AADR Strides in Science, September 2013-July 2014

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@aadr.org.

JULY 2014

Margherita Fontana, D.D.S., Ph.D., is a professor (tenured) in the Department of Cariology, Restorative Sciences and Endodontics at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. After receiving her dental degree from the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV), Caracas, in 1990, she worked as a research assistant at the UCV Dental Research Institute, Dental School for two years while she also worked in private practice. In 1992 she moved to the United States to pursue her research interests and in 1996 completed a four-year Ph.D. program in dental sciences at Indiana University, Indianapolis.

She has always been very involved in teaching (problem based learning, laboratory and didactic) in cariology in the D.D.S., postdoctoral and dental hygiene programs. She is currently co-director of the cariology I and II courses, and cariology discipline co-coordinator at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.

Fontana served in the full time faculty at Indiana University until 2009, serving there as director of the Microbial Caries Model Facility, which is part of the Oral Health Research Institute. There, she was also the director of the Oral Biofilms in Caries Assessment and Management Research Program; and director of Pre-doctoral Education (Caries Management Program) for the Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry. She currently maintains an affiliate position at Indiana University.

Fontana has an extensive clinical research background in childhood caries management, including risk assessment. As a principal investigator, she has received research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry, the Delta Dental Fund and private industry. In 2012 she received the United States Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for her work on caries risk assessment in children.

She has lectured as an invited speaker in different countries, being recognized for her work in the field of cariology. She was the first president of the Indiana Chapter of the Hispanic Dental Association, and additionally she has held memberships in other organizations. She has been an IADR/AADR member since 1992 and was the 2007 president of the IADR Cariology Research Scientific Group. She’s also a member of the IADR Education Research Scientific Group and at the IADR General Session in Cape Town, South Africa last month, she was elected as the president as that scientific group.

In May it was announced that the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and three other organizations across the state of Michigan will join forces in an effort to develop a comprehensive inter-professional program to reduce the burden of childhood dental disease in Michigan. The effort is made possible by the U.S. government’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which has awarded a $9.4 million grant to the Altarum Institute in Ann Arbor and collaborators including the School of Dentistry, Delta Dental of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Community Health. Fontana will provide her expertise and oversee University of Michigan staff and faculty involved in the project.

How did you first get involved with AADR?
I joined AADR when I came to the United States as a Ph.D. student. I earned my dental degree in Venezuela and some of my mentors were members of IADR. When I come to the U.S. to earn my Ph.D., I joined AADR that first year and have been attending meetings ever since.

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
I love AADR because it provides a unique opportunity to network with colleagues and discuss science. Nowadays science really cannot be done isolated—there was once a time when people could do science alone in their lab but those times are gone. We benefit from multidisciplinary science. One of the ways I can network with my colleagues from other areas of the country is by attending the AADR meetings, which gives people a platform to highlight their research and start collaborating on further research projects. By attending the meetings I’m also able to meet sponsors and people who fund research. One of the other many benefits of AADR is being part of a Scientific Group. I’m a member of the IADR Education Research Scientific Group. I’m not an education researcher, but as someone who does clinical research I understand the challenges of teaching the new generation of dentists—education research is essential.  I’m delighted to be a member of the IADR Education Research Scientific Group and I’m delighted to learn from everyone else who is involved in that group. I love research, I love dentistry and I feel very privileged to be working in this field. I also feel privileged to work with so many wonderful colleagues in different areas of the country and the world.

What is the role AADR has played in your research career?
AADR has been integral to my research career.  My current grants are all interdisciplinary from other universities. I have met most of those researchers at AADR and IADR meetings where I have seen them present and socialized with them. When I’m looking for new collaborators I choose someone who I think is the right scientist to bring on board but it also has to be someone with whom I’ll work well. The opportunity to learn the science and the social aspect of the person starts at the AADR and IADR meetings.

As a longtime AADR Annual Meeting attendee, why is it important for you to regularly attend these meetings?
For me, the meetings are an essential part of moving my projects forward. Now at this stage of my career I use the meetings to meet with collaborators face-to-face. The meetings provide opportunities for me to meet with my collaborators from across the country once a year, and it’s also an opportunity to talk to sponsors, and discuss my research with them and learn about funding opportunities as a group. I’m not sure if we could do the type of science we do without having the AADR meetings and being able to meet once a year, face-to-face with our colleagues is necessary for my research.

What would you say to junior researchers to encourage them to cross-collaborate with other scientific disciplines?
I think it’s essential to cross collaborate. I think for any researcher it’s important to have the right mentor who can introduce you to opportunities you didn’t know existed. Sometimes those opportunities are outside of your field. Many universities are really trying to push through internal grant opportunities for people from different disciplines to meet each other and spark ideas. There might be a solution to your research in another field and someone who works in a completely different field is able to apply for the grant. These grant opportunities are huge and it can be difficult if you have never ventured outside of your area of interest. However, I think that’s when having a network of colleagues and mentors who can connect you with the right groups is valuable. There’s enrichment in hearing people from other disciplines and learning about their research—it can lead to new research ideas and collaborations. 



JUNE 2014

Eric Schiffman D.D.S., M.S. is an associate professor and director of the Division of TMD and Orofacial Pain at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. He is also a co-owner of and practices at the Minnesota Head and Neck Pain Clinic, which is a multi-disciplinary pain clinic with four locations in the Twin Cities.

In 1982, he received his dental degree from the University of Iowa School of Dentistry. In 1983 he completed a general practice residency at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he was trained to do general dentistry on medically-compromised patients and saw patients with orofacial trauma in the emergency room setting. He was then the first resident to complete the two-year TMD and Orofacial Pain Residency Program at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry in 1985; and concurrently, obtained a Master of Science in Oral Biology in 1986. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Orofacial Pain.

Schiffman has received more than $12 million in NIH/NIDCR funding. His research interests include developing validated diagnostic criteria for the most common temporomandibular disorders (TMD), including disorders involving the temporomandibular joint. He has also completed numerous randomized clinical trials (RCT) investigating the relative effectiveness of home-based self-care as compared to jaw exercises and medications. He also completed an RCT with a five-year follow-up assessing the relative effectiveness on non-surgical and surgical treatments for advanced TMJ pathology. This research found that surgery is rarely needed to treat even advanced TMJ disorders.

He is the principal investigator of a $3.7 million project titled “TMJ Intra-Articular Disorders: Impact on Pain, Functioning and Disability.” The primary aim of this multi-site study is to determine whether progression of TMJ intra-articular disorders (disc displacements and degenerative joint disease) is associated with the primary patient-reported outcomes of jaw pain, jaw functional limitation and disability at nine year follow-up. In this study, subjects were recalled from his prior research project titled “Research Diagnostic Criteria: Reliability and Validity.” The findings in the latter study were used to develop new validated diagnostic criteria for the most common TMD that can be used in both the clinical and research settings.

Schiffman has been an AADR member since 2009.

How did you first get involved with AADR?
I ran across IADR/AADR through the Journal of Dental Research. In reading the JDR, I realized that IADR/AADR were striving for high-level science through the Journal and I still think they’re achieving that. What really made me want to be part of the Associations was that they had great meetings where I could interact with peers and colleagues.

As a clinician scientist, describe the value in attending AADR meetings and presenting your research.
Over the years, through being part of IADR/AADR and attending the meetings I’ve been able to establish a network of friends and colleagues who are interested in my same area of science. Orofacial pain is a small area and we all know each other. By attending the meetings I’m able to present my research and have it critiqued better than I would anywhere else, which has allowed me to present myself better in public and to also have a more critical view of what I read and what I do. I must add that I’ve been credited with doing a lot of good research but the reality is I wouldn’t be anywhere if I didn’t have a great team of people working with me. The papers and research that I do exceed my intelligence and knowledge because I surround myself with people who make up for my lack of expertise in different areas. In surrounding myself by these individuals, we get a good product. I’m the conductor but if the orchestra wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be any music. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of your AADR membership?
One of the most important benefits of being an AADR member is that it allows me to be part of the total voice of dentistry. It’s important for us to remember that NIH is supported by Congress. We need AADR to be there to help educate Congress that dental research is critical to the total health of the population. We need to make sure that Congress understands that we’re part of the whole body and that we need to be funded by NIH/NIDCR. I think AADR does a great job communicating that message.  

What is the best way for newer AADR members to get involved in the Association and maximize their membership experience?
Being involved in the governance structure is one way for people to be involved. Another is to attend the Annual Meetings. Attending the meetings gives newer AADR members the opportunity to listen to experts in the field. Through attending the meetings and networking, they’ll have a platform to promote themselves and their science. Also, it’s important for people who are newer in their career to attend these meetings because they will have an opportunity to network with other researchers who have a good handle on their science. At these meetings, people can network in groups at the symposia or they can network one-on-one in the poster hall. Annual Meetings are a very collegiate environment and one that values high-level science, I recommend that everyone get involved and attend these meetings no matter where you are in your career, it’s really the key to maximizing your membership experience.

What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
My advice to future dental researchers is to find a good mentor. A good mentor is crucial to your success because they can tell you all the mistakes they have made, along with the right decisions they’ve made. Not only do you want a mentor who matches you but you want a mentor who has time to mentor you. In addition to finding a good mentor, it’s important to build and maintain your relationships because you’ll need to rely on them when it’s time for funding. There’s a lot of politics involved with obtaining funding but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It simply means that you have to build your relationships with people—you need relationships with your program officers at NIH and you need connections in the community. Ultimately, all of this is what senior investigators or mentors can give to junior researchers. 


MAY 2014

Chester Douglass, D.M.D., Ph.D., is professor emeritus of oral health policy and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Douglass received his D.M.D. from Temple University in 1965 and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in 1971. 

He has published more than 150 papers in referred journals covering a variety of topics in health policy, oral epidemiology and dental public health, in which he is a boarded specialist. He served as principal investigator in the New England Elders Dental study, which produced 19 important papers on the epidemiology of dental diseases in the elderly.

Douglass’s research also combines dental care policy and financing issues with oral epidemiology research. These studies have demonstrated the increase in need for dental care and the constriction in the supply of dentists as the US population grows in size, ages and becomes more diverse. 

He is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship program, past president of the American Board of Dental Public Health, past chair of the board of trustees of the Medical Foundation, and a founding member of the DentaQuest Foundation board of directors. Douglass served as chair of the Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine from 1978 to 2008.

Douglass has been an active member of AADR since 1971. Further enhancing his membership experience, he has served on numerous IADR/AADR committees and chaired the IADR Behavioral, Epidemiologic and Health Services Research Scientific Group. He is a recipient of the IADR Distinguished Scientist Award for Behavioral Science and Health Services Research.

What motivated you to join AADR?
I joined AADR as a graduate student at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. The director of the program, Dr. David Striffler, introduced me to the opportunity to attend an IADR/AADR meeting and that led to my decision to join AADR. The first meeting I attended was in Houston, Texas, and it’s also where the IADR Behavioral, Epidemiologic and Health Services Research Scientific Group was formed by 20 of us. I was in the room when that Scientific Group was formed and I’ve been part of it my entire career.  

Describe your experience attending your first AADR Annual Meeting. 
I learned a lot at my first meeting, as a first-time attendee I become aware of the benefits of networking. One of my mentors who I met at the meeting was John Greene and he gave me important advice about navigating my first meeting. He even told me where I should stand so that I could meet people and network, which happened to be the registration area because everyone had to go there to check in for the meeting. I must have met at least 50 people just from standing in the registration area at that meeting and I’ve stayed in contact with most of them throughout my career. We all attend the AADR Annual Meetings to better understand our field and to learn who is making cutting-edge scientific contributions. 

How important has your AADR participation been to your career?
My AADR participation has been key and it has led to career opportunities. I’ve only had two positions but I got both of those positions through being known at IADR/AADR. I also obtained more than half of my post-doctoral fellows through connections I’ve made at AADR and IADR meetings, as well as several of my faculty. If you’re looking to build your department, you need to go to the meetings to meet the academic leaders. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
Being part of AADR has provided me with life-long, professional stimulation. If you’re not interacting on a national or global basis with your colleagues you can mislead yourself into thinking you know what’s going on. Unless you show up at the meetings, and listen and watch, you’re at risk of falling behind. The maintenance of your professional growth and really keeping up-to-date with your profession is important, and AADR provides opportunities for that to happen. That is one of the most valuable aspects of my AADR membership. 

What are some ways newer AADR members can become more involved in the Association?
First, you have to attend the meetings. In addition to the national meetings, you can be involved at the Section level. We’re very fortunate in New England because we have a strong regional section and we have regional meetings where the science is presented at a very high level. Participating in your section will also help you address issues that are happening in your section of the country. 


You’ve mentored many students and junior researchers throughout your career. What’s one of the messages you often give to future dental researchers?
One of the things I tell students is that they have to be willing to work nights and weekends. If you want a 32-hour a week job, this isn’t it. You have to show up, pay attention and put in the effort. Dental research is a vocation—a calling—not a job.  The interesting thing is that when you start showing success in your research you don’t even think of it as work. 


APRIL 2014

Jill Helms, D.D.S., Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Surgery at Stanford University, California. Prior to Stanford, Helms spent eight years at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was the director of the molecular and cellular biology laboratory in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. She received her dental degree from the University of Minnesota and her residency certificate and Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut Health Sciences Center.

Her research interests center on regenerative medicine and craniofacial development. In the subject of regenerative medicine, Helms’ laboratory goals are to understand the regulatory pathways that control stem cell self-renewal, proliferation, and differentiation. She has focused on two signaling pathways whose activities seem to be an essential feature of tissue healing. 

The lab has developed a novel packaging method whereby the biological activity of lipidated Wnt and Hedgehog proteins can be preserved in the in vivo wound environment. The long-term goal of Helms’ research program is to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms regulating normal and abnormal craniofacial development. 

Helms reviews manuscripts for leading journals such as Nature, Science and Development, and reviews grants for the NIH, NASA, March of Dimes and a number of non-profit organizations. She is currently secretary-treasurer of the Society for Craniofacial Genetics & Developmental Biology. She is also an active teacher in both craniofacial and stem cell biology, and teaches undergraduate, graduate and continuing education classes at Stanford. She mentors undergraduate and graduate students, dental and medical students, residents and fellows, and has been an advisor for masters and Ph.D. candidates. 

Since joining IADR/AADR in 1986, Helms has served on numerous IADR/AADR Committees. In 2013, she received the IADR Distinguished Scientist Award for Craniofacial Biology Research. 

What prompted you to choose research as a career?
When I was in dental school at the University of Minnesota, I wondered if what I was learning in biochemistry class had any relevance to what I would eventually be doing with patients and I had my doubts. One of my professors thought that maybe the way I could see the utility in learning this basic information was to see what happened in the research lab. He invited me to spend the summer in his lab and it was an eye-opening experience. That gave me an opportunity to explore some basic science questions and do that under the guidance of a mentor who saw patients but was himself a scientist. There, for the first time I realized that if one understood the basic underlying principles that guided how tissues formed or how tissues responded to injury or disease, they might be able to come up with new ideas for treatment. My interest in research began there and that interest never stopped. What prompted you to choose research as a career?

How did you first get involved in AADR?
I joined AADR at the encouragement of the same mentor who got me involved in research. It was almost de facto: if you were going to be in this professional it was incumbent upon you to understand the latest advances. The only way to do that was to be a member of IADR/AADR, there’s no other logical alternative. I joined as a first year dental student and attended my first meeting that same year. 

How would you describe attending your first IADR/AADR meeting as a student?
I was nervous and excited, and I approached it with a lot of trepidation. The reason why is because I saw that professors from my dental school were also presenting posters. Suddenly that barrier that normally separates a student from their professor was gone; we had posters side-by-side. It made me a little nervous but the excitement was that there were people who were interested in the experiments that I had done and I had the opportunity to meet other students who were doing research projects—I had found people who shared my interests. The other part that continues to be exciting is returning to the meetings and seeing those same people year after year. 

How valuable has AADR been to your career?
I’ve never worked for a dental school—my appointments have always been in the medical school—but having ties to dentistry through AADR has been a lifeline that keeps me connected to the same group that encouraged me in the beginning. That is why I continue to participate in AADR now, because it’s the constant and my work is relevant to practicing dentists. AADR is the constant that links it all together and it has been incredibly important to my career. When you’re just starting off and you’re struggling to get your first grant, the support you receive from a group such as AADR is very valuable. You stay loyal to that group throughout your career. 

You mentioned the importance your mentor played in your decision to go into research. What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
Persevere! This isn’t a field for the faint at heart. You enter this field because you’re so interested and curious, and you want to know. If you enter this field because of the fancy title you’ll tire of it. If you go into it because you’re really motivated to understand the problems and challenges that face the profession and you have the goal to add just a bit more knowledge, you will succeed and it will be the best job in the world. This is the kind of job where I can’t wait to get to work in the morning, it’s a field of continual exploration and when you make a discovery that improves a patient’s life, there’s just no better feeling in the world. I would encourage future researchers to persevere because it’s not called search, it’s called research and you have to be willing to fail, fail, fail and press on. 


MARCH 2014

Richard Ohrbach, D.D.S., Ph.D., is an associate professor at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, Department of Oral Diagnostic Sciences. He earned his D.D.S from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, his certificate in pain management from the University of California – Los Angles, his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo, and he did his post-doc at the University of Washington.

His research activities have included primary roles as collaborating study site principal investigator in four large multi-site studies, and as collaborating investigator with other multi-site and international projects. His activities have included statistical analysis of categorical and multivariate data, interpretation of complex sets of variables from different domains, comprehensive development of self-report instruments for variables associated with pain, development of diagnostic systems, examiner training in multiple settings, and experimental and observational study designs.

His primary focus in recent years has been on developing internationally recognized new diagnostic standards for TMD as well as cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses related to incident cases with TMD, and on physical-psychological interactions relevant to pain disorders. With a team of researchers, he developed the first evidence-based diagnostic criteria to help health professionals better diagnose TMD. The new criteria, supported in part by the National Institutes of Health, comprise an improved screening tool to help researchers and health professionals including dentists more readily differentiate the most common forms of TMD and reach accurate diagnoses that are grounded in supportive scientific evidence.

Ohrbach has been an IADR/AADR member since 1987. From 2003 – 2006, he served as the director of the International RDC/TMD Consortium, which is an IADR Scientific Group/Network that he co-founded.

Why did you decide to go into research?
I was a clinician for many years after dental school. Somehow I got seduced by the area of pain and jaw problems. I think part of it was that what I was taught as a student was clearly very little because not much was known at the time. As a clinician, I began attending continuing education courses regarding TMD. I found that everyone had an opinion regarding the cause and the necessary treatment, and no one’s opinions accorded with one another; years later, I realized that the problem was that no one had any data. I went from a state of excitement because I wanted to learn something about pain and TMD, to deep dismay because I realized that while everyone was necessarily working from the same place of just their own observations, there was no reliable evidence and no generalizability. I decided that I needed to learn about pain disorders in a university setting, so I attended a clinical post-doc and I was working with a psychologist who knew a lot about science and methods, and he knew the pain literature. I was deeply impressed by him and I decided that I needed to do graduate work and learn about science, methods and statistics. While in that master’s program, I became hooked on the process of science, which then lead me to the PhD.

How is your AADR membership helping you move your research forward?
The IADR Neuroscience Research Group is small but it’s very active and it has an amazing group of folks who work very effectively and collaboratively at making a really substantial research contribution to pain and TMD in neuroscience. The scientific sessions at the meeting are very constructive and they have been helpful to my research. It’s interesting for me because my Ph.D. is in clinical psychology and what I do as a clinician in my private practice is pain medicine and psychotherapy. It’s not really a common theme in the dental school setting. Yet, in the IADR and AADR community I find amazing colleagues with whom I have so much in common. It has been the staying factor over the years.

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of your AADR membership?
My participation in the International RDC/TMD Consortium Network is a valuable part of my membership. The Consortium has been a phenomenally potent organizing structure for the group of us who attend the IADR meetings. We’re focused on methodology, and in the area of pain research, methods are everything. Being able to meet face-to-face with colleagues from around the world, and to visit them in their countries to further the collaboration has all emerged from attending the IADR and AADR meetings. It all comes down to the marvelous colleagues who really value collaboration.

You’ve been successful at obtaining funding for your research. What advice would you offer to a junior investigator to help them find funding?
First, I think it comes down to good mentoring when you’re in your training phase and retaining a mentoring relationship when you finish your training phase because you’re never finished with your education. Mentors may change over the years because your needs may change—be open to that. Mentors are invaluable, and good mentoring relationships can provide a level of nurturing and maturation that can shorten the cycle of professional development—maybe with a mentor you can accomplish in several years what would take you 10 years to accomplish on your own. Second, find really good collaborators, especially a senior scientist with whom you can work. Collaboration with senior scientists and big projects is the wave of the future: the need for bigger impact and more robust studies pushes for multi-site research. Developing the skills to work as one part of a larger, complex research team is critical. Third, I suggest that researchers develop a good relationship with program officers at NIDCR or other institutes at NIH. Find the program officer that fits your research needs; program officers want to be helpful and provide guidance—for both career development and research program development. Program officers can be profoundly helpful if you know how to work with them. 



Robert Spears, M.S., Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, and director of curriculum and director of student research at the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. He received his B.S. in biology and M.S. in anatomy from Texas A&M University, and his Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from Texas A&M System Health Science Center. 

His has focused his research efforts toward the elucidation of signal transduction mechanisms during inflammatory joint diseases using an animal model of adjuvant-induced inflammation of the temporomandibular joint. Of particular interest is the role that different inflammatory mediators may play in the process, with emphasis upon the interaction between elements of the immune and nervous system. His research efforts have evolved around the examination of the involvement of proinflammatory cytokines, and recently the potential involvement of the sympathetic nervous system in chronic pain. 

Spears has multiple publications in the area and has been involved in numerous grants. However, a great deal of Spears’ efforts go toward educating students on the importance of dental research and including them as much as possible in getting involved in research efforts. For more than 15 years Spears has demonstrated a remarkable dedication to the Student Research Group at Baylor College of Dentistry, and has also lent his expertise to the AADR National Student Research Group, where he was a faculty advisor for 10 years. 

He spends numerous hours with student researchers and aids in their participation in numerous national meetings. His students have won numerous awards at national meetings and have held offices in the AADR National Student Research Group. In 2012, he was awarded the Mentor of the Year award by the AADR National Student Research Group. 

Spears has been an AADR member since 1987.

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
The most valuable benefit of my AADR membership is being able to collaborate with other members. Being part of AADR has allowed me to get to know the people in the field one-on-one. So many of the people associated with dental research and AADR are very helpful and supportive. Having those collaborations and friendships through AADR is important, you gain so much by being involved.  

How important has AADR been in your career?
AADR has done so much for me and my career. I think part of the reason I have gotten promotions and tenure within my career is through things I have done with AADR. Being involved in AADR has allowed me to fulfill a lot of my research requirements and as a faculty member I’m also expected to give back to the field. Additionally, through AADR I have an international reputation and more exposure, and I’ve met people through AADR who have written recommendation letters for me.  Without my involvement in AADR and the help I’ve received from the organization, there’s no way I’d be doing what I’m doing today.

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 very much where the future is going. One of the buzz words right now in dental education is inter-professional education. Whether you want to think of it as inter-professional or multiple-collaborations, I think what we’re starting to see a similar trend in research where it strengthens your career proposals and your research. The more you think of yourself along the lines of research and be involved in other sciences you will open yourself up to more collaborations, which ultimately will help to answer the questions we’re all asking. 

What is the best way for AADR members to become more involved in the Association?
I think one way people can get involved is to attend the AADR and IADR meetings, and attend the IADR Scientific Group/Network meetings. It’s important to join and be active in the Scientific Groups/Networks to meet people who have the same likes and interests as you. If you’re planning to attend an AADR/IADR meeting, present your research so that you gain some visibility or chair a session. There are all sorts of ways for members to be active in this organization, just don’t be shy about pursuing those opportunities.

What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers to help them be successful?
I think dental research is like most things in life: you get what you put into it. From a faculty standpoint, one of the expectations of us is that we give back to science by getting students involved, showing them what they can gain and help them pursue research, which can only benefit dental research. When you’re on the outside looking in as a student, entering the field of dental research can be intimidating. Really all it takes for a lot of students is encouragement and we need to continue to show them how exciting it is to be part of a scientific discovery that makes a difference in patient care, science and technology. Our students are the next generation of dental researchers and educators. If we don’t help them get involved and see their potential that they can have and contribute to AADR, we’re never going to get anywhere as a science.



Mary Walker, D.D.S., Ph.D., is associate dean for research and graduate programs and professor in the departments of oral and craniofacial sciences and restorative dentistry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Dentistry. She was previously a faculty member at the University of Nebraska College of Dentistry. Prior to her academic career, Walker owned a solo general dentistry practice.

Walker received a D.D.S. from the University of Nebraska College of Dentistry, and a prosthodontics certificate and Ph.D. in oral biology from UMKC as a trainee supported by an NIH/NIDCR-sponsored T32 grant. She has been involved in translational and clinical research related to mineralized tooth structure and biomaterials. Besides clinically relevant evaluations of various dental materials, another current investigation (NIH/NIDCR R01) is focused on the effects of oral cancer radiotherapy on the dentition.

Walker also serves as the program director for the Oral and Craniofacial Sciences Graduate Program as well as the director for the Summer Scholars Program, a research-focused program for dental students during the summer after their first year.  Throughout her career, she has mentored many M.S., Ph.D. and pre-doctoral dental students, graduate specialty residents and postdoctoral fellows.

Walker was the recipient of the 2013 AADR National Student Research Group Faculty Mentor Award and is currently a member-at-large on the AADR Board of Directors. She has been an AADR member since 1997.

How important has AADR been in your career?
AADR has been an excellent organization, especially in terms of mentors. When I was a student and new faculty member, there were people who advised me regarding research as well as committee and service opportunities valuable for promotion and tenure. Access to collaborators through AADR has also been important and was a significant factor for my NIDCR-sponsored K23 mentored research career development award.  Certainly my mentor was critical, but she knew potential collaborators and supporters, and we reached out to them. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
I think it changes at different stages in your career. The mentorship was very important earlier in my career, but now the most important benefit is the collaboration and networking opportunities with other scientists. Collaborations between basic scientists and clinician scientists can optimize our approach to oral health research questions. 

How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of the field?
Cross-collaboration is critical to the entire field of healthcare in terms of thinking broader. The link between oral and systemic health needs our research focus.  AADR also has an opportunity to be a key player in dental education in relation to evidence-based practice and inter-professional education, because both components need to be supported by research.  Our relationship to education can possibly be broader than dentistry. Looking at NYU as an example, as part of the inter-professional approach to health care, the dental and nursing schools are a merged unit with oral health care educational and training interactions across programs.  Clearly the scope of practice is different for each, but AADR could be important for providing leadership and guidance on how to integrate research across professions.

Where do you feel the research community would be without AADR?
With everything AADR does in concert with IADR, would there be another organization to step up and do the work? AADR networking is critical for supporting cross-discipline research to answer questions related to dentistry and oral health. This is an organization that brings us all together—clinician educators, clinician scientists, and basic scientists. 

What is the best way for a newer AADR member to navigate their membership and become involved in the organization?
One of the best things to do initially is attend the new member orientation at the AADR Annual Meeting. Attending that meeting can help new members understand how AADR can be helpful from a career perspective. 



David Kohn, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA, with appointments in the School of Dentistry and College of Engineering. He received his B.S. in biomedical engineering from Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, (1983) and his Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania, USA (1989).

He joined the faculty at the University of Michigan in 1989 and has progressed through the academic ranks. He is director of an NIDCR training program in tissue engineering. In 2000-2001, Kohn was a visiting professor in the Craniofacial and Skeletal Diseases Branch of the NIH.

Kohn’s laboratory focuses on biomineralization, which is investigated by establishing structure-function relations in mineralized tissues and utilizing this information to develop biomimetic strategies to engineer tissue. By coupling mechanical, compositional and molecular analyses of tissues, Kohn’s laboratory has provided insight into mechanisms of bone fragility and mechanically mediated tissue adaptation. His lab has also used principles of biomineralization to design materials that can better control biological function and enable stem cells to regenerate larger, more spatially uniform volumes of tissue in vivo.

Kohn’s work has been funded by the NIH, National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense. He has published more than 100 papers, holds five patents and has more than 80 invited presentations. He has mentored 37 graduate students and seven post docs, and hosted visiting professors in his laboratory.

In addition to being active in IADR and AADR, Kohn is on the board of directors of the Society for Biomaterials and is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Union of Biomaterials Scientists and Engineers, In 2012, he received the IADR Isaac Schour Memorial Award, which is one of the IADR Distinguished Scientist Awards. He has been an IADR member since 1990.

What motivated you to join AADR?
My background and degrees are in bioengineering. I came to the University of Michigan in 1989, prior to the formation of the biomedical engineering department, and my appointment at the time was exclusively in the dental school. I was bringing a lot of bioengineering technology knowledge but I was fairly new to dentistry. I joined the IADR/AADR around that time and since then I have become involved in various aspects of the organization and gained a greater appreciation for oral health problems.

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
AADR is a very large organization and therefore very comprehensive, but at the same time the Scientific Research Groups and Networks make participation easy and enable me to make connections and collaborations. The size of AADR provides the comprehensive awareness of oral health while the small, friendly network of the Scientific Groups and Networks better facilitate collaborations. I’m involved in the Implantology and Mineralized Tissue IADR Scientific Groups. I’m also involved in a fair amount of student activities including Learn & Learning sessions, I’ve judged some Hatton competitions and I ran the Student Research Group at the University of Michigan. Being part of AADR has allowed me to be more engaged professionally in the oral health field.

How important has AADR been in your career?
AADR has been important in that it has enabled me to better put the work that I do in the context of oral health. At the AADR and IADR meetings there is a lot of interaction with people from the NIDCR and that is beneficial. All of those aspects have helped me get more entrenched in the AADR community, get funded as an individual, and help me to become the directed of our NIDCR-funded training grant because of my ability to better transition into oral health research.

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 very important to cross-collaborate with other scientific disciplines. Bringing science into teaching educational mission, as well as my personal success at my institution are both predicated on breaking down walls and collaborating with other disciplines. My own lab, our institution and our NIDCR-supported training grant have all been successful because of our ability as individuals and the dental school as a whole to interact with the medical school and our colleagues in engineering and chemistry. I think that flavor of breaking down barriers is definitely critical to success.

Why is it important for AADR members to be active in the Association?
Being engaged and serving the Association can provide you with more visibility and connections. One never knows where those connections and collaborations may lead. A new person coming into the organization might be intimidated by its size but when you become involved in the Scientific Groups and Networks you’ll find that it’s really easy to get involved and to know people. Being active in AADR is really important from a standpoint of giving back and giving service but also from a standpoint of creating visibility, especially for younger researchers and junior faculty who want to gain visibility.

What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
I have several pieces of advice for younger dental researchers. Number one: I encourage students to follow their passion. I have always believed that if someone is really interested in something they will put forth the effort because it really won’t seem like effort. Number two: research operates over a longer timeframe than other activities. Therefore, one has to be persistent and keep their eye on the vision. Number three: don’t be compartmentalized. It’s important to breakdown boundaries, especially across disciplinary collaborations. My last piece of advice is to surround yourself with good people, good mentors and good collaborators. I believe that over time, all of this advice will help someone mature as a researcher and be successful.   



Roger Johnson, D.D.S., Ph.D., is professor, periodontics and preventive sciences, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson. He has previously served on the faculty of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Dentistry, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Johnson earned his Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota and his D.D.S. from the University of Tennessee. His research interests are mechanisms in the etiology of periodontal disease, systemic effects of oral (endodontic) inflammation and the use of saliva as a diagnostic fluid. His clinical interests are periodontal diseases and osteoporosis.

He has mentored many students and faculty during the past 30+ years of research activity. He has been principal investigator for many grants, including studies of effects of microgravity on bone (NASA), development of a dental diet for dogs and cats (IAMS, Procter and Gamble), and the role of estrogen in inflammation (NIDCR).  He has been the faculty sponsor for several students in the AADR/ADEA Academic Careers Fellowship program and received the AADR National Student Research Group Mentor of the Year Award in 2009.

Johnson has been an AADR member since 1982. He has served on the IADR/AADR Journal of Dental Research Editorial Board and was active in the AADR Science Information Committee.

How did you first get involved with AADR?
I was first a member of the Canadian Association for Dental Research. When I moved to the United States I transferred my membership to AADR. What appealed to me about IADR was when I was in Canada there wasn’t a lot of dental research taking place in the institution. IADR was really the only way I could keep up with what was happening in the research world. Having my IADR membership was really a lifeline for me since I was in an area that was isolated, in regards to dental research.

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
By far the most valuable benefit for me has been the collaborating with other members and having networking opportunities. Being a member of AADR gives me access to people who have similar research interests as me. I’ve gotten involved in a student group and I rely heavily on the people who are mentors in other student groups to advise me on how to handle our student group. I also enjoy the high-tech symposia presentations at the Annual Meetings and find that to be important to my career. 

How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
I think it is essential because things are getting so complicated and knowledge is multiplied so quickly that it’s difficult for one person to keep track of everything in detail. Getting a good group of people together that have a goal and different approaches to the goal is the only way we can stay current with the literature. Otherwise, unless you have a photographic memory, it’s difficult to remember everything.

Where do you feel the research community would be without AADR’s influence?
I belong to other research groups and I believe that dentistry gets lost. Without AADR I don’t think we would have a vehicle for getting out our message. AADR is a forum for members to meet and talk about what’s important, and relay that information back to the public. 

What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
I have learned that it’s crucial to establish collaborations and meet the right people. A key piece of advice that I would offer is to find people with complementary interests. Once you have found the right collaborators, bring your own puzzle pieces to the problem so that you’re contributing science and knowledge. Establishing the right network is helpful in achieving research success. 



Janet Guthmiller, D.D.S., Ph.D., is associate dean for academic affairs and professor in the Department of Periodontology at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill School of Dentistry. Currently, she is leading the dental school in a comprehensive review and revitalization of the D.D.S. curriculum. Previously, she was full-time faculty at the University of Maryland and the University of Iowa where she was involved with predoctoral and postdoctoral education, maintained a private practice and performed research.
Guthmiller received her D.D.S. from the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, and her Periodontal Certificate and Ph.D. in cellular and structural biology from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio as a part of the NIH-sponsored Dentist-Scientist Program. Guthmiller’s NIDCR funded research has encompassed molecular biological studies of periodontal pathogens and expression and function of innate antimicrobials. She has published numerous manuscripts and abstracts. 
Guthmiller has been the recipient of collegiate, university and national teaching and mentoring awards, including the Faculty Mentor of the Year from the National Student Research Group of the AADR in 2007. She has mentored more than 35 students, many whom have received national research awards and leadership recognition. She is a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology, a fellow in the International College of Dentists and American College of Dentists, a Commission Consultant for the Commission on Dental Accreditation and associate editor for oral health for MedEdPORTAL Publications. She has been an AADR member since 1991.
What motivated you to join AADR? 
I joined as a student when I was in the Dental Scientist Program at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. As part of the program, I was conducting dental research and I became involved in AADR as a student member. I utilized AADR as a forum to network with people and to present my research findings. Subsequently I became involved in the AADR by serving on the Membership Committee, the National Affairs Committee, and most recently the National Student Research Group as a faculty mentor.
How would you describe the first time you attended an AADR Annual Meeting?
It was inspiring to walk into this community of scientists who were so welcoming to me as a student. They were very interested in my research and were inspiring and supportive by providing collaborations and resources to help me build my career. I found the AADR Annual Meeting to be very welcoming, encouraging and a very upholding and supportive environment as a student colleague.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
I think the most valuable benefit is the collaboration and networking that you experience through the organization, whether it is through Committee work or at the meetings. Another key benefit is the manner in which AADR supports and nurtures oral health research.
How valuable has your AADR membership been to your career?
It has been extremely valuable. At the beginning of my career, I utilized the resources and networking opportunities to establish collaborations, and to meet people with various scientific and educational perspectives. As my academic career continued – not just with my research but with my administrative appointments – AADR has remained a very vital piece that supports research in dental education. AADR has been a valued part of my portfolio.
How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
It’s essential. You have to have cross-fertilization and can’t be siloed. Our work is interdisciplinary and it needs to be translational. It’s vital that people are communicating across disciplines, and AADR meetings and other forums that AADR provides are an opportunity to immerse yourself into the world of oral health research.
What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers to help them be successful researchers?
The importance of staying connected and staying involved is critical. That’s why it’s necessary to have AADR as a foundational template so that you can reach out to people for encouragement and support during challenging times as well as when you’re looking for future collaborations. It’s that commitment and excitement that you get from an association such as AADR that keeps you inspired and gives you the necessary resources to be successful as a researcher and academician.

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