AADR Strides in Science August 2014-April 2015

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.

APRIL 2015

This month, AADR is featuring AADR Institutional Section Member the University of California, San Francisco, School of Dentistry in the Strides in Science. AADR interviewed Dean John D.B. Featherstone to learn more about the research opportunities available to students and the scientific advances the school is making. 

The UCSF School of Dentistry’s mission is advancing oral, craniofacial and public health through excellence in education, discovery and patient-centered care. Its research efforts are continually revitalized and expanded, and it remains at the forefront of basic science and translational research, bringing the benefits of its efforts into the clinic and into the classroom. The students are sophisticated consumers of scientific information and often accomplished scientists as well, expanding knowledge with beneficial implications for patient care and beyond. 

In addition to research, following are some of the specific ways the UCSF School of Dentistry is serving the community and fulfilling its educational mission in San Francisco, throughout California, and beyond:

  • Admissions - Its redesigned online admissions process speeds access to information and answers for applicants through the increasing use of technology and procedural refinements. The UCSF School of Dentistry continually seeks ways to broaden and diversify the pool of potential applicants, to create entering classes reflective of the community.
  • Predoctoral Education - A more rigorous and better-designed academic program, provides its predoctoral dental students with a quality educational experience that prepares them for the real world of their profession, and for the highest standards of practice.
  • Clinical Services – The UCSF School of Dentistry’s excellent patient-centered care is available to the public at a reasonable cost, on the main San Francisco campuses and at community clinics throughout the State of California. In these clinics patients are assessed and treated with humanity and respect, as individuals, in a way that's best able to meet their needs in basic dentistry and in a variety of orofacial disciplines.
  • Outreach - The UCSF School of Dentistry seeks to provide services and educational opportunity to a broad and diverse constituency of patients and students. To accomplish this, it reaches out to understand who is not being served and why, making it a goal to provide opportunities to receive care and to learn — for all of California.

The USCF School of Dentistry is committed to training the next generation of dental scholars and faculty members. It offers Ph.D. and master’s degree programs in oral and craniofacial sciences, a combined D.D.S.-Ph.D. program, and a combined Ph.D.-dental specialty training program. Other graduate programs include craniofacial and mesenchymal biology and bioengineering. 

What is one of the main research goals of the School of Dentistry?
Our vision is to be a worldwide leader in dental education and public health, clinical practice, and scientific discovery. The School of Dentistry has the highest NIH funding for any dental school in the country. With that, the research varies from basic biological science to applied clinical science, epidemiology and public policy—it’s a very broad spectrum. 

How is the School of Dentistry encouraging students to pursue careers in dental research?
We have several ways of encouraging students to enter the field of dental research. We have a summer research fellowship that students may take advantage of after their first year. Between their first and second year they typically have about 8-10 weeks. They are encouraged to apply for a research fellowship that funds them to work in a research laboratory or in clinical sciences during that 8-10 week time period so that they can do a genuine research project that’s very intense. We have a highly competitive Dental Scientist Training Program, which is an eight-year program in which students participate in a D.D.S./Ph.D. program that has the potential to create amazing future faculty members. This program is partially funding by the school and an NIH Training Grant. We also have a Master of Science program in oral and craniofacial sciences that we encourage our residents to complete. These are people who are coming in for specialty programs, including pediatric dentistry. This is a three-year residency program and this encourages our residents to experience research. Annually in October we have a research and clinical excellence day where students are encouraged to share their research. The most recent program, held on October 17, 2014, was the largest ever, featuring nine research presentations and 61 poster presentations. The best of those students go on to present their research at national and international meetings and we find ways to fund these opportunities. 

How do you prepare students to present their research at scientific meetings?
Mentors really play an integral part in preparing students to present their research. The mentors help with coaching and rehearsals, and the fact that we have a research day also helps because the students are able to experience presenting their research, being question and receiving feedback. 

What is some of the research the School of Dentistry is producing?
The School of Dentistry is producing exciting research that will improve the future of dental health. A few projects to note include Sarah Knox’s work on the regeneration of salivary glands that have been compromised. Another is Dan Fried’s research on early detection of dental decay using laser light—he has some very successful technology there that hasn’t yet been commercialized. The kinds of detection that can be done with that technology will partially displace the use of x-rays, which is exciting from a preventive dentistry point of view. Years ago the School of Dentistry created a system called Caries Management by Risk Assessment that is a way of providing a risk assessment up front. Every patient that comes into our clinics has a caries risk assessment preformed at the first exam. That determines whether they have risks for future decay and also determines the underpinning for their treatment plan, which includes chemical therapy as well as general restorative work. We have outcomes research on that now and it’s spreading across the world and being adopted by dental schools worldwide. That was derived partially on my team’s research combining with similar research groups across the world. Also, although we have a strong push in research we’re also strong in clinical dentistry. We have an amazing clinical teaching program with many experts in the clinical dentistry field. 


MARCH 2015

Dana Graves, D.D.S., D.M.Sc. is the vice dean for scholarship and research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, Philadelphia. There, he is also a professor in the Department of Periodontics and director of the Doctor of Science in Dentistry Program. In addition to research, he practices at the Penn Dental Faculty Practice. 

He earned his D.D.S. degree from Columbia University, New York. He also earned a certificate in periodontology and a D.M.Sc. in oral biology from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston, Mass.  

Graves’ research interests seek to understand how inflammation affects bone, stimulating resorption and limiting repair of damaged structures. These studies examine the impact of inflammation on cell death and proliferation, and include the activation of transcription factors that regulate critical gene targets. Another major area of his research examines how diabetes-associated cytokine dysregulation may represent a common link in a number of diabetic complications, including periodontal disease and impaired wound healing.

With an established record of notable contributions to the fields of inflammation, diabetes, vascular function and wound healing, Graves is a world leader in periodontal research. Since 1984, his research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health. His publication record gives evidence of his high productivity with more than 150 manuscripts published in peer-reviewed high-level journals, and his work is highly cited by fellow scholars.

Graves joined AADR in 1984 and currently serves on the IADR/AADR Publications Committee. In 2014 he received the IADR Distinguished Scientist Award for Basic Research in Periodontal Disease. This award is designed to recognize, encourage and stimulate outstanding achievements in basic research in periodontal disease.

What is the most valuable benefit of your AADR membership?
While I find value in all of the benefits, I think that the most valuable one for me is access to the online Journal of Dental Research. I find that it is an important vehicle for disseminating information and for researchers to publish their work. It’s also a way to participate in the dental and oral health research community.  

How important has AADR been to your career?
I have enjoyed my AADR membership and in particular, the JDR has been extremely important. Some of the research I’ve wanted other scientists to see has been published in the JDR. It’s an important publication in dentistry—it’s necessary for dentistry to have a recognized and esteemed publication in which we can publish our research, and the JDR has that reputation. That is one aspect of my membership that has been valuable to my career. Attending the meetings has also been important to my career because, in addition to sharing my research in the JDR, I’m able to present it at AADR meetings, 

Describe the first time you attended an AADR Annual Meeting.
I attended my first AADR meeting when I was a young faculty member at Boston University. I enjoyed that meeting so much and as result, I have consistently attended the IADR and AADR meetings over the course of my career. The IADR Scientific Groups and Networks organize symposia at the meetings and I find great value in that because that research has an impact on the field.

What would you say to other AADR members to encourage them to be more involved in a Scientific Group or Network? 
I think that one of the best ways to get involved in a Scientific Group or Network is to attend an AADR Annual Meeting or an IADR General Session and attend the symposia that your Group/Network has organized. Doing so allows people to network with others in their field and meet new researchers for future collaborations. 

What is a message you would give to future dental researchers to encourage them to thrive in this field?
One piece of advice is that an academic career can be very rewarding. The problem many dental students face is that when they graduate they are often in debt and they don’t have various avenues they’re interested in pursuing because their debt burden may limit what they do. If they can get beyond that I think they will find an academic career to be rewarding and they’ll realize that there are many ways to participate in one. We need to remember that the financial barrier to an academic career is substantial but if the field wants more students to go into academics, we have to look at the issue of reducing the financial barriers. That is just one of the reasons why advocacy and collaborating with other researchers are so important because they lead to more opportunities. 



Ananda P. Dasanayake, B.D.S., M.P.H., Ph.D., F.A.C.E., is a professor of epidemiology and health promotion at the New York University College of Dentistry and School of Nursing. He also holds appointments in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health as an associate and at the New York University School of Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center as a member. 

Dasanayake’s earned his B.D.S. in dentistry at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Afterward, he went on to earn his M.P.H. in dental public health and Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  Additionally, he is a fellow of the American College of Epidemiology. 

His research interests include the epidemiology of dental caries, prevention of transmission of Mutans Streptococci from mother to infant, dental health services utilization by minorities, oral cancer epidemiology, and perinatal periodontal health and poor pregnancy outcomes. He also has an interest in the barriers in meeting Healthy People 2020 objectives in relation to dental sealants.

Dasanayake has been an active IADR/AADR member since 1991 and has presented his research at numerous IADR and AADR meetings. He has remained engaged in the Associations by serving on the JDR Editorial Board, and being an IADR symposium organizer and a Lunch & Learning organizer. He is a 1994 co-recipient of the IADR/AADR William J. Gies Award, which is named after the founder of the IADR/AADR Journal of Dental Research

How did you first get involved with AADR?
I decided to join IADR/AADR when I was a graduate student at the University of Alabama. Once I joined, I submitted my abstract for presentation at the 1991 IADR General Session in Acapulco, Mexico, and my abstract was accepted. I was excited to attend my very first IADR meeting because I was going to present my research and meet some of the researchers I had read about in publications. Some of the people I met at that very first meeting later became my friends. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
The most valuable benefit of my AADR membership is meeting researchers and having the opportunity to network and collaborate with them. I also enjoy the sharing of knowledge and science that takes place at the meetings. People who are interested in dental research should definitely attend the meetings because attending provides an opportunity to meet other scientists, which could lead to future collaborations. If someone is not attending the meetings but they are interested in research, they are missing a wonderful opportunity. 

How important do you think cross-collaboration is to the future of the field?
I think cross-collaboration is critically important to the advancement of science. There was a time when people did their science by themselves. However, now science is multidisciplinary and collaborative—a single person won’t possess all of the expertise to answer the complex questions that we are addressing in oral health. It’s important to assemble a team of people who can come together to answer the questions that we face today. For instance, as a clinical researcher, I often try to interact with the basic science researchers so I can better understand ‘their’ world—and educate them about ‘our’ world—and identify the opportunities for mutually beneficial collaborations.

What’s a message you want to give to dental students to encourage them to pursue careers in dental research?
In my observations I have noticed that a small percentage of students go on to pursue a career in dental research. However, I encourage all students to at the very least explore dental research, participate in a research study and present their research at an IADR or AADR meeting. This way, by the time they graduate from dental school they will have done some dental research and presented it at a major scientific meeting, and they know if dental research is in fact a career they want to pursue.  Not only that, the research training or experience they may obtain will make them better future dentists, in my opinion.  AADR has programs geared toward students and junior researchers and I encourage students to take advantage of those opportunities to help them achieve their research. 

What is the best way to get involved in AADR?
I think one of the best ways to get involved in AADR is to attend the AADR meetings. If you can present your research at a meeting that will add value because you will have more exposure and attendees will provide feedback on your research. When you attend the meetings you are essentially expanding your network, which is important if you want to further your research.



Dobrawa Napierala, M.Sc., Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Dentistry, Institute of Oral Health Research, Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. There she is also an adjunct faculty in the Department of Pathology. Prior to that she was an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, Department of Molecular & Human Genetics. She earned her M.Sc. in biotechnology from the University of Adam Mickiewicz, Poznan, Poland; her Ph.D. from the Institute of Human Genetics/Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Polish Academy of Science, Poznan, Poland; and her Postdoctoral from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 

Napierala’s long term research goal is understanding molecular determinants of disorders affecting development and homeostasis of mineralizing tissues. In particular, she is interested in the regulation of gene expression in response to various signaling pathways during the mineralization process. 

She has received extensive training in molecular and developmental biology, biochemistry and genetics, as related to musculoskeletal system. Napierala has more than 10 years of experience in generating and analyzing knock-out and transgenic mice to study molecular mechanisms of development and homeostasis of mineralizing tissues. As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Brendan Lee, at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Baylor College of Medicine, she studied molecular mechanisms of cartilage development and genetic bases of human skeletal disorders. Her studies on the regulation of Runx2, the key transcription factor involved in skeletal formation and homeostasis, led to the identification of TRPS1 as a repressor of Runx2 during endochondral bone development. In humans, TRPS1 mutations cause tricho-rhino-phalangeal syndrome (TRPS) and Ambras syndrome. She also studied a mouse model of TRPS to understand the molecular abnormalities underlying skeletal dysplasia in TRPS and uncovered that TRPS1 regulates hedgehog signaling and is required for synchronized development of chondrocytes and perichondrium. 

In her current position, she and her research team further developed in vitro and in vivo studies aiming at deciphering molecular pathways controlling mineralization of skeletal and dental tissues. In the course of these studies they discovered that TRPS1 is a regulator of mineralization, which acts in a context-dependent manner. They also uncovered that TRPS1 represses the function of mature odontoblasts. Using the combination of in vivo and in vitro approaches we demonstrated that TRPS1 represses Dspp through direct interactions with its promoter, and the downregulation of Dspp contributes to defective dentinogenesis in Co1a1-TRPS1 transgenic mice. More recently, she and her research team discovered that TRPS1 is involved in different molecular networks in osteogenic progenitor cells and in mature cells, and this molecular context determines whether TRPS1 supports or repressed tissue mineralization.

Napierala has been an AADR member since 2010 and has been active in several IADR Scientific Groups/Networks. 

How did you first get involved with AADR?
Rena D’Souza is the person who introduced me to IADR and AADR. I am trained in bone biology and earlier in my career my research didn’t include dental research. At some point I accidentally made my switch to dental research and that’s when I reached out to Dr. D’Souza because I knew that she was working in the field. She suggested that I attend an AADR meeting, present my data and talk to other dental researchers about my project. It was an eye-opening experience because before then I had no idea about the breadth and depth of the dental research field. That was a wonderful meeting experience and I still keep in contact with some of the people I met at that very first meeting. Now dental research is the main focus of my work and I credit that to attending my first AADR meeting years ago. 

Describe the first AADR meeting you attended.
The first AADR meeting I attended was the 2010 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. I went to the meeting because I submitted an abstract and I wanted to receive feedback on my research. I had no knowledge on how to evaluate my research and I knew I would be able to receive valuable feedback at the meeting. I had many wonderful interactions at that meeting. I remember returning to my university and telling my boss that I really wanted to do dental research because AADR is a wonderful, collaborative organization. Attending that meeting and establishing connections gave me the confidence I needed to continue to research, which is very important when you’re doing independent research. Also, AADR organizes many activities for students and trainees at the meetings and those activities are designed to facilitate networking and career development. These opportunities are extremely important to future scientists and I think AADR is doing a great job with that. 

Other than learning the science that is presented, what is one of the main benefits of attending an AADR Annual Meeting? 
In addition to the science that’s presented at the meetings, one of the benefits is the opportunity to meet mentors. Through a symposium at one of the AADR meetings I attended, I met Nisha D’Silva, and she sat with me and went through my goals for the future. She really guided me through the steps I should take to achieve those goals and what she said stuck with me. She assured me that I was doing what I was supposed to do and that I would be fine. I wouldn’t have received the feedback and mentoring that she provided had I not attended that meeting. I encourage people to really reach out and find mentors at these meetings because that proved to be helpful for my career. 

Have you been able to form research collaborations with contacts you made at the AADR Annual Meetings?
Yes, I have and attending the AADR Annual Meetings has been critical for my cross-collaborations. From the first meeting I attended in 2010, I started collaborating with other researchers I met at the meetings and those connections have been very fruitful. The 2010 Annual Meeting was the most critical meeting for my career this far. One reason is because I was recruited to my first independent position as a result of that meeting. The collaborations and the building up of interdisciplinary research are based on the interactions I had with other researchers at that meeting. From that meeting my career has accelerated dramatically. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
I think the most valuable benefit is the research network. AADR provides a stimulating and lively environment at the meetings, and the culture of the group for openness and support makes AADR the go-to place for me and others who are involved in research. I have found that the other members have been very helpful and willing to give advice when I have questions. Some of my most successful collaborations started through AADR and the supportive environment it provides. 



Bennett T. Amaechi, B.Sc., B.D.S., M.Sc., Ph.D., F.A.D.I., is a professor of dentistry and director of cariology in the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He has been with the University since 2001. He earned his B.Sc., B.D.S. from the University of Ife, Nigeria (now Obafemi Awolowo University), his M.Sc. from Guy's Hospital Dental School, University of London, UK, and his Ph.D. from the University of Liverpool.

Amaechi’s research expertise is in dental caries, with particular interest in clinical and laboratory trials of anticaries agents and caries diagnostics. He has mentored students, faculty and fellows, both in the United States and overseas, in these areas of research through his funding from industry and the National Institutes of Health. Through his collaboration with institutions worldwide to promote international interaction, he has mentored students and faculty members in countries such as China, Egypt, India, Iran, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nigeria, Singapore, Slovenia and Uganda. He has published extensively in scientific literature, including book chapters.

He joined IADR in 1996 and has been an AADR member since 2001. To enhance his membership, he is a member in the IADR Cariology Research Scientific Group—where he has also served as the president and group program chair, among other roles—and the IADR Global Oral Health Inequalities Research Network. He has also served as the president of the San Antonio Section of AADR and the chair of the IADR Fellowship Committee, member of the IADR Recruitment & Membership Committee, and is the current chair of the IADR Constitution Committee. He completed a service in a task force of the IADR-Global Oral Health Inequalities Research Agenda® (IADR-GOHIRA®) that was charged with developing a research agenda to combat global oral health inequalities. He credits IADR and AADR for helping to advance his research career and enjoys being an active member. 

How did you first get involved with AADR?
In 1996 I produced my first abstract and that’s when I joined IADR through the British Division. That’s also the first year I attended an IADR General Session. In 2001 I moved to the United States and that’s when I joined AADR. Since the time I joined I have attended either a General Session or Annual Meeting each year.

Describe the first time you attended an IADR or AADR meeting.
The first time I attended a meeting I wondered where had I been that I hadn’t attended a meeting. I realized that I had missed a lot of valuable science by not attending earlier. Through attending that first meeting I met a lot of scientists, especially people I had heard about and only knew through reading their published work. I was also able to gain a better satisfaction for my research because people gave me feedback about my presentation. Since then, the value I place on attending a meeting cannot be overemphasized—the meetings have been of great value to me.

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
I find the networking that I do at meetings and through my Cariology Scientific Group to be the best membership benefits. Attending the meetings provides a platform for me to network with my colleagues and to meet future collaborators to create opportunities for collaboration. I’ve also been able to meet sponsors of my research through attending industry-sponsored symposia at the meetings. Additionally, the opportunity to belong to Scientific Groups creates a bigger interaction with your colleagues. When you attend the Scientific Group/Network business meetings at the Annual Meetings or General Sessions, you’re able to meet in person with your fellow Group/Network colleagues and learn about each other’s research. If you’re having difficulty in an area your peers in your Scientific Group/Network can help you and they can give suggestions and ideas for how to pursue your work.

How important has AADR been in your career?
Being an AADR member has allowed me to grow in my research career. It provides the opportunity for you to showcase your work, and gain national and international recognition in your field of expertise. Today, I’m known all over the world in my area of research, which is cariology—this is through showcasing my work at the IADR and AADR meetings. When I was applying for my promotion, I listed 15 contacts that I had met through IADR/AADR, and having those connections was valuable to my career growth. Additionally, it provides opportunity to learn emerging areas of science for possible expansion of your research field. Being part of AADR has grown my research and it has been a very valuable platform for me. 

How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
Science has grown so much that we are no longer in early-man days where one could single-handedly innovate and produce a device to point of application. Today you cannot create innovations without collaborations with others who bring expertise to the project. Science is growing because of collaborations and the more you collaborate the more your research will grow.

What advice do you have for the future dental researchers?
Young investigators are multipotentialites, who have the opportunity to choose any area of research to develop. Attending the AADR meeting provides them with the opportunity to see existing and emerging areas of science, and areas of national and international interest, to enable them make the best decision on the field to follow. Additionally, it creates opportunity to meet potential mentors, who are authorities in their fields, to discuss career opportunities. Of more fun is the fact that, it is the platform where you can put faces to publications and innovations.



Tamanna Tiwari, M.P.H., M.D.S., B.D.S., is a research associate in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, Denver. She earned her B.D.S. and M.D.S. at Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune, India; and her M.P.H. from New York University.

Her main area of work is at the Center for Native Oral Health Research (CNOHR) in Colorado, which is one of the three Early Childhood Caries (ECC) disparities research centers funded by NIH-NIDCR in the United States. CNOHR conducts research aimed at developing culturally acceptable and effective strategies to prevent infectious oral diseases in American Indian and Alaska Native populations. Although both caries and periodontal disease are entirely preventable, disparities in oral health for American Indians and Alaska Natives are among the highest reported. 

In her current position, she works in the implementation and management of behavioral intervention research to reduce ECC and oral health disparities experienced by American Indian (AI) children and adolescents living on reservations and in urban settings. She also develops training materials and conducts training for the staff in oral health related topics. She is formulating new developmental studies for CNOHR to work in a principal investigator capacity. Tiwari is also engaged as a lead or co-author in several manuscripts and frequently serves as a liaison to the statistical team in management of databases, data analysis, and quality assurance.

She’s a member of the IADR Women in Science Network and the IADR Behavioral, Epidemiologic and Health Services Research Scientific Group, and she manages the social media for both. She joined AADR in 2013.

How did you first get involved with AADR?
I first got involved through my mentor Dr. Judith Albino. When I joined the University of Colorado, she encouraged me to join IADR/AADR. Then I went on the website and found the organizations to be really helpful, so I joined immediately and became a member.

Describe the first time you attended an AADR meeting.
The first time I attended a meeting was the IADR World Congress on Preventive Dentistry in Budapest. I presented a poster and I met a lot of researchers from different parts of the world who were doing similar research as mine. That was a great experience and it led me to attend the 2014 AADR Annual Meeting and 2014 IADR General Session.

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
I think the most valuable benefit is the networking with other researchers. Through AADR, I’m able to meet people who are doing research in similar areas as me, as well as different areas that might impact my field of research. When you are involved in one area of research you might not always be in contact with people who are doing research in other dental-related fields. However, through AADR I have access to research and new ideas, and that’s enlightening. I have made many connections through AADR and IADR. I am applying for a career development grant and some of the mentors that are involved in the grant application are researchers I met at the IADR meeting in Cape Town. While I was at that meeting I discussed my research design, and they were interested and volunteered to work with me on my research. Attending the meetings is more than just meeting new people—there’s actual collaboration that happens.

What is the role that cross-collaboration plays in your research?
The Center for Native Oral Health Research is a part of the Early Childhood Caries Collaborating Centers (EC4) along with University of California San Francisco and Boston University, and is funded by the NIH-NIDCR. Our main goal is to reduce the increase of early-childhood caries and improve the behavioral and psychosocial aspect for the parents involved in the research. At the upcoming meeting in Boston, the EC4 will present a workshop and symposium that will showcase the work done over the years by this collaborative. I look forward to seeing how people receive this collaborative work. 

What are some ways newer members can be active in the Association?
One of the ways new members can get more involved is by presenting their research at the meetings. I believe that presenting your research at IADR/AADR meetings helps other researchers become aware of the most up–to-date findings and also you can receive feedback from colleagues. This may also lead to new collaborations. I also encourage new members to attend the business meetings for their Scientific Group/Network because that’s how I met future collaborators and mentors. I’m a member of the Women in Science Network and the Behavioral, Epidemiologic and Health Services Research Scientific Group. I’m not an officer of either group but by attending the business meetings I was able to volunteer to manage the Facebook page for the Women in Science Network and the LinkedIn group for the BEHSR. Managing the social media has also allowed me to meet many scientists who have similar research interests. 



This month, AADR is featuring AADR Institutional Section Member the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in the Strides in Science. AADR interviewed Associate Dean Russell Taichman to learn more about the scientific advances the school is making.

Currently, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry is an AADR President’s Circle Level Institutional Section Member. They have been a member since 1999 and have exhibited at many IADR and AADR meetings, including the 2014 AADR/CADR Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Charlotte, N.C. 

Last year, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry set a goal to raise $35 million during the University’s Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign. The School’s effort is part of a larger University goal to raise $4 billion, the largest fundraising effort in the history of public higher education, before the campaign ends in 2018.

The School’s $35 million goal includes the following objectives:

  • Scholarship and Fellowship Support: $11.0 million;
  • Clinical Facilities Support: $18.0 million;
  • Curriculum Support: $1.0 million;
  • Faculty Support: $1.5 million;
  • Research Support: $1.5 million; and 
  • Discretionary Support: $2.0 million.

In 2012, the University announced the MCubed program, which is a two-year seed-funding program designed to empower interdisciplinary teams of University of Michigan faculty to pursue new initiatives with major societal impact. The program minimizes the time between idea conception and successful research results by providing immediate startup funds for novel, high-risk and transformative research projects. The funds are intended to generate data for groundbreaking, high-impact publications, or preliminary results for new, innovative research proposals. The program also includes high-visibility, campus-wide research symposia to showcase the resulting groundbreaking research. Taichman and 22 other School of Dentistry investigators are participating investigators in the 200 pilot projects funded through the MCubed program.  More information may be found at www.mcubed.umich.edu.   

University of Michigan faculty researcher Yvonne Kapila in her lab.

What is one of the main research goals of the School of Dentistry?
Research and discovery are integral to the School of Dentistry’s mission. The overarching goal is to facilitate clinical excellence by moving discoveries in the clinic to the bench top and back to the clinic. Working toward that goal, we have invested heavily in basic, clinical and translational research as well as educational and leadership research. Many of our faculty move across these platforms. One of our major efforts is to provide opportunities for all of our students to be involved in scholarship. In their first year, DDS students have a choice to get involved in three major scholarship venues. They can select a project in the research track, clinical-translational care track (health care delivery), and the leadership track.  The expectation is that even at the earliest entry phase into the profession, these students are looking at their profession differently and the project they chose facilitates a deeper dive into the profession. This is our Pathway Program.

What is some of the research the School of Dentistry is producing?
The very best thing about the University of Michigan School of Dentistry is the people.  We have many investigators engaged in very impressive science. Our excellent faculty and inspired students allow us to build on the strengths of our research enterprise, specifically in the areas of craniofacial and developmental biology; mineralized tissue and bone biology; oral and pharyngeal cancer; oral sensory pain neuroscience; oral infectious and immunologic diseases; and tissue engineering and regeneration. Projects are underway that involve the use of gene therapy to stop the progression of periodontal disease; tissue engineering approaches to repair head/neck/facial injuries; the mechanics of chewing and TMJ disorders; examining the oral health of women who are undergoing breast cancer therapy; and the regeneration of tissues, such as lips. A group of investigators are studying craniofacial development, genetics and infectious diseases, and many investigators are involved in cancer research.  Important clinical investigations are being conducted on dental caries, restorative biology and quality of life issues.  My research focus is on the role of osteoblasts in normal bone marrow function.  It is exciting to be part of this incredible research enterprise.

How is the School of Dentistry encouraging students to pursue careers in dental research?
Matching students with mentors who have similar research interests is one of the ways we help students see how a career in oral health research can be rewarding. It’s exciting when students find research mentors who are willing to take them under their wing. Some students come into the dental school with a significant background in research and some come with none at all. I have a student in my lab who had no background in research, but a very keen interest.  He was given an opportunity to do research and he enjoys it. We also support students who want to participate in an on campus year-out period to conduct basic or clinical research. Through the Intensive Clinical Research Training Program and the Medical Research Scholars Program, students may travel to the NIH-NIDCR for this training. We also have an Oral Health Sciences PhD Program.  This Program is designed for exceptional students who aspire to a career in academic dentistry as a dental scientist. Training options include a dual degree in DDS/OHS PhD, Specialty MS/OHS PhD, and the PhD. Most of our graduates have gone on to academic careers with peer U.S. universities or international universities.

How do you prepare students to present their research at scientific meetings?
Once we match students with mentors, the students are given the opportunity to do an individualized research project that can range from basic science to clinical / translational research.  Working with their research mentors, students who have a goal of presenting their work at IADR/AADR meetings are able to plan and do research that is appropriate for those meetings. 

What are you telling students to encourage them to pursue careers in dental research?
I frequently say that it is the absolute best career choice you can make. You can pursue your dreams in science and dentistry, and there are relatively few barriers to make that happen. The doors that get opened are absolutely stunning. If you are passionate about dental research and you can secure the resources needed, you can do almost anything! I am very grateful that I made the choice to pursue dental research—even on the difficult days I’m still grateful for making this my path. I started out as a bench scientist and my work is now moving into clinical trials. I never thought that I would be engaged in those opportunities but this university setting has made that a reality. I’m excited for the next generation of scientists who will also contribute to the field.



David C. Johnsen, D.D.S., M.S., is dean and a professor at the University of Iowa, College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics, Department of Pediatric Dentistry. Johnsen received his D.D.S. degree from the University of Michigan in 1970 and his M.S. in pediatric dentistry from the University of Iowa in 1973. He became board certified in pediatric dentistry in 1978. 

Johnsen served on the faculty of West Virginia University from 1974-1980, where he taught predoctoral pediatric dentistry. There, he received the Outstanding Teacher Award in 1976. In 1980 he joined Case Western Reserve University, where he continued teaching predoctoral pediatric dentistry. He remained on the faculty until 1995, serving as a department chair, intermittently as director of the residency program, and as interim dean in 1993. From there he moved to the University of Iowa, where he has been the dean of the College of Dentistry since 1995. 

His university service at the University of Iowa has included chairing the search committee for the CEO of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in 2002; being co-convener of the Health Sciences Policy Council from 2003-04; co-chairing the University Task Force on Clinical and Translational Research in 2005-06; being the chair of the nursing dean search in 2006; and serving as chair of the university presidential search in 2007.

Johnsen’s research has focused on innervation of teeth as an indicator of capacity to transmit pain sensory impulses and also on caries patterns in preschoolers. The latter area included demonstration projects and consulting at the national level in the Women and Infant Clinics (WIC) and the Head Start programs. He has also published on a variety of clinical and educational topics.

Johnsen has been an active AADR member since 1973 and has served as the chair of the AADR Government Affairs Committee since 2011.

How did you first learn about AADR?
I first learned about AADR while I was a student at the University of Michigan, through my dental histology professor Jim Avery, who later became an IADR president (1974-75). After that I did pediatrics at the University of Iowa where another future IADR president, Stephen Wei (1993-94), was one of my professors. From early on I knew about the importance of IADR and AADR because those two mentors were members and they explained to me why I should be involved. At the encouragement of Jim Avery, I made my first presentation at an IADR meeting in 1970 and I’ve attended nearly every meeting since then. Thanks to my mentors I was indoctrinated into IADR/AADR early on in my career! 

Describe your first time presenting at an IADR/AADR meeting.
I was a student the first time I presented at a meeting. I’m not sure how many students presented from my school that year but it was with the coaching of my mentor Jim Avery that I had the ability to present my research. He showed me how to structure my presentation—we practiced it together and he would ask questions to allow me to rehearse my answers. I still recall the experience of presenting my research at the meeting and getting questions from famous researchers in the room. I was honored that these famous researchers I had read about were there and they liked my presentation. It was definitely a valuable experience and one I’ll never forget. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
One of the most valuable benefits of my AADR membership is being part of the AADR network, in addition to the advocacy the Association provides. AADR, with IADR, is the touchstone for dental research, and AADR is the place I turn for gathering with other dental researchers and people in the field. When I was just becoming involved in AADR and doing my research in Jim Avery’s lab, I really became hooked on research when he introduced me to the AADR environment. It wasn’t just the intellectual stimulation that I enjoyed but also the IADR/AADR members from all over the world who would visit the lab. I realized early on that I had never been around a group like that and I found them really enthralling. I’m proud to be part of this group that I found so enthralling as a junior researcher. I’m also fortunate that my institution supported my efforts to be involved in AADR because there isn’t a better place for meeting with other researchers and learning about dental research.

What is one of the best ways for other AADR members to become more involved in the Association’s advocacy efforts?
When I’m in DC I always stop in Senator Tom Harkin’s office to meet with him. There’s value in meeting with your representatives in person. However, if you’re not able to meet with them, send them a letter. It’s critical that we explain to them the importance of biomedical research and we need to explain how our research impacts the health of the public. It’s up to us to share our stories with representatives and policymakers because no one else can. Years ago, when then NIH Director Francis Collins visited the NIDCR Advisory Group, I asked him how we could help. Without hesitation he said “Get your elected officials into your institutions to see the great work you are doing!” A year later at the NIDCR Advisory Group meeting when we were asked how many of us tried to get our elected officials to visit our institutions, only a few hands went up. As a dean I think that it’s important to get more dental deans involved collectively to get dental research supported. I think we’re going to have a real battle to maintain the level of support that we’ve had. Higher education has become a lot tighter and we do have to subsidize research. To keep that going, I think it’s going to take the grassroots of the dental deans, too. 



Kesavalu Lakshmyya, B.V.Sc., M.Sc., S.C.C., is an associate professor at the University of Florida, College of Dentistry, Department of Periodontology. Prior to joining the University of Florida faculty, he was an associate research professor at the University of Kentucky, Department of Oral Health Science, Center for Oral Health Research. 

He earned his B.V.Sc. in veterinary medicine and surgery from Madras University, Chennia, India, in 1971; his S.C.C. in advanced statistics from the Institute of Agricultural Research Statistics, New Delhi, India, in 1975; and his M.Sc. in medical microbiology from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, in 1979. Additionally, he was a post-doc fellow at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, Denver and at the University of Texas at San Antonio Health and Science Center, where he worked on a National Institutes of Health-National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research project under his research mentors Jeffrey Ebersole and Stanley Holt. 

Currently Lakshmyya is conducting several research studies, including a clinical study on the association between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, periodontal pathogens and induction of periodontal disease and atherosclerosis in ApoE-/- mouse model, caries pathogenStreptococcus mutans role in atherosclerosis in ApoE-/- mouse model, polymicrobial periodontal disease and localization of periodontal pathogens in periodontium, the association between periodontal pathogens and rheumatoid arthritis in DBA1 and B10 RIII mouse model, and the association between periodontal pathogens and Alzheimer’s disease in humans and animal model. 

Recently, he and a team of researchers released findings about how gum disease can lead to heart disease, which could change the way heart disease is diagnosed and treated. Funded by the NIH-NIDCR, that study is part of a larger one on the effects of gum disease on atherosclerotic vascular disease. Similarly, last year he and a team of UK researchers released findings on the potential link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Lakshmyya has been an AADR member since 1990. As an active member, he has served as an AADR Section officer, and has been a member of the AADR Council and AADR Fellowships Committee. Additionally, he has served as a reviewer for the IADR/AADR Journal of Dental Research.

What motivated you to join AADR?
I joined AADR at the encouragement of my mentors when I was a post-doc fellow. At the time I was working on an NIH-NIDCR project in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Ebersole and Dr. Stanley Holt. My mentors explained to me the benefits of AADR membership and why I should attend the meetings. Since then, I have attended the meetings and been an active member in the Association. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
I have found the access to information and to dentists and other researchers to be one of the most valuable benefits of my AADR membership. Being an AADR member enables me to attend the Annual Meetings and present my research, but it also gives me a platform to network with others in the field. I am not a dentist—I rely on my AADR membership to help me meet dentists and researchers in other specialties because that is of interest to me and my research. Being a member of AADR and especially attending the Annual Meetings gives me exposure to all the people I need to meet in order to help further my research. Attending the meetings is a significant resource for a dental researcher and it’s helpful that AADR offers this experience at a discounted rate for members. 

How important has AADR been in your career?
AADR is really the bread and butter that has helped build my career and I am fortunate for the opportunities that my membership has provided to me. I am also grateful to my mentors Dr. Jeffrey Ebersole and Dr. Stanley Holt for introducing me to AADR, I am very fortunate to have them as my mentors. One of the biggest gifts of being part of AADR is being able to collaborate with others in the field of dental research. Having that opportunity available has made a positive impact on my career, and I encourage others who are not members to join and be part of this Association so that they, too, may partake in the membership experience.  

What role does cross-collaboration play in obtaining your research findings?
Cross-collaboration plays a big role in my research and being part of AADR has helped me identify future research collaborators in different disciplines. I have been collaborating with other universities and faculty to do various research projects. In order to have more access to information and to do better research, it’s important to collaborate with others globally. 

What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
My advice is really to mentors and faculty but it benefits future dental researchers. I encourage faculty members to mentor students and support them in their growth. I am fortunate that the University of Florida is able to send some of my students and junior researchers to the AADR Annual Meetings so that they have exposure to the specialty science that’s presented at the meeting. We all should encourage more students to attend these meetings and, if we’re not able to help off-set the cost of meeting registration, help them find funding. Grad students and post-docs will benefit enormously from the meetings because they will be the future dental researchers and the future academicians.




In this section

Annual Report

Learn More »