AADR Strides in Science Feb. 2009 - Sept. 2009

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.

September 2009

Lynn Johnson, Ph.D., is a clinical professor at the School of Information and a professor and assistant dean for informatics and innovation in the School of Dentistry, at the University of Michigan.

Since joining the School of Dentistry's faculty in the summer of 2002 as director of informatics and associate professor of dentistry, Johnson has spearheaded innovative uses of technology throughout the school to enhance learning.

Her leadership led to a partnership between the school and Apple, Inc., which was the first of its kind between the company and any professional school in the nation. The relationship has enabled students to create and access podcasts of classroom lectures via iTunes 

U from their personal computers or portable media devices to listen to the lectures anywhere and anytime. The initiative was featured in major print publications worldwide as well as on television and radio. For her efforts, Johnson was among 10 people nationwide who received Apple's inaugural honor, The Award for Innovation in Science, in 2007. The award recognized distinguished individuals in academia who developed new ways to use technology that enhance education and research.

In adddition to her current information technologies and informatics responsibilities, Johnson coordinates all e-learning activities throughout the School of Dentistry, which includes assisting faculty in developing online courses and assuming new responsibilities for developing educational collaborations between the School of Dentistry and schools in Brazil, China, England, and Ghana.

Johnson is a manuscript reviewer for the Journal of the American Dental Association and the Journal of Dental Education. She is the primary author of the educational software standards for the Working Group 5 (Dental Education and Research Systems) of the Task Force on Dental Informatics of the Accredited Standards Committee Medical Devices 156, which is sponsored by the American Dental Association.

AADR Member since 1996 


1975 B.A. Morningside College ( Iowa), English
1979 M.A. University of Iowa, Special Education, Learning and Emotional Disabilities
1993 Ph.D. University of Iowa, Instructional Design and Technology   

What are you currently researching?
I just finished an NIDCR grant for patients with genetic conditions, and I’m working to prepare open educational resources for educators in Africa. My current research includes developing and evaluating new strategies for delivering media effectively and efficiently to students, including podcasting and interactive patient simulations. In addition, I’m evaluating digital asset management systems, and developing and evaluating educational World Wide Web products for dental students and practitioners. 

How important is it for you to cross-collaborate with researchers in other scientific disciplines?Due to the nature of my career, it is imperative for me to cross-collaborate with other scientific disciplines, and that’s actually what I do. I don’t stay in one specific discipline. I travel across the board. In my field, content is created, and I enable it to be shared.  

What do you find is the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
One of the most valuable benefits of membership in AADR is being able to communicate and interact with other colleagues. The networking aspect is definitely important to me.  

As a teacher, what is something that you are most proud of that has occurred in your career?I believe that research is meant to be shared, and I encourage this. A few years ago, I introduced a new teaching strategy. One day after teaching, one of my students told me that they had studied that particular subject for an exam, but the day I taught it, they learned it. As someone who enables knowledge, I was touched by my student’s comment.

What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
One piece is to identify a good mentor, one who will put you first. Another piece of advice that I offer to students is for them to be responsible for their own careers from the very beginning.


August 2009

Aaron Weinberg, M.Sc., D.M.D., Ph.D., is professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, School of Dental Medicine, at Case Western Reserve University. Just two months ago, the CWRU School of Dental Medicine received a five-year, $9.5 million grant from NIDCR, which is the largest grant ever in the dental school's 117-year history. Under his direction as lead investigator, Weinberg and his team of researchers will unravel changes in the human body's innate immune system in HIV-infected people on antiretroviral therapies to provide new insights into how the body keeps us healthy.

Through four research projects funded by the grant, researchers will examine changes in the frontline defense humans have against infections, such as human beta defensins (hBDs) and other innate immune molecules, found in the epithelial linings of the mouth, skin and urogenital track, which are constantly challenged by bacteria, fungi and viruses.

In two projects, researchers will design, produce and share altered forms of beta defensins. These altered hBDs will be used to study molecular interactions between beta defensins and key receptors on human cells that the research group had previously identified as important for bolstering innate defenses.

In the third and fourth projects, researchers will identify altered proteins in human epithelial cells from HIV-infected individuals on HAART, compare tissue samples from warts associated with HIV-positive (on HAART) and normal individuals, and find genetic differences between individuals, to explain why some people produce more hBDs than others that could better protect individuals from infections, such as HPV.

Weinberg has co-authored numerous articles, many in high profile journals. Currently, he’s the principal investigator of RO-1 DE018276: Ontogeny of Oral Epithelial Antimicrobial Peptides and the new PO-1 DE019759: Oral Mucosal Immunity in Vulnerable HIV Infected Populations. He is co-investigator of P20 DA026133: Case Proteomics Center for HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse.

He has earned many accolades, including the NIH National Research Service Award. In 2002 he was voted a member of the Omicron Kappa Upsilon National Dental Honor Society.

AADR Member since 1990

1973     B.A., B.Sc.  George Washington University, Wash., D.C.,
1978     M.Sc.          Hebrew Univ. Sch. of Med., Jerusalem, Israel,
1981     D.M.D.        Hebrew Univ. Sch. of Med., Jerusalem, Israel,
                                 Dental Medicine
1989     Ph.D.           Hebrew Univ. Sch. of Med., Jerusalem, Israel,
                                 Microbiology/Oral Biology
1989-91   Post-doc  University of Texas Health Science Center,
                                 San Antonio, TX, Microbiology

Why is it important for you to be a member of AADR?For me, it’s only natural to be part of AADR. Being a member of AADR is important from a strategic and an information gathering perspective. It is the single most important dental research organization that I know of that brings people together from different institutions in the United States to talk science once a year. It is one of the organizations that meets my specific needs and it’s an integral part of the organizations to which I belong. Membership in AADR gives me an indispensible way to communicate with my colleagues in the field. It’s a great way for me to see what’s coming up the pike, with respect to their science, how it impacts my science, as well as how our science collectively impacts the aspirations of the funding agencies. We all want to know what the funding agencies are thinking about and AADR provides a platform on which I can communicate with NIDCR.

What is one of the benefits of attending AADR meetings?
AADR meetings are a great way for me to communicate to my colleagues the work that I’m doing and to learn what they’re doing. A good part of what we do isn’t at actual sessions, it’s in the hallways. You’ll see a lot of people talking in the hallways, and that generates a lot of interest. We all discuss our work and compare notes about our institutions. This includes problems we might be facing, common problems we have and how we are solving those issues. We compare notes on scientific and institutional levels, which is really important, and AADR provides us with an avenue to do that.

What response did you receive from your colleagues after the university was granted $9.5 million by the NIH to fund research on HIV and the human innate immune system?I have received many congratulatory emails from colleagues at CWRU and across the country, as well as well wishes from staff and students. One particular coworker congratulated me and said that she was so proud to be working at this institution. Sometimes we forget that we’re a big family and we’re all working at this institution collectively. To sense that feeling of collectivism is really encouraging. I tell my students that this doesn’t happen overnight—it’s a step-by-step process that requires a lot of hard teamwork.  By entrusting us with this funding, NIH is validating the work my collaborators and I have been doing over the last several years.

How are you and your colleagues sharing your research findings with students?
What we’re doing in the process of discovery, is conveyed in the lecture halls. Cutting-edge new research is taught to the students as it is being generated in labs in the same building, which is exciting. Sometimes we even have, in small groups, critical thinking exercises where we present the new data that we have generated. Students are given some background information and are asked to critically think about it and decide if there is validity in what we are thinking. They are also asked to identify the problems that we still have to overcome in order to prove our point. The process of discovery is being done in laboratories in my department and other departments in our school, but we talk about these things in small groups among the students. Students are encouraged to participate in the thinking aspect of the work. I think there is an advantage to being able to convey the science to students so that they can benefit from what we are doing. Of course, the summer research program is a direct avenue through which dental students can gain hands on experience in conducting supervised research in myriad topics ranging from HIV research to community outreach and disparities studies.

What is some of the advice you offer to your students to help them further their dental career?I tell them to love what they do. They must go after their career goals with passion. Before they apply to dental school, many of my students want to have an experience in research. They come to me initially to ask questions about research. Some want to enhance their chances of acceptance into dental school or medical school by having a research experience prior to applying. I caution them that if they are going to work in the lab, they have to give 110 percent and that they are entitled to ask any and all questions that pop up in their minds. They do the reading, they talk to people in the labs, and we collectively choose a project. Then, they move ahead with the research. We have regular weekly lab meetings, and they see the order in which things are done. They report their findings, and we work through issues and problems that need resolution. There is added benefit to doing research. One is being able to speak the language and communicate clearly. Students have to be able to communicate their research. All of it is an academic endeavor that requires a lot of discipline along with critical thinking.


July 2009

Judith A. Jones, D.D.S., M.P.H., D.Sc.D., is professor and chair of the Department of General Dentistry at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. She holds a joint appointment as an associate professor of health policy and management in the School of Public Health.


Jones’ first love is working with students and colleagues to conduct patient-oriented research. Over the past two decades, she has made significant contributions to the state of the knowledge about long-term oral health care, oral health outcomes, and the relationship between oral and systemic diseases. Much of her current research focuses on the development of dental outcome measures.

Jones is principal investigator on VA QUERI 99.206: Periodontal Care and Glycemic Control in Diabetes. In this study, she has tested the efficacy of periodontal therapy in improving the level of glycemic control in persons with poorly controlled diabetes.

Jones served three years in the U.S. Public Health Service, then joined the Department of Veterans Affairs-Bedford in 1983. She completed a Dentist-Geriatric Fellowship Program with the VA (Bedford and Boston OPC), directed the Geriatric Fellowship Program and the Geriatric Dental Program, and served as chief of the Dental Service from 1994-1998. She was awarded the VA Career Development Award in Health Services Research and served as head of the Outcomes Section at the VA Center for Health Quality, Outcomes, and Economic Research from 2001-2003.

In 2007, Jones was received the IADR Distinguished Scientist Award. In March 2009, the American Dental Education Association Gies Foundation honored her with its William J. Gies Award for Innovation, for her work as the inaugural chair of the Department of General Dentistry at Boston University.

AADR Member since 1986

1972  Certificate University of Michigan, Dental Hygiene
1978  D.D.S.  University of North Carolina
1981  M.P.H  University of North Carolina
2002  D.Sc.D.  Boston University School of Dental Medicine

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?Working with colleagues on programs and projects over the decades has been very exciting. Membership in AADR has allowed me to learn what other colleagues are doing in other places of the country, which is an exciting benefit.

What made you decide to pursue a career in dental research?
My beginnings are in dental hygiene. When I was in dental hygiene school, I would ask a lot of questions; many times my professors didn’t know the answers. It was during dental hygiene school that I was bitten by the ‘dental research bug’, but I never could conduct any research until I was out of dental school and residency and into my fellowship. Following this, there was a period of time when I was given the opportunity to pursue the ideas that I had. I’ve always been naturally curious, so that allowed me to follow up on my curiosity.

What are you currently researching?I’m looking at the impact of oral conditions on the quality of life—I work with several groups to develop practical instruments to use throughout the life cycle. One team is developing instruments for children, another in adults, the homeless and older adults, to measure the impact of dental care and dental conditions in their day-to-day lives.

My second line of research is looking at variations in dental care. I’ve worked with a group in the VA for a number of years looking at the ratios between root canal procedures and tooth extractions. When you meet a patient who has a choice between having a tooth extracted or getting a root canal, it’s interesting to look at what makes that person select an option, especially because there are racial variations in the ratios. For example, in our work in the VA, even after adjusting for important risk factors, we found that African Americans tend to get fewer root canals and more extractions; the ratio is different for them than it is for whites, Hispanics or Asians. We don’t know why, we just know what has happened. As a follow-up, right now we’re getting ready to look at whether patient-centered counseling, i.e., laying out the advantages and disadvantages of each option, makes a difference in the choices that patients make.

As the Principal Investigator of QUERI 99.206: Periodontal Care and Glycemic Control in Diabetes, please describe this research study.That clinical trial is almost completed. We have done the baseline and four-month reports, and I have written a draft of the twelve-month paper. Our research question was to see if periodontal therapy improved glycemic control in veterans’ poorly controlled diabetes and periodontal disease. We did this in the VA, where we have access to many large national databases that provide rich information about the patients.

In the first four months, we looked at whether treatment versus lack of treatment improved the glycemic control. What we found is that both groups improved their glycemic control. We were actually surprised to see that there wasn’t a larger difference. Rather, there was a small, nonsignificant difference. However, we also found that the people who received the periodontal therapy were less likely to increase their insulin and more likely to decrease their insulin requirements during that four-month period. While we didn’t see the results we expected, we did see changes in medication that could have added to the lack of difference in effect.

We pursued it over a twelve-month period and looked at people who had periodic periodontal treatment every four months versus people who had four months of treatment and then afterward followed up with their usual provider—which in some cases was none. What we found was very surprising. The people who were on the ‘every-four-months’ treatment over the course of a year did worse than those who were treated with nonsurgical therapy and then stopped. That was very different from what we expected. What we thought about it is that every time a patient receives treatment, he/she is increasing inflammation and inflammatory cytokines, and those inflammatory cytokines actually helped to worsen the glycemic control. It’s a very complicated picture.

One of your students won the best abstract award at this year’s IADR General Session & Exhibition in Miami, Florida. Do you feel a sense of accomplishment when your students receive accolades for their work?
It’s really an affirmation of the work that I’m doing. It feels great to have my students succeed and to see them submit abstracts to have their work recognized. I encourage them to pursue their dreams and to have the fortitude to take something from the beginning and see it to completion. I support them in their pursuits and try to help them realize that if they put that much work into their research, they need to share the findings.

What is a message that you would give to future dental students?The message is to join us. Know the fun of learning and sharing new discoveries. I think that the fun of learning something new and then sharing it is motivational. My mentor, Howard Chauncey, would always say that it’s really important for you to think about what you want in life. He said that one can make a lot of money in many different ways, but if you do research it’s really fun. I think that’s very true.


June 2009

Rulang Jiang, M.S., Ph.D., is an associate professor (with tenure) at the Center for Oral Biology and Department of Biomedical Genetics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York.

Jiang recently made headlines when his research team discovered the genetic mechanism patterning mammalian teeth into a single row (read more in the March issue of the Science Advocate). He described the finding as “exciting because extra teeth developed from tissue that normally does not give rise to teeth." This discovery may help guide efforts to re-grow missing teeth and prevent cleft palate.

Jiang is currently the Principal Investigator of three NIH/NIDCR-funded contracts: NIH R01 DE013681, “Molecular Genetic Analysis of Craniofacial Development”; NIH R01 DE015207, “Genetic Basis of Cleft Lip and Palate”; and NIH P50 DE16215-0005, “Oral Cleft Pathogenesis in a Mutant Mouse Model” (sub-contract from University of Iowa Craniofacial Anomalies Research Center, which is directed by Jeffrey Murray, M.D.).

He has served on the Editorial Board of the IADR/AADR Journal of Dental Research, and has served as the president, secretary, treasurer and Annual Meeting committee chair of the AADR Rochester Section.

AADR Member since 2003
1984  B.S. Nanjing Normal University, Biology
1987  M.S.  Chinese Academy of Sciences, Genetics
1995  Ph.D.,  Wesleyan University, Biology

How has the discovery of why teeth form in a single row given more exposure to your current research?
In my lab, we are studying the genetic basis of cleft lip and cleft palate, and the patterning of the mammalian dentition. That discovery reinvigorated the studies of tooth development, a classic model for understanding how organs form, and, more recently, a model for biological organ regeneration. Further studies of the mechanisms regulating tooth development and regeneration will also help our studies of palate development, because several key molecular pathways are involved in both. The publicity from the discovery also helps educate the general public about the importance of, and enhances their support for, basic biomedical research in the area of craniofacial development.

Why did you choose this research field?I was trained in my graduate and postdoctoral studies in the fields of developmental biology and mouse genetics. One of the mutant mouse strains I generated in my postdoctoral studies had a cleft palate phenotype. I looked into how well people understood cleft palate. It’s really a common birth defect, but there is very little understanding in terms of etiology and molecular pathogenic mechanisms. I chose craniofacial development as my independent research area basically to bring my expertise into this important area of biology, and to make significant contributions to the understanding of craniofacial birth defects.

How has AADR helped you further your research?
When I was establishing my lab, one of the first things I did as a new AADR member was to present my research at an AADR Annual Meeting, by doing a Lunch & Learning session to talk about using mouse models to study the genetics of craniofacial development. It was well-received, and gave me exposure to dental and craniofacial researchers. It was a general means of networking as well. Since my research focuses on craniofacial development, it’s important for me to interact with other dental and craniofacial researchers, which I’m able to do at AADR meetings.

How do you and your students benefit from attending AADR meetings?I attend the meetings to present reports on new discoveries in my lab and to find new collaborators. I encourage my students to attend AADR and IADR meetings to be exposed to the various disciplines in dental and craniofacial research. In addition, I encourage them to present their research findings. There are so many different subject areas, and the symposia are beneficial in broadening the students’ knowledge in different areas of dental and craniofacial research.

What advice do you offer to future dental students?
I tell students to get involved and promote dental and craniofacial research, and to look at their own field in a broader scope to come up with original ideas. To develop a deeper understanding, we need to interact and collaborate with people in other fields.


May 2009

Titus Schleyer, D.M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., currently works as an associate professor and director at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Dental Informatics. He’s also an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics, School of Medicine, and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, also at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been teaching and conducting research at the University of Pittsburgh since 2002.

As of 2009, Schleyer has published one book and more than 55 peer-reviewed articles (34 as first author), and presented over 25 posters at national and international conferences. He is a reviewer for several informatics-related and dental journals, and he often peer-reviews grant applications for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

AADR Member since 2006

1987 D.M.D.  University of Frankfurt/Germany, Dentistry
1989 Ph.D.  University of Frankfurt/Germany, Molecular Biology
1991 D.M.D  Temple University School of Dentistry
1995 M.B.A.  Temple University School of Business, Health Administration

How did you become involved in the field of dental informatics?
I started computer programming as a teenager. However, I wanted to be part of a field with more contact with people, so I entered dental school. During dental school, I continued to work with computers and became aware of the possibility of integrating these two interests through working in the Department of Medical Informatics at the University of Frankfurt, Germany. I was able to do this when I moved to the United States and accepted a position at Temple University.

What do you consider the “hot topics” in dental informatics?The clinical applications—for instance, voice recognition and controlled vocabulary for patient records—as well as 3-D visualization to create a ‘virtual patient’.

Have you noticed an increase in awareness about dental informatics?
Dental informatics seems to be growing in familiarity, and this is a trend we hope continues. While the first Medline reference to dental informatics was in 1986, it has not been widely recognized as a research field, but my being a member of AADR and presenting at the Annual Meetings make the topic more recognized. As the research area is more widely known, the chances for additional funding and collaboration should increase.

How has AADR enabled you to inform others about dental informatics?I first became a member of AADR in 2006, and I was encouraged to attend and present at an AADR meeting. We submitted an abstract and it was accepted, and we continue to present at the AADR meetings. The AADR meeting seemed to be a great method of “getting out the word” on dental informatics. Additionally, AADR serves as a great forum to come into contact with other researchers and dental practitioners. These collaborations benefit both the dental informatics team as well as the practitioners.

Do you encourage your students to present and become involved with AADR?
I enjoy working with the students and encourage them to present at AADR meetings. Presenting allows the students to develop their professional identity.


April 2009

Jane A. Weintraub, D.D.S, M.P.H., is the first recipient and current incumbent of the Lee Hysan Chair in Oral Epidemiology and Dental Public Health, the first endowed chair at the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry. She serves as chair, Division of Oral Epidemiology and Dental Public Health in the Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences. She has been the Principal Investigator and Director of the NIH/NIDCR-funded UCSF Center to Address Disparities in Children’s Oral Health since 2001. The initial seven-year budget for this Center was about $11 million. The aims of this multi-disciplinary Center are to understand, prevent and reduce oral health disparities, with a special focus on preventing early childhood caries, a condition that disproportionately affects young children from disadvantaged backgrounds, often at around age one soon after their teeth erupt, and is difficult and expensive to treat. Under Weintraub’s leadership, the successful competitive renewal of this Center for another seven years was recently awarded by the NIH, totaling more than $24 million.

Weintraub’s research has focused on the epidemiology of oral conditions and caries prevention-oriented randomized clinical trials. Her patient and population-based research, with applications to dental patients or the larger community, spans the continuum of epidemiology, clinical research, health disparities research and health policy. At UCSF, Weintraub directed the landmark NIH-funded randomized clinical trial that demonstrated the efficacy of fluoride varnish and parental oral health counseling in preventing early childhood caries. The favorable results provide the evidence-base for the use of fluoride varnish for this purpose.

Weintraub was on the faculty at Harvard University, the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina prior to coming to UCSF in 1995. She is a past president of both the Behavioral Sciences and Health Services Research Group of the International Association of Dental Research (IADR) and the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, and has served as Board Member-At-Large of the American Association of Dental Research. She was one of the scientific editors and contributing authors for the first Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health.

AADR Member since 1984

1975  B.S.     University of Rochester, Biology/Geology
1979  D.D.S.  State University of New York at Stony Brook, School
                      of Dental Medicine, Dentistry
1980  M.P.H.  Harvard University School of Public Health
1982              Harvard University School of Dental Medicine,
                      Postdoc. Certificate, Dental Care Administration
1985              Board-certified in dental public health

You received the IADR H. Trendley Dean Memorial Award at this year’s IADR General Session and AADR Annual Meeting. What does it mean for you to receive this prestigious award?It means a lot to me. I know many of the people who have received the award in the past, and some were my mentors. This award represents the work that I’ve done over the years with my colleagues at UCSF and elsewhere.

What motivated you to work to address and reduce disparities in oral health?
The existence of this critical public health problem in young children motivated me. Before we started, there was a statewide survey that showed that the prevalence of dental caries was much higher in preschool-aged children from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds than those from families with more resources. Dental treatment can be very difficult for young children, requiring sedation or general anesthesia making it expensive for families, especially for those with lower incomes and lower health literacy. Dental caries should be preventable. Therefore, we are focusing on ways to better understand and prevent this condition in high risk populations.

Recently, the NIH awarded you a grant totally more than $24 million. How will this grant support your research and the UCSF Center to Address Disparities in Children’s Oral Health?My background is as a public health dentist and I’m always looking for ways to prevent oral diseases. The grant funding will serve as the operating budget for the Center and will enable us to launch new prevention, and dissemination research efforts, focus on the factors that contribute to oral health disparities among various racial and ethnic groups, and get new investigators from different disciplines involved in the process. One of our new projects is getting WIC [Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program] and primary care providers in community health centers involved in the Center’s research. We need to figure out how to get the message about the importance of oral health and baby teeth to parents, and fluoride varnish to their kids. We know that many low-income families use WIC services and are more likely obtain medical than dental care for young their pre-school children, so we’re engaging these agencies and settings in our efforts.

How has membership in AADR been advantageous to your career?
AADR is very important for my career and for the dental research community. The Association is our voice in Washington. With the current economic stimulus package including funds for NIH research and the potential for real healthcare reform looming, advocacy for oral health is critical. On a personal level, over the years at the Annual Meetings I’ve met future employers, mentors, and collaborators. The meetings are a fun way for me to see and stay connected with colleagues and friends from around the country.

What message do you give to dental students who attend the AADR Annual Meeting for the first time?Leading up to the Annual Meeting, I gave three recommendations to students. First, I encouraged them to attend sessions that were outside of their immediate area of interest to broaden their horizons; second, to find out who the inspiring and talented speakers are in certain fields, then go listen to them to see and learn how people give good presentations; and third, to network to get to know investigators in their research area and share perspectives.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your career?
The mentorship part—seeing my former students be successful—is a rewarding aspect of my career. It is also very rewarding to be able to make a difference in the public’s health. The results of our fluoride varnish-parental counseling randomized clinical trial demonstrated that we prevented early childhood caries in the treatment groups in a dose-response relationship. The process of identifying a problem, conducting a clinical trial to assess the efficacy of a preventive agent, and obtaining favorable results has led to changes in Medicaid and other health policies. We are now working to increase the dissemination of these methods. The ability to see our clinical research findings translated into action to improve oral health is very gratifying. It has been rewarding to identify a problem, do a clinical trial and get good results, change policy, and increase dissemination of those methods to improve the health of the public.


March 2009

Keith Kirkwood, D.D.S., Ph.D., is the chair of the Department of Craniofacial Biology and associate dean for research at the College of Dental Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). In addition, he’s the director of the university’s Center for Oral Health Research.

Kirkwood is currently the principal investigator of several research projects, including one titled “Altering Cytokine mRNA Stability in Periodontal Bone Loss.” The goal of this project is to determine if the role of an RNA-binding protein in cytokine expression and periodontal inflammatory bone loss.

Kirkwood has received many accolades for his research, including the Osseointegration Academy Award for Young Investigators, the University at Buffalo’s Young Investigator Award, and a 2005-2008 Tarrson Fellowship from the American Academy of Periodontology. In addition, in 2008, Kirkwood was awarded the prestigious IADR and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Innovation in Oral Care Award for “Targeting Post-transcriptional Signaling for Periodontitis.” The goal of this project is to use siRNA strategies to silence p38 MAPK in vivo to reduce inflammatory cytokine expression and LPS-induced alveolar bone loss in established rat models of periodontal inflammation.

Kirkwood’s abstracts have been published in myriad journals, including the IADR/AADR’s Journal of Dental Research, the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, Molecular Therapy, and the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

AADR Member since 1988
1987  B.A.           West Virginia University, Chemistry
1991  D.D.S.        West Virginia University, Dentistry
1995  Certificate  State University of New York at Buffalo, Periodontics
1997  Ph.D.          State University of New York at Buffalo, Oral Biology
1999  Post.Doc.   State University of New York at Buffalo, Molecular Biology

What impact has AADR had on your career?
Early on, I was asked to be an officer in the Pharmacology/Therapeutics/Toxicology Scientific Group. Through that opportunity, I had an outreach to like-minded people. Being a network officer contributed to the leadership skills that I’m using today.

How has cross-collaboration helped you evolve as a researcher?Through collaboration, I’ve been able to expand to head and neck cancer research. It has broadened my répertoire of funding and strengthened the research dollars I can potentially bring to my university.

Where do you think the dental research community would be without AADR?
Without AADR I don’t think we would have an identity. There are many areas of dental research, and AADR provides a venue for the dental community. The Association helps solidify dental research that everyone can relate to. AADR is a mechanism for us to stay current in the field of dental research, and it’s the only mechanism that directly impacts the field.

What message do you want to give to future dental researchers?It’s important for students to find the right mentor. That person can keep them motivated in dental research. For students to be successful, they have to have perseverance, and the right mentor needs to understand that. Having that person is important in keeping students on track.


February 2009

Scott L. Tomar, D.M.D., M.P.H., Dr.PH., is professor and chair of the Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science at the University of Florida College of Dentistry. Among his major research interests are the epidemiology and health effects of tobacco use; understanding and eliminating disparities in oral cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and outcomes; oral health surveillance; and facilitating access to prevention and treatment services for vulnerable populations.

Tomar is currently president-elect of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, Past President of the Behavioral, Epidemiologic & Health Services Research Group of the International Association for Dental Research, and former editor-in-chief of the Journal of Public Health Dentistry. He currently serves as an elected member of the AADR/IADR Joint Publications Committee.

Tomar serves as a consultant to numerous international, national, and state agencies, including the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the American Dental Association.

Tomar is the recipient of many awards, including the NIH National Research Service Award, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Public Health Service On-the-Spot Award, and the American Association of Public Health Dentistry’s Distinguished Service Award. He’s also a member of the Omega Kappa Upsilon honor dental society, Xi Omicron Chapter.

AADR Member since 1991
1980   B.A.            Temple University, Sociology
1984   D.M.D.         Temple University School of Dentistry, Dentistry
1989   M.P.H.         Columbia University School of Public Health, General
                              Public Health
1991   Certificate   University of Michigan School of Public Health, Dental
                              Public Health
1993   Dr.PH.         University of Michigan School of Public Health, Oral

What motivated you to join AADR?
I joined AADR to stay current with the state of science in my field of oral epidemiology and to network with others in the field. It’s essential to belong to an association like AADR that speaks for the dental research community in terms of advocacy, funding, and policy initiatives. The Association provides tangible benefits to individual members and to the broader dental research community. It’s also an incredible venue for networking, and AADR fosters collaboration with researchers at other institutions.

What are you currently researching?I’m currently researching oral cancer and searching for ways to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in its detection and outcomes. This research is intended to improve access to prevention in underserved communities. I’m also part of a research team that is running a community-based trial designed to increase access and use of oral health services among people living with HIV. We are doing an 18-month follow-up and have had great success with retention.

How do you increase awareness about oral cancer?
I’m involved in a social marketing effort to increase awareness of oral cancer and to convey the message that something can be done to detect the disease at early stages and improve the prognosis. We have had great success in increasing knowledge and intention to be screened, but haven’t yet seen a major change in the proportion of people who are examined. The next step in this effort is to work with primary health care providers to increase their confidence and competence in detecting and managing these cancers and communicating with their patients about oral cancer.

What message do you want to give to future dental researchers?Try to identify a couple of people in your field who can serve as good mentors and who can show you the ropes. Success in dental research involves more than knowing the science. It’s important to connect with others who are more experienced and learn from them. To be successful, it’s extremely important to meet others who are facing similar challenges and learn from their experience. 


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