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April 2021 – Susana J. Calderon

Susana J. Calderon is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Illinois State University, Mennonite College of Nursing, Normal. Calderon is a veteran of the United States Air Force and holds a M.S. in nursing from Millikin University, Decatur, Ill. and a Ph.D. in nursing from Illinois State University. She conducted her post-doctoral studies at the University of Iowa, College of Dentistry, Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research on children's oral health — mainly using early behavioral intervention using social media and dietary to reduce the risk for dental caries and obesity.

Calderon is recognized for her research focused on factors influencing children's oral health behavior and overall health to prevent systematic inflammation and chronic diseases. She has been the principal investigator of extramural funding research projects and the corresponding author for the research projects' publications. Calderon is part of the inaugural class (2020-21) of the AADR Mind of the Future. Within Illinois State University, Calderon has been recognized with the University Research Initiative award (2021),  MCN Early Career Research Award (2020) and nationally in the AACN Minority Nurse Faculty Scholar Johnson & Johnson (2012).

Calderon serves as a journal and grant reviewer in the fields of nursing and dentistry. She is an active member of several national and international organizations and enjoys mentoring undergraduate and graduate students.

1.    How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join?

I first learned about the AADR during my postdoctoral studies at the University of Iowa, College of Dentistry, Iowa City. My mentors, Dr. David Drake and Dr. Jeffrey Banas were very active in the Association so they encouraged me to join this wonderful professional organization. I was motivated to join because of the opportunities that AADR provides. This association is very open to multidisciplinary science and you can connect with others with your same passion. 

Attending the meetings is another reason why I joined AADR. The meetings are great because they give you firsthand experience. I had some preliminary data from my work in intervention for improving oral health in adolescence. I was planning to attend to the 2020 IADR/AADR/CADR General Session but sadly that meeting was cancelled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. But, I'm eager to participate this year and bring my findings to the research community, network with others and see the latest research in other areas.


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

I think the most valuable benefit, especially in my position as an Assistant Professor who is trying to move to an early-career researcher, is the networking and the ability to cherish the love of science and the love of dental research. It was very refreshing for me to belong to an organization that welcomed me so openly as a multidisciplinary professional, because I have a different background in nursing. IADR and AADR appreciate my common goal to advance oral health in children and oral health disparities throughout the lifespan. For me, that is a major benefit — I love the support that AADR offers and their mission. IADR/AADR have wonderful peer-reviewed journals and you can compete to get grants, awards and fellowships. AADR provides so many helpful opportunities for its members.


3.    You have been selected as a mentee for the inaugural class of the AADR Mentoring an Inclusive Network for a Diverse Workforce of the Future (AADR MIND the Future), congratulations! What motived you to apply for this program? 

I appreciate your congratulations! It was a great news to be selected to this very exclusive program. I first heard about the program when got an email about AADR MIND the Future applications. I got very excited reading about the vision of the program as I knew that I would benefit from it if I was accepted as a mentee. 

The AADR MIND the Future program values the contributions of researchers with a  diverse background. As a woman and a minority, I am Hispanic, let me just say there are not too many programs that focus on us. I'm looking forward to being very active and engaged within the AADR MIND the Future program!


4.    What excites you most about being part of AADR MIND the Future?

It was a such a lovely surprise to open the email and read that I was chosen for this amazing program — it was a great day with a great news. I was excited to interact with my peers that are also early-career investigators. When we first received an overview of the curriculum I loved that it was not focused in one area only per se, but that it is very complete. I’ve enjoyed getting to know my peers. It is excellent to have these kinds of connections and I'm looking forward to learning from each other as well. I think everybody has a contribution, and it is wonderful that the AADR MIND the Future curriculum values that too.


5.    What do you view as the best way for other members to become more involved in AADR and get the most out of the membership?

My best advice is that no matter where you are in your career, get involved with your local chapters. Be active in discussions. AADR creates opportunities to connect with other researchers, even ones that you admire because you've been reading their work. Get familiar with the website — it has a lot of good information. Attend the meetings. Whether you present or not, it is a great opportunity to be active and ask questions.

Previous Article March 2021 – Stephanie Momeni
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