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/ Categories: Strides in Science

February 2019 – John Hicks

John Hicks is a professor of pathology and pediatrics and an attending pediatric pathologist at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, as well as an adjunct professor in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Dentistry, Houston. Since completing a pediatric dental residency with an M.S. and subsequent Ph.D. at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, Iowa City, he has focused his dental research interest in the cariology arena. After completing a medical degree at the University of Miami, Florida, an anatomic pathology residency at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, and a surgical oncologic pathology fellowship at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Hicks has been intimately involved with research in oral pathology and pediatric soft tissue and bone malignancies.

Hicks’ interest in cariology includes in vitro techniques for analyzing enamel and root surface caries, caries remineralization with innovative agents as well as with commercially available products and secondary caries formation adjacent to preventive and restorative materials. Over the past four decades, he has served as a co-investigator on numerous federal, non-profit foundation and commercial grants. Hicks has published over 500 scientific and clinical articles and chapters. He has served and continues to serve on editorial boards and as an expert reviewer with several dental and medical journals.

How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join?
I was a resident in the Pediatric Dentistry Program at the University of Iowa from 1976 to 1978. During my residency, I completed my M.S. thesis regarding caries-like lesion formation adjacent to pit and fissure sealants. My mentor at the time, Leon Silverstone, encouraged the submission of an abstract from the thesis to be considered for presentation at the 1979 AADR meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. I was fortunate to have my abstract selected for an oral presentation and I’ve had the opportunity to present in oral, poster and Lunch & Learn sessions at all AADR and AADR/IADR joint meetings since 1979. The AADR meetings have proven to be the premier dental research conference and allow one to learn, share and collaborate with remarkable dental researchers throughout the world. This organization has significantly enhanced my knowledge and career development.

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
There are several benefits of AADR membership. The first is the annual meeting which allows researchers to present findings from current investigations and discuss these findings in a collegial manner with well-established dental researchers, as well as dental students, residents and post-doctoral scientists. The second is the Journal of Dental Research which provides up-to-date research in a wide variety of subjects pertinent to dental investigators and dental clinicians alike.  The third is the opportunity to participate in AADR committees and within the various research groups within AADR, such as Cariology Research Group and numerous other specialty groups. The fourth is the establishment of research relationships across various institutions in the U.S. and throughout the world, as well as development of friendships among dental investigators. The fifth is the opportunity to develop research proposals and seek funding with other investigators across institutions. This enhances research proposals and also increases the chances of funding.  AADR stimulates collaborations and introduces members to new ideas. The sixth is the possibility of securing clinical and/or research faculty position opportunities at well-respected dental institutions 

What do you want to see in the future for AADR?
One of the roles of AADR is fostering dental research and seeking to enhance funding from federal, non-profit foundations and commercial sources across the spectrum of dental research disciplines.  This is particularly important when there has been either stagnant or slow growth in federal funding. Without adequate funding for dental research, it will be difficult for significant advances to be realized. Dental research is essential for development of clinical techniques for prevention, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.  The primary future direction of AADR should be directed toward fostering the research careers of dental residents, post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty members. The development of symposiums regarding career development of this group of individuals who will comprise the future of dental research would be desirable. AADR should also consider initiating a mentor program dedicated to matching junior faculty with senior scientists and clinicians with similar research interests. Such a mentoring program could provide a valuable resource for junior faculty in developing their academic careers. Without a vibrant and successful junior faculty membership in AADR, the future of AADR will not be secured.

What is the best way for other members to become more involved in AADR?
Perhaps, a mechanism for members to become involved in AADR is through interaction with more established AADR members. By interacting with more established members who may be involved in the various specialty groups, the interested member will become well known to individuals on nominating committees. Perhaps, the best mechanism for becoming involved with AADR is by presenting high quality and timely research at AADR meetings. Finally, becoming involved with the local institutional AADR section is important to establish a sincere interest in being involved and committed to organized dental research associations.  

How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
Over the past several decades, the emphasis of funding agencies is to incorporate and integrate basic science, translational and clinical research in proposals. Dentistry is an important component within medical and basic science investigation. The effect of maintaining dental health on the overall health of the individual is well known, and dental disease can adversely affect systemic diseases in affected individuals. Well-informed physicians and medical clinical researchers realize the importance of dental health and disease. Cross-collaboration is a key to providing overall wellness in the pediatric, adult and elder population.  An area of cross-collaboration that should not be overlooked is biomedical and bioengineering research which is important for development of innovative biologically active and biocompatible materials and agents.


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