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/ Categories: Strides in Science

Ronald Dubner - September 2015

Ronald Dubner, D.D.S., Ph.D. is professor in the Department of Neural and Pain Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. He holds an adjunct faculty appointment in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Maryland, School of Medicine. Dubner has a D.D.S. degree and a Ph.D. in physiology and has utilized both degrees throughout a research career in the area of pain and neuroscience and their relevance to orofacial health and disease.

For 13 years until 2008, Dr. Dubner was chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Maryland, which he organized and developed into a major basic science and clinical research department that consisted of over 100 faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students engaged in research and teaching. This group conducted research in the fields of pain and neuroscience, immune function and infectious disease, and molecular and cellular oncology, and now has been reorganized into three independent departments in the School of Dentistry. Before 1995, for three decades, he was a scientist in the intramural program of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, where he directed a multidisciplinary program of over 30 basic and clinical scientists who conducted research on pain mechanisms and pain control.  

Dubner’s research program through the years has focused on somatosensory mechanisms with an emphasis on pain. He has developed animal models to study the changes taking place in the nervous system following tissue and nerve injury. His studies are multidisciplinary in nature including molecular, immuncytochemical, electrophysiological, pharmacological and behavioral approaches. He has developed rat inflammation and nerve injury models to study the altered neuronal processing and neurochemical changes that are induced by the increased and persistent neuronal barrage that follows injury. He has also engaged in translational studies in which the findings in the laboratory are examined in patients with complex persistent pain conditions.

He has authored more than 300 articles in journals and books and has co-authored one book and co-edited 10 books in his research field. He has mentored over 75 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, international fellows and junior faculty during his career and most of these individuals have remained in pain research and established themselves as independent scientists. 

Dubner has been an AADR member since 1966. He was part of the 2014 AADR Distinguished Lecture Series and will serve as a session chair for the 8th AADR Fall Focused Symposium: Advances in the Biology and Management of Chronic Pain. His research is highly regarded recipient of the AADR.. He is the 2012

In 2012 he received the AADR Distinguished Scientist Award, which recognizes and honors outstanding research of particular significance in any of the fields related to oral science. 

What is the most valuable benefit of your AADR membership?
One of the most valuable benefits of my AADR membership is having opportunities to meet with my colleagues and discuss our research. This helps us determine if there are opportunities to collaborate on our research. Being able to discuss my science with other members is a major advantage of being an AADR member. 

How important has AADR been in your career?
AADR has been important because it has helped me to foster my interest in research. By attending the AADR meetings I’ve been able to network with other scientists. AADR has provided platforms by which I can meet with other scientists and discuss mutual interests.

Why is it important for you to cross-collaborate with other scientific disciplines? 
Today, multi-disciplinary research has evolved and there are many opportunities to learn from other colleagues in related areas using other approaches and techniques. IADR and AADR provide opportunities for researchers to meet in multi-disciplinary environments, which for me is more important than participating exclusively in my field.  

What would you say to other members to motivate them to be more involved in AADR?
I would stress to them that AADR and IADR provide opportunities to meet with people who have strong interests in science and scholarship, and who want to advance the field. If you want to study various research disciplines, you have to reach out to your member colleagues and spend time with them. Presenting your research at an AADR meeting is a great way to connect because people will ask you questions about your research. Even if you’re in the early part of your career, attend the meetings and present your research, and ask your mentor to introduce you to other people in the field. 

What advice would you give to dental students to help them be more successful in their research careers? 
I would tell dental students that they have to be highly motivated to want to do research because it’s difficult to obtain funding. They also have to really want to be part of advancing the field. It’s important to remember that it’s not going to be easy but it’s something that if you have a strong desire and ability, you have a great chance of being successful.


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