It’s really important to get your name out there and participate in the meetings, or even propose to present a symposium. AADR Annual Meetings are a friendly and fun avenue for scientists to collaborate and meet each other. 
What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?

I have two pieces of advice: do what you love and what you’re passionate about, and keep going. It’s a very challenging world to be in the scientific area but if you do what you love and you’re passionate about it, it’ll really show through in your research. There will be bumps in the road but you have to be persistent and rely on your mentors for support.  


August 2012 

Russell Taichman, D.M.D., D.M.Sc., is a professor of dentistry at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and the co-director of the university’s Scholars Program in Dental Leadership. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, since 1992.

Taichman earned a B.S. from Villanova University, a D.M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and a D.M.Sc. from Harvard University, where he also earned a certificate in periodontics. He also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.
His research focus is in identifying the molecular mechanisms that relate to how the bone marrow functions in both health and disease with a particular interest in the osteoblast-hematopoietic stem cell interface and how these interactions are co-opted by tumors.  His research team was the first to describe that osteoblasts (the endosteal or osteoblastic stem cell niche) support the adhesion, survival, and expansion of early human hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in vitro.  In a related area of interest his team has identified mesenchymal stem/progenitor cells in a prospective manor by FACS – Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting and have demonstrated their ability to function as stem cells in vivo. A third  focus is on solid tumor metastases. Taichman’s research   has also led the way in  demonstrating that prostate cancers (PCa) metastasize to the bone marrow using the same pathways that HSCs use, namely the CXCR4/CXCL12 pathway. His recent work has focused on how PCa cells specifically target the HSC niche during metastasis, and  proposed studies focus on the identification of cancer stem cells.
Taichman has been an AADR member since 1987, and has served on several IADR and AADR committees. He currently serves on the AADR Annual Session Committee.
Why did you decide to go into dentistry?
My father (AADR member Norton Taichman) is an academic dentist.  I found the lifestyle, the conversations that he and his colleagues engaged in, and purpose of his work important and intriguing. I liked what I saw and I wanted to be part of it.
What motivated you to join AADR?
I joined AADR because it was an opportunity for me to connect with colleagues. I’ve learned that my most successful science has occurred when we have cross fertilization. AADR is a natural venue for people like me to engage in that opportunity. It has been a really cool thing to attend AADR meetings and talk to people in a setting that is different than my everyday life. The interactions have been very positive for me.
How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
It is absolutely crucial that we look at science in a collaborative fashion, and we borrow, learn from and collaborate with people in other fields. The concepts that are developed from looking across disciplines are critical in terms of making scientific advances. Cross collaborating with other fields enriches the intellectual atmosphere.
How do you feel about AADR’s advocacy role and what it’s doing to further the field?
If we are going to make major advances in our treatment of patients and the understanding of the processes involved, we need to be able to advocate for funding and relevance. There are very few organizations that are pushing those agendas for oral health. AADR is one of the prime movers in that arena.
What is a message you want to give to future dental researchers?

It’s important for them to follow their passion and work in areas that are relevant to that passion. They should try to maintain a wide focus rather than a narrow focus in the science, and importantly, look for opportunities that push boundaries.


July 2012

Linda C. Niessen, D.M.D., M.P.H., M.P.P., currently serves as vice president and chief clinical officer for Dentsply International, and clinical professor in the Department of Restorative Sciences at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas. She is a graduate of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and received her M.P.H. at the Harvard School of Public Health and her M.P.P. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

During her tenure as professor and chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at Baylor College of Dentistry, she initiated graduate education programs in dental public health and geriatric dental care as part of the Baylor partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. In addition, she has provided geriatric dental care to veterans as a staff dentist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dallas.
Throughout her career, Niessen has been active in professional dental organizations and has been an AADR member since 1983. She is a diplomate of the American Board of Dental Public Health and American Board of Special Care Dentistry.
A noted lecturer, writer, and public health advocate, Niessen has authored a textbook on geriatric dentistry titled Geriatric Dentistry: Aging and Oral Health, and is author or co-author of more than 60 scientific articles in peer-reviewed publications. She has received numerous awards, including the AADR Jack Hein Award for Public Service.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
AADR’s mission is to advance research and increase knowledge for the improvement of oral health. To accomplish this mission, AADR facilitates professional development for the oral health research community through numerous activities, most notably, the AADR Annual meeting and local AADR chapters throughout the US. These meetings provide a forum for scientists both within and outside the oral health research community to come together to share ideas, insights and new findings. These meetings serve as a source of great intellectual nourishment when scientists on the cutting edge present their research findings. Listening to the dental public health greats like Drs. Herschel Horowitz and Brian Burt discuss and argue about subtle points of oral epidemiology, dental caries incidence and fluoride’s effects, was incredibly insightful to a young dental public health graduate student. Today, I still enjoy hearing what our top oral health scientists are learning from their research and how it can transform dentistry. AADR, by providing these venues for oral health scientists to gather and learn from one another, serves to advance dental research and truly improve oral health.
How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the advancement of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
Cross collaboration is critically important. Many of the innovations we see in dental research have come from the intersection of disciplines. Scientists in universities, industry, private dental research institutes such as Forsyth and the ADA Paffenbarger Research Institute, and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at NIH, all find themselves learning from other disciplines and thinking about how a particular innovation in one field may benefit oral health science. On a personal level, through my work on various AADR committees, I had the opportunity to get to know and work with outstanding oral health scientists that I would not have necessarily met. These activities truly broadened my perspective as a public health and geriatric dental scientist. As the voice of oral health research, AADR plays a key role in lowering barriers to collaboration with colleagues and in linking the oral health sciences to the broader world of scientific research and discovery.
How valuable do you think AADR’s advocacy is to the community?
AADR’s advocacy for research and science transfer is critically important both to the oral health research community and for the public. AADR’s advocacy activities increase the awareness of the importance of oral health research to our elected officials both at the national and state levels. This advocacy informs elected officials and the public that dentistry is a scientific health discipline-like medicine- based on a strong foundation of research that has developed and created advances which have improved the oral health of the public. The 20th century has seen significant advances such as fluorides, high speed handpieces, tooth colored restorations, sealants, bone grafting materials and dental implants which have improved the oral health of the public. Dental research through its advocacy and science transfer helped these advances go from the laboratory to the operatory. Imagine the future of dentistry based on current research being done today in molecular biology. All of us whether in dental practice, education, research or industry need to work together to advance the message that oral health research has improved the oral health of the public and will continue to do so. 
What is a piece of advice you want future dental researchers to know?
Future dentists need to recognize that they are dental scientists whether they work full time in private practice or in the university. Evidence –based dentistry begins with recognizing one’s role as a dental scientist and clinician. Louis Pasteur wrote “Chance favors the prepared mind.” The greatest contribution a dental professional makes is the thinking he or she does on behalf of one’s patients. AADR is clearly the most influential dental research organization in the United States. It’s hard to think of yourself as a dental scientist without becoming a member of AADR. As dentists begin their career, I would recommend that they become members of AADR and attend the AADR meeting. It will provide intellectual nourishment and they will learn about new research and technology that will lead to advances during their practice career. Each of us plays an important role in creating the future of a dental profession that provides innovative solutions for our patient’s oral health needs.

June 2012

J. Leslie Winston, D.D.S., Ph.D., is the director of global professional & scientific relations for Procter & Gamble Oral Health. There, she is responsible for representing Crest Oral-B science and products to the dental community, dental professional organizations and opinion leaders.

Winston has previous experience in clinical trials research and technology development. She received her dental degree from the University of Iowa, and her Ph.D. in oral biology from the State University of New York at Buffalo (now the University at Buffalo) as well as her certificate in periodontology.

Winston’s work experience includes both private practice and an academic teaching appointment. She has published her research extensively and presented at major dental meetings around the world, including the AADR Annual Meetings. She has been an AADR member since 1985.
How did you first get involved in AADR?
I joined AADR as a dental student at the University of Iowa. There was an active student research group chapter at Iowa and the students were encouraged to become AADR members. I submitted my student research project for presentation consideration at an AADR Annual Meeting and I was fortunate enough to have my abstract accepted. That presented an opportunity for me to attend the meeting and learn more about AADR and get involved. My involvement transitioned beyond presenting my research to serving as the AADR National Student Research Group president, giving me my first experience in association leadership.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of your AADR membership?
The most valuable benefit has been the networking opportunities. The dental research community is small and the AADR meetings are a place where I can interface with the people who have similar research interests and expand my network to include people who have distinct research interests from my own.. Sometimes I will attend the meetings and see presentations on new areas that intrigue me, and I’m able to make new connections with people in a collegial atmosphere. From an association point of view, AADR has been the primary organization for me throughout all stages of my career. AADR provides a sense of community that is very rare. In my current position, I have the opportunity to attend many scientific meetings and AADR’s meeting is the only one that provides the coming together of different dental and craniofacial interests in one place. That sense of community is something that I truly value.
How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
I think it’s extremely important and establishing those collaborations can help people take a technology or method and improve it, or grow one’s depth of knowledge. As we continue to move dentistry closer to other health professions, I think our ultimate goal is to make a difference in the life of a patient. There is power in bringing together people with different skillsets and that can lead to faster progress. I think now is a really exciting time to be in research because many more cross-collaborations are taking place than when I first became active in dental research.
What is an exciting change you have seen take place in the field over the span of your career?
I’m seeing more opportunities for oral health research to be part of mainstream health communications. We have a lot of issues that we’re dealing with in terms of the oral health of the public and those issues get amplified on the news. With the amount of information that’s more available today, I find it really exciting that I can read oral health related articles in more types of publications instead of just being isolated to only scientific journals. I think the fact that people have a growing awareness of oral health is something that we need to continue to build upon but there have been a lot of great advances already. Our challenge now is to ensure that the information provided to the public is accurate.
What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
I think that it’s very important to establish both mentorship and a network within the research community. I’ve established both and while some of those individuals have changed at different points in my career, there are several key individuals who have been consistent throughout. I think it’s really important for younger researchers to push themselves and reach out and identify people who can help them so that they take advantage of what those who have come before them have learned. This level of support is essential for navigating career options and making faster progress than going it alone.

May 2012

Lynne Opperman, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M Health Science Center, Baylor College of Dentistry. She is also the director of technology development at the university. She earned her B.Sc. in zoology and psychology and her Ph.D. in developmental biology from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia.

Her main area of research is to elucidate the mechanisms by which growth factors regulate cranial and facial suture morphogenesis and patency. She examines the mechanisms by which signaling pathways interact to regulate suture morphogenesis and patency. The growth factors of interest include Tgf-ß2, Tgf-ß3, Egf and Fgf.

Opperman also studies alternate methods for accelerating bone formation and healing. She does translational research looking at combinations of scaffolds and growth factors for healing super-sized critical defects, and for accelerating consolidation periods following sutural widening and distraction osteogenesis procedures.

She has a fully executed patent and a patent pending for a new bone transport reconstruction plate (BTRP).  The BTRP is designed to reconstruct the mandible after bony resection, and the curved version of the device is designed to reconstruct the chin by transporting a bone segment across the midline of the jaw or by transporting two bone segments on either side of a gap to meet in the midline. She co-owns a small business (Craniotech ACR Devices, LLC) and has been awarded several STTR and SBIR grants to build and test prototypes of the device.

Opperman has been an IADR/AADR member since 1997 and has served as the president and councilor of the AADR Dallas Section. In addition, she has served on the board of directors of the IADR Craniofacial Biology Scientific Group, and was president of this group from 2007-2008.

How important has AADR been in your career?
Being an active member of AADR and serving on the board of the IADR Craniofacial Biology Scientific Group has helped raise my national profile. Having that kind of experience is valuable and meeting people through that Scientific Group has been remarkable.

What are you currently researching?
I have a sponsored research project that I’m doing for a small startup company in Dallas called Natural Dental Implants. The project involves a new kind of implant that is a true root-form implant. We are doing the pre-clinical studies and testing to see how well the implants get osseointegrated. What’s neat about these implants is that they actually have splints on them that bond to the teeth on either side of the extracted tooth sockets so that you can immediately place this root-form implant into the socket to give the it primary stability. I think it’s going to be a phenomenal product.

Where do you feel the research community would be without AADR’s influence?
I don’t think the community would be as well organized. I think AADR gives dental researchers a venue to network, and provides us with the advocacy we need. It’s really important for us researchers to have our own organization and that organization is AADR.

What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
The advice I give is find your passion. It may be as an academic, or as an industry entrepreneur building and creating new devices or procedures. Most of my students are very close to the dental profession and it would behoove them to stay in a dental-related field. I encourage them to follow their passion in terms of what excites them. It’s also important to have a good mentor and many AADR members serve as excellent role models for students and junior investigators. In my experience as a post-doc student, I had two mentors. My experiences with them taught me a lot, and made me very cognizant of how I treat my students and other faculty members. That has paid off.


April 2012

Raul I. Garcia, D.M.D., is professor and chair, Department of Health Policy and Health Services Research at Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. He is also the director of the Northeast Center for Research to Evaluate and Eliminate Dental Disparities, established at Boston University in 2001 and supported by the National Institutes of Health. In addition, he has investigated the role that oral conditions may play as risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other systemic health outcomes, and how oral conditions may affect health-related quality of life.

In the area of health policy, his department at Boston University has implemented new programs to enhance access to oral health care by under-served populations and to recruit students from under-represented groups to enter the oral health professions. Major research interests are in the areas of health services research and oral epidemiology, with experience in and current funding on (a) causes and consequences of oral health disparities, and interventions to eliminate oral health disparities; (b) relationship of oral conditions to systemic disease and health-related quality of life; and (c) longitudinal studies of oral health in diverse populations and the analysis of treatment outcomes. The work has included conduct of randomized clinical trials, observational studies, and secondary analyses of large-scale, national and complex research-derived as well administrative datasets. 

Garcia is a 1981 graduate of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, where he received the D.M.D. degree summa cum laude.  He completed his specialty training in periodontology in 1984, and went on to receive a Master of Medical Sciences degree from Harvard in 1985. 

Garcia has been an AADR since 1976, and has served on several IADR committees and currently serves on the IADR Publications Committee.

How did you first get involved in AADR?

I joined AADR right before I started dental school. Between college and dental school I was working in a lab at the dental school at Harvard. Knowing that I was interested in going to dental school, my research mentor very strongly urged that I joined AADR. When I started dental school, I was a student member of AADR.

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?

That has changed over time but initially my greatest benefit was getting access to the Journal of Dental Research at a reasonable cost and having lower registration costs to attend the meetings. However, at this point in my career, the value isn’t so much what I’m getting directly out of AADR. Instead, I find value in what I see the organization doing for dental research as an endeavor, and its importance in representing me and all individuals working in this area of science. Now I’m looking more at the importance I can play as a member in helping the organization achieve a lot of good for many people.

What are you currently researching?

One of the projects I’m working on is a major NIDCR-supported  randomized clinical trial that was launched a little over a year ago (Tooth Smart Healthy Start: Oral Health Advocates in Public Housing) that is targeting women who have young children who are living in Boston public housing developments. My colleagues,  Drs. Michelle Henshaw and Belinda Borrelli, are the RCT co-PIs. The goal is to see if the incidence of dental caries in their children can over a two-year period be reduced by a behavioral intervention. The behavioral intervention is a series of motivational interviewing sessions delivered over a two-year period targeting the mothers. The randomization is at the level of the site of the housing development. We are randomizing the actual housing development  so that all eligible mothers and children in one development would receive oral health assessments, information and instructions for oral health care, referrals for care and fluoride varnish for their children—whereas the mothers and children at the intervention site would receive all of that plus the motivational interviewing sessions. At full implementation,  1,830 mother/child dyads will have been enrolled in the study and we will be working in 26 separate Boston public housing developments. At the conclusion of the study, we will see whether the motivational interviewing really works when combined with fluoride varnish.

How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?

Cross collaboration has been essential to my career and I think that it is critical to the future health of research in this area. My own work has involved having to understand the basic molecular pathophysiologic mechanisms of periodontal disease progression, but it also involves the population level work of epidemiologists and interacting with members of the IADR Periodontal Research Group and Behavioral, Epidemiologic and Health Services Research Group. The scientific sessions that those groups present at the AADR meetings have been critical to furthering my knowledge and it’s vital to what I do on a daily basis. 

Where do you feel the research community would be without AADR’s influence?

AADR has been instrumental in making sure that there has been funding and support for science in this area. I think that AADR has tremendously enhanced the quality of scientific work because of the way it brings together people as an organization through its Annual Meetings, Scientific Groups, the JDR and other publications. I also believe that the AADR staff has given extraordinary strength, value and vitality to the organization.

What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
In general the message is the future is what you make of it, despite whatever challenges one may face in regards to funding or job opportunities. Good science will get supported and good science needs to get done, not just for its own sake. It’s essential that we create knowledge, and translate and disseminate it to improve the health of people. If the new generations don’t complete the work to get new knowledge and translate it into action, people’s health is not going to improve to the extent that it can and should. The role of the AADR as a convener of like-minded souls is essential and the power of that fellowship of scientists who are working toward that common good is something in which future dental researchers should partake.


March 2012

James M. Rogér, D.D.S., M.S., is the senior instructor of dentistry at the Center for Oral Biology at the University of Rochester Eastman Institute for Oral Health. He has been an instructor there since 2008.

Rogér earned his D.D.S. from Marquette University School of Dentistry, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He earned his M.S. from the University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he is currently working toward his Ph.D.

In 2007, he was awarded a Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation Fellowship to study cytokine production by peripheral B-Cells in primary Sjögren's Syndrome and systemic lupus erythematosus. He conducted this research under the mentorship of Ignacio Sanz, a rheumatologist at the University of Rochester. Since then, he has continued under the mentorship of Sanz and is currently researching the characterization of human cytokine-producing B cells in Sj?gren's Syndrome.

Rogér has been an active AADR member since 2004 and currently serves on the Association’s Government Affairs Committee. His research has been published in the IADR/AADR Journal of Dental Research.

How did you first get involved in AADR?
As a first-year dental student at Temple University, I assumed lab research would be included in the dental curriculum. However, when I realized that wasn’t the case I approached the dean at Temple University and asked him if anyone was doing dental research and if there were opportunities for me to get involved in research. He suggested that I participate in an NIDCR program, which was a one-day exposé of research and dentistry at the NIDCR campus. At that event, I met some of the AADR National Student Research Group officers who told me about AADR and the NSRG, and the benefits of being involved in AADR. From there, I joined AADR and the NSRG, becoming a board member of the NSRG as a member-at-large. The next year I became the president of the NSRG and sat on the AADR Board of Directors.

What are you currently researching?
In the lab where I work, we are really interested in the impact of B cells and antibody independent functions of B cells. From the oral health perspective there are a number of autoimmune diseases that the lab focuses on and one of those is Sj?gren's Syndrome. I’ve found Sj?gren's Syndrome interesting and what is so unfortunate about it is that there really is no treatment for it other than palliative care to give people the ability to cope with it but not improve their condition. There are so many people affected by that particular disease that I thought this would be an interesting way to look at and see if there is some unique feature or unique signature about the B cells within the antibody independent functions and the way they contribute to the disease. Specifically looking at the comparisons between regulatory cytokines and cytokines that are considered more pro-inflammatory or potentially even pathogenic that ultimately may even be contributing to the hyper-immune and autoimmune states. The question we’re looking to answer is the B cells functioning in a different manner in Sj?gren's versus healthy state. If they are, we want to know if it’s in a way that is consistent with the idea that this is a hyper-immune or hyper-inflammatory state, and then are they directly contributing to the disease. If the answer is that they the B cells are in fact contributing some potential pathogenic properties, then there are treatments available right now to deplete the number of these cells or potentially target these cells and remove the bad ones. This project has been going well, and it has been funded over the past four years and supported by my mentor Ignacio Sanz.

How important has cross-collaborating with other scientific disciplines been to the success of your career?
My mentor, Ignacio Sanz, is rheumatologist M.D., which is where the autoimmune side enters, I’m a dental researcher, and the group and people with whom we work tend to deal with dry mouth and dry eyes, and clinicians who are treating patients. My current research would be a difficult project to do from the oral health perspective because I wouldn’t have access to particular samples and a rheumatologist doesn’t get to look at the mouth very often—the collaborative aspect is really the only way this project could go forward. My research doesn’t just happen in that little vacuum space. I have to bring in other experts if I want to find something that is actually going to impact Sjögren's Syndrome or lead to potential treatment.

How important has AADR been to your career as a researcher?
Without AADR there is no way that I would be at this level in my career. AADR was huge in educating me on the different ways to apply my dentistry and use that to launch my dental research career. AADR has helped keep me aware of the types of grants and funding support for which I could apply to make a research career and the necessary training more feasible. The Association has enabled me to follow through on dental research as a career, which was my goal.

February 2012

Athanasios I. Zavras, D.M.D., M.S., D.M.Sc., is associate professor of Epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health (MSPH) and associate professor of dentistry at the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (CDM), where he directs the Dental Public Health residency program. He is also the director of the Division of Oral Epidemiology and Biostatistics at CDM and a member of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. Zavras holds adjunct faculty appointments at the Harvard School of Public Health and at The Forsyth Institute in Boston.

Zavras received a D.M.D. degree from the University of Athens (1991), followed by advanced studies in pediatric dentistry at Tufts University (1993) and dental public health at Harvard University(1996). He also holds an M.S. degree in epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health (1994) and a D.M.Sc. from Harvard Medical School (1999). Upon completing his doctoral studies in oral epidemiology he applied for and received two career development awards, a K23 and a K22, both funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). These awards provided for added training opportunities in clinical trials and pharmacogenetics, and set the stage for a research career in molecular oral epidemiology.

Zavras’ long-term vision is to fully implement the concept of personalized medicine in dentistry. His research is focused on determining the pathophysiological processes that underlie oral diseases, and on translating research findings into useful clinical applications. His approach of translational research is unconventional and includes agnostic genome-wide screening of affected populations followed by detailed documentation of possible risk factors and behaviors, and cross checking for gene environment interactions. Significant findings are subsequently verified in separate groups. This translational approach is highly efficient and has yielded promising results in oral carcinogenesis and in the pharmacogenetics of drug-induced osteonecrosis of the jaw.

Zavras serves as the principal investigator of an ongoing research project entitled Pilot Whole Genome Association Study of Oral Cancer (funded by the NIDCR). He also collaborates with colleagues at Harvard University to explore oral cancer screening in the community for seniors residing in nursing homes (also funded by the NIDCR).

He has been an AADR member since 1993.

What attracted you to the dental research field?
As an undergraduate dental student I found myself attracted to technology and its potential role in helping people in need. At the time the fastest computer processor was the Intel 80286. One of my first research attempts was to explore the use of computer imaging in dentistry. I remember collaborating with another dental student, Dr. Vicky Cartsos—now a professor of Orthodontics at Tufts—and ended up publishing an article. We both felt a sense of accomplishment when we saw it in print. Dr. Cartsos eventually became my partner in life and we continue doing research together to this day, laboring over manuscripts and celebrating new publications like they are newborn children. The first opportunity to do real research came during my pediatric dentistry residency at Tufts when I collaborated with Dr. Andrew Jackson, a professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, to explore the use of acoustic rhinometry in children. Today, 20 years later, this non-invasive technology has found its way into clinical practice in the evaluation of sleep apnea.

What led you to join AADR?
I joined AADR as a graduate student at the Harvard School of Public Health. At the time I was exploring suitable dissertation subjects, and I was encouraged by my mentor, Prof. Chester Douglass, to attend the AADR meeting. Having the opportunity to see so many exhibits of great science, all in a single venue, and to discuss with the creators of such science helped me crystalize the research idea. Later, as the dissertation started producing results, AADR became my primary venue to present results and to get early feedback from colleagues.

What are some of the most valuable benefits of your AADR membership?
My AADR membership provides many benefits including access to the Journal of Dental Research and to research news that is relevant to my work, dental research advocacy and “a voice on the Hill”, as well as having a venue to meet annually with dental scientists across the United States to share and disseminate knowledge. 

How important is cross-collaboration to your success as a researcher?
Most of my work involves multiple traditional disciplines such as epidemiology, statistics, data mining, genetics, engineering and behavioral sciences. Because the disciplines that collaborate are often so diverse, our training programs at Columbia University teach how to collaborate by stepping outside one’s comfort zone and emphasize the need to appreciate different schools of thought, even different terminologies. Once learned, this interdisciplinarity unites people behind a common goal, in our case to develop molecular diagnostics for early disease detection, and brings fresh new perspectives into traditional research methods that allow us to work at the frontier. This is the strength of cross-collaboration.

Where do you feel the research community would be without AADR?
AADR plays an active role in nurturing, preserving and expanding the oral health research enterprise. It does so within a very complicated social, political and professional environment where priorities depend on delicate and complicated calculations and various key stakeholders often with competing interests. The research community would have no voice without AADR.


January 2012

William Maixner, Ph.D., D.D.S., is a Mary Lily Kenan Flagler Bingham distinguished professor in the departments of pharmacology and endodontics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is also the director for the Center for Neurosensory Disorders at the university.

Maixner completed his studies at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and earned a B.A. in zoology/biochemistry, a Ph.D. in pharmacology and a D.D.S. He was also a PRAT Fellow (pharmacology research associate) at the then National Institute of Dental Research and National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

His research is focused on determining the pathophysiological processes that underlie pain perception and persistent pain conditions. A long-term goal of his research program is to translate new discoveries into clinical practices that improve the ability to diagnose and treat patients experiencing chronic pain. He has a long standing interest in identifying the key biopsychosocial and genetic risk factors that contribute to the onset and maintenance of persistent pain conditions.

Maixner serves as the principal investigator of two ongoing research projects: Complex Persistent Pain Conditions: Common and Unique Pathways of Vulnerability (funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke); and Risk Factors for Onset and Persistence of TMD (funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research).

He has been an AADR member since 1988.

What attracted you to the dental research field?
As an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, I became actively involved in research, initially cardiovascular research. I worked in a laboratory at the VA hospital in Iowa City that was also affiliated with the university hospital. Next door to the laboratory where I worked was a dental school laboratory, which was headed up by principal investigator and AADR member Paul Glick. As I made my way through my undergraduate career, it became obvious to me that a hybrid career in dentistry and a basic science discipline, such as pharmacology with an emphasis in autonomic pharmacology, would provide a wonderful avenue for a young budding scientist. I became more interested in pain research and clinical dentistry as I made my way through the admissions process through the School of Dentistry and School of Medicine in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Iowa.

What led you to join AADR?
I think that AADR was the primary venue for the presentation of work related to orofacial pain and orofacial physiology and behavior, which were areas in which I became more involved. With time I began to focus more on orofacial pain in part because the nature of my postdoctoral studies that I did at NIDR (now NIDCR) under the mentorship of AADR member Ronald Dubner. That also put me squarely into the dental research field, and the primary venue for the display and dissemination of knowledge was AADR. We presented our work at the AADR meetings to an audience that understood the work and saw merit in it. AADR also provided me with a venue to meet other junior and senior scientists and through the presentations at the Annual Meetings. Also, becoming a member of the Scientific Groups provided a wonderful opportunity for me to know the individuals who were behind substantial scientific findings in the fields of orofacial pain and orophysiology. 

What are some of the most valuable benefits of your AADR membership?
Some of the most valuable benefits of my AADR membership are having a venue for the dissemination of knowledge and for discussing potential collaborative projects. AADR provides me with an opportunity to see what’s cutting-edge in the fields of orofacial pain and orophysiology.
How important is cross-collaboration to your success as a researcher?
I think cross-collaboration has been extremely important. Our program here at UNC consists of individuals from fundamental gene discovery to translational clinical trials. Being able to have exposure to individuals who cover that gambit is made possible in part by the exposure I’ve had to organizations that are multidisciplinary in nature and translational in approach. AADR begins to bring that flavor to the table.  
Where do you feel the research community would be without AADR?
I think the area of orofacial health would be greatly behind and essentially non-represented in today’s national healthcare processes and research initiatives. I think AADR is a very strong advocate for research that has a focus not only on orofacial mechanisms but also on human condition mechanisms. I think that AADR is really helping to expand fundamental research activities across several different disciplines and the Association has been very effective in providing these avenues that go well beyond the dental realm.



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