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William Maixner - January 2012

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

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

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

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

He has been an AADR member since 1988.

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

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

What are some of the most valuable benefits of your AADR membership?
Some of the most valuable benefits of my AADR membership are having a venue for the dissemination of knowledge and for discussing potential collaborative projects. AADR provides me with an opportunity to see what’s cutting-edge in the fields of orofacial pain and orophysiology.
How important is cross-collaboration to your success as a researcher?
I think cross-collaboration has been extremely important. Our program here at UNC consists of individuals from fundamental gene discovery to translational clinical trials. Being able to have exposure to individuals who cover that gambit is made possible in part by the exposure I’ve had to organizations that are multidisciplinary in nature and translational in approach. AADR begins to bring that flavor to the table.  
Where do you feel the research community would be without AADR?
I think the area of orofacial health would be greatly behind and essentially non-represented in today’s national healthcare processes and research initiatives. I think AADR is a very strong advocate for research that has a focus not only on orofacial mechanisms but also on human condition mechanisms. I think that AADR is really helping to expand fundamental research activities across several different disciplines and the Association has been very effective in providing these avenues that go well beyond the dental realm.
Next Article Athanasios I. Zavras - February 2012

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