Strides in Science

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


Indu S. Ambudkar, Ph.D., is chief, Molecular Physiology and Therapeutics Branch and Secretory Physiology Section at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. She earned her B.Sc. and M.Sc. from Isabella Thoburn College, Lucknow, India; and her Ph.D. from Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, India.  

Ambudkar has significantly contributed toward establishing the role of Ca2+ in the salivary secretory process as well as dysfunctions due to radiation and immune disorders. Her studies suggest a link between reduced levels of key Ca2+ signaling proteins and the development of Sjogren’s Syndrome. Her studies demonstrate that in salivary glands the channel protein Transient Receptor Potential Melastatin-like 2, a Ca2+-permeable non selective cation channel, contributes to loss of salivary gland function during radiation and oxidative stress. Consequently, reducing the function of this cation channel, could protect the glands from the deleterious effects of radiation. 

Ambudkar is internationally well-recognized for her research, which has been published in leading journals including the IADR/AADR Journal of Dental Research. She has published more than 150 original reports, reviews and book chapters of outstanding quality.  

Since joining AADR in 2008, Ambudkar has been a fully engaged member and has served on the JDR Editorial Board. In 2014, she received the IADR Distinguished Scientist Award in Salivary Research, which is an award designed to stimulate and recognize outstanding and innovative achievements that have contributed to the basic understanding of the salivary gland structure, secretion, and function, or salivary composition and function. 

How did you first learn about AADR?
When I joined the NIDCR, I was exposed to clinical and dental research. That’s when I realized that there is a whole other area of research where I could apply my work to impact dentistry and oral biology. Since I worked with a lot of dentists and there was an active clinical program in our Branch at NIH, I became aware and appreciative of clinical and translational research in oral biology and dentistry. Those colleagues introduced me to IADR and AADR and they encouraged me to attend the meetings, which then led me to join AADR.  

How important has AADR been in your career?
My membership in AADR has motivated me to become more involved in research that can potentially have a clinical impact. Through AADR, I’ve been able to expand my network and meet people that I otherwise would not have met. If I had never attended an AADR meeting or joined the Association, I would have missed out on some of the opportunities that have helped me grow in my career. Also, being in the NIDCR brings awareness of AADR and how our work impacts the wider dental community. For example, clinical and translation research that we do can lead to development of novel methodologies and techniques that can be used to improve diagnosis and treatment of dental and oral diseases. 

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
One of the most valuable benefits of my membership is having the opportunity to network with others in the field. If I didn’t attend the IADR and AADR meetings, I wouldn’t have been able to meet other members of the community, and these are people I have now known for years. Also, having access to the research that AADR shares at the meetings keeps me up-to-speed on what’s happening in the field.

How important do you think cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines is to the future of dental, oral and craniofacial research?
It is absolutely important because most scientists, me included, are not masters of all techniques and methodologies. Increasingly, successful research that is being reported includes significant work that comes from collaborations. I rely on my colleagues who have expertise in other areas to have an input in my work. Without additional input from my collaborators, it would be difficult for me to achieve my research. For example, I work closely with clinicians who add a very different perspective to the work. 

What advice would you give to students to encourage them to pursue careers in dental research?
Every year I have students in my lab doing research and internships but not all of them continue with a career in research. I try to show these students that a career in research can be exciting and I also advise them to not be so afraid of the funding situation that it dissuades them from pursuing a research career. When students come out of dental school and they have loans, it can be nerve wracking to try to think of a future career. However, there are programs that are helping students pay off their student loans. Not all students know that these programs are available, so I make sure to get the word out. Additionally, I am an advocate for female students who want to pursue careers in research. It’s not easy and a lot of women in the early stages of their career ask me whether it is possible to balance work and family life. They question whether they should put family life on hold until they finish their Ph.D. work and secure an academic position or put their careers on hold till they have children etc. I tell them they cannot compartmentalize their life, things have to flow together. While it is up to an individual to decide what works best, I encourage these young women to not hold back because they really can achieve the best of both. What is important is that they need not put unnecessary pressure on themselves to be the kind of perfect housewife and mother as constantly described by the media. Ultimately, they need to feel happy and content with what they are doing and not worry that people are judging them. They need to make a decision based on their long-term goals and then do the best they can to make it work. As scientific researchers, they should focus on the impact and quality of the work and not on the number of papers. With a lot of hard work, time management, and focus they can progress towards their career goals and spend time at home with the children.  In doing so, they would have succeeded in balancing their life and career. 



Dean Ho, Ph.D. is a professor in the Division of Oral Biology and Medicine and co-director of the Jane and Jerry Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Dentistry. He is also a professor of bioengineering and a member of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and California NanoSystems Institute. Previously he was an associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering at Northwestern University.  

Ho received his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from UCLA. Today he leads one of the pre-eminent teams in the world that is developing nanodiamonds as drug delivery agents, and has pioneered multiple approaches towards improved therapeutic efficiency using engineering and nanotechnology-based approaches. In the area of chemotherapy, his team developed NDX, a nanodiamond-drug complex based upon the potent interaction of the diamond surface with doxorubicin, a commonly used cancer drug in the clinic that is also highly toxic. Through the synthesis of NDX, a marked enhancement in drug efficacy and reduced toxicity were demonstrated over clinical standards. 

Ho is also working with collaborators to harness personalized medicine platforms to optimize nano-formulated as well as unmodified drug combinations for applications in chemotherapy, infectious diseases, and other applications. In the area of oral health/dental research, his team is combining its expertise in nanomedicine, drug development, and personalized medicine to develop new therapies for bone growth and oral cancer treatment, among other indications.

He is currently the inaugural endowed fellow and president of the board of directors of the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening, which is a 22,000+ member international society focused on drug development at the interface of academia and industry. Ho has given more than 100 international lectures (invited, keynote and plenary), and his research achievements have garnered news coverage on the CNN and NPR homepages, Reuters, Yahoo, Voice of America and The Chicago Tribune, among other international news outlets. Ho has also appeared on the National Geographic Channel program 'Known Universe' which aired domestically and internationally. 

Ho is a recipient of the IADR Young Investigator Award, IADR William J. Gies Award, NSF CAREER Award, Wallace H. Coulter Translational Research Award (Phase I and II), V Foundation for Cancer Research Scholars Award, John G. Bollinger Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award, and was invited to attend the 2010 National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Symposium. He has been an AADR member since 2013. 

How did you first get involved in AADR and what motivated you to join?
My background is in biomedical engineering. I completed my Ph.D. at UCLA and then joined the faculty at Northwestern University. While there I worked with many amazing colleagues developing different ways to use nanodiamond particles to do drug delivery and diagnostics. Time passed and I was promoted to tenure at Northwestern and I still had many great colleagues at UCLA, including one who was the chair of bioengineering and practicing clinician in advanced prosthodontics. That colleague introduced me to the dean of dentistry at UCLA and when we met, he indicated his interest in nanomedicine and new ways to treat diseases. After that meeting, I started interacting with more of the faculty at UCLA. One of the things I like about the oral health profession is that there is a clear path to moving new technologies into the clinic. That’s when I started to explore all of the research in the field. Then in 2013 I attended my first AADR meeting and had a great time interacting with people. Being involved in AADR has been good because there are challenges in the clinic and I think many of those challenges are easier to address using bioengineering. It makes a lot of sense to combine expertise in bioengineering with dentistry.

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of your AADR membership?
Attending the meetings has been really productive for me. I’ve attended a number of the meetings and the ability to interact with active researchers from all over the world is valuable. There are different ideas that come from different areas of the world and the ability to have access to expertise from colleagues everywhere has been a very strong part of my membership because it helps accelerate new technologies into the clinic. Another aspect that I like is that the meetings blend clinical, basic and translational expertise in one place and I find that in the publications as well. 

How important do you think it is to cross-collaborate with other scientific disciplines to advance the field?
I think it’s absolutely vital. When I first started working in the field of nanotechnology, I interacted with radiologists, materials scientists, surgeons, bioengineers, mathematicians, mechanical engineers, chemists—many people from different fields. So many questions come up when you’re working hard to implement something new in the field and in order to answer those questions you have to collaborate with people in other disciplines. Multi-disciplinary innovation is basically the future; it’s the true catalyst for not just discovery but for actually translating research into practice. 

What would you say to new AADR members to encourage them to be active and engaged in AADR? 
From a perspective of academia, it’s vital for a person who has developed new technologies and wants to get their technology into clinics to attend the AADR meetings because the key players are there. Everybody in the field is busy—there are people traveling, people are busy in their clinics and in their labs—but it’s critical to get out there and basically get a Litmus test every time you to go the meetings. When you attend the meetings and present your research and technology, people ask the questions you need to refine your research. Another way to be a more engaged member is to be involved in the leadership—serving on a committee, or as a session chair, or on the AADR Board. No matter your background, you can learn many things by being an involved AADR member.  

What’s a message you want to give to future dental researchers?
Research may not be for everyone but I guarantee there are more students that would benefit from doing research than the number who are actually doing research right now. I challenge students to spend literally an hour to surf the Web and research faculty at their institution or other institutions and find out what’s going on in the field. Then I challenge them to really think if they have an interest in developing something that could change the way dentistry is practiced. My dental students have looked into new therapies and they’re doing dental technologies. I’m not sure that students realize that there’s room for innovation but there is always opportunity for students to become pioneers in their field. 



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.



Alexandre DaSilva, D.D.S., D.Med.Sc., is an assistant professor at the Biologic & Materials Sciences Department at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. There, he is also the director of H.O.P.E. (Headache & Orofacial Pain Effort), which is a multidisciplinary collaborative effort to investigate the brain as a research and therapeutic target for chronic trigeminal pain disorders.

He received his Doctorate in Medical Science degree in oral biology with clinical training in TMD and orofacial pain at Harvard University. His thesis subject was on somatotopic (fMRI) activation in the human trigeminal pain pathway. This training was followed by a post-doctoral fellowship on migraine neuroimaging at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, to investigate subcortical and cortical neuroplasticity in migraine patients. He also worked in the Psychiatric Department at Harvard University/McLean Hospital, and was an assistant clinical investigator at The Forsyth Institute in Boston. During his training, he collaborated with his colleagues on innovative neuroimaging and non-invasive brain stimulation projects for chronic TMD, trigeminal neuropathic pain and migraine.

Today, he and his team, with collaborators from the University of Michigan and other academic institutions, use state-of-the-art neuroimaging techniques (fMRI, PET, MRS, DTI, and MRI-based morphometry) to study neuroplasticity, and to investigate novel therapeutic approaches and mechanisms in headache and orofacial pain disorders. His laboratory has mentored research and resident fellows with different backgrounds, from bioengineering, medical radiology, anatomy and pain (undergraduates, M.D., D.D.S., M.Sc., Ph.D.). Under his mentorship, dental residents currently lead projects and develop new technologies that have transformative relevance in the pain clinic. As one orthodontic resident’s project targets directly the brains of patients with chronic TMD to provide pain relief, another endodontic resident’s study measures in real-time the brain activity of a patient under dental pain in a clinical setting.

Here, DaSilva is navigating in 3D through the brain of a patient during a migraine attack. This is used for his lab’s research and educational efforts related to pain and migraine. Citation: DaSilva AF, Nascimento TD, Love T, DosSantos MF, Martikainen IK, Cummiford CM, DeBoer M, Lucas SR, Bender MA, Koeppe RA, Hall T, Petty S, Maslowski E, Smith YR, Zubieta JK. 2014. 3D-neuronavigation in vivo through a patient's brain during a spontaneous migraine headache. J Vis Exp. 2(88). doi: 10.3791/50682.

DaSilva has been an AADR member since 2005 and was recently voted treasurer of the AADR Michigan Section. As an expert in the field, he will present at the upcoming 8th AADR Fall Focused Symposium: Advances in the Biology and Management of Chronic Pain

What motivated you to join AADR?
Anyone who has an interest in research should be involved in AADR. I joined AADR initially for the networking and the access to research. I knew that it was a good place for me to see what dental research my peers are conducting.

What is one of the most valuable benefits of your AADR membership?
I think the most valuable benefit of my membership has been having access to the research publications that AADR provides in the JDR. Also, being able to attend the meetings is valuable because I can meet with my peers and learn more about their research.

What would you say to other members to encourage them to be more active in AADR?
I think AADR is a great venue to find colleagues who are linked to research. AADR is a large and productive community and AADR provides opportunities for members to be involved. I’m speaking at the upcoming Fall Focused Symposium. By speaking at the meetings or presenting a poster, it gives you an opportunity to promote your research. If you want your research to be seen, you need to become more involved in AADR, attend meetings and look for opportunities to present your work and learn.

How has being active in the IADR/AADR Neuroscience Scientific Group helped you advance your research?
Being involved in the Neuroscience Scientific Group definitely helps me reach research collaborators, and my clinical and research colleagues. It also helps me connect with students, including potential post-docs and research fellows. Through my involvement in the Neuroscience Scientific Group, I have access to a larger network of researchers that I otherwise wouldn’t know.

What is the value your AADR membership has had in your career growth?
It is crucial to be connected to my fellow AADR member colleagues. Not only by the news that we receive from AADR but through networking with my colleagues at the meetings. When I attend the meetings I’m able to see how the field is developing and growing. My laboratory has people from different fields, which includes dentists in different specialties but also neurologists, bioengineers and people in 3D technology. It is important that we go beyond what one particular discipline can contribute to the field by widening our collaboration. Through AADR, I’m able to meet and network with new collaborators and this has been positive for my career growth.

What advice would you offer to students to encourage them to pursue research?
I encourage students to get involved in research and AADR. Even if you are thinking about clinical work, being involved in research helps you think differently to find solutions to better provide treatment to our patients. 


JULY 2015

Molly Hague is a student at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Dentistry, class of 2016. Hague graduated from Drury University, Springfield, Missouri, with a Bachelor's degree in biology.  She earned several accolades while studying at Drury University, including the 2011 Outstanding Senior Woman at Drury University and the 2011 Laura Bond Award, Biology Honors. 

Hague is interested in craniofacial anomalies and development. Her career aspirations are to specialize in orthodontics, complete a craniofacial orthodontic fellowship and to join a craniofacial anomalies team. She has completed two summer research fellowships at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. In her first fellowship in 2010, her research focused on Treacher-Collins Syndrome and research was conducted on the palate development of Tcof1 mice. During her second fellowship the following summer, she conducted research on craniofacial development and analyzed histologically stained coronal/frontal sections of Tcof1;Pax3 heterozygous mice palate development. 

In 2012 she completed a three-month fellowship at the UCSF School of Dentistry that aimed to determine the extent to which individual ion channels mediate the mechanotransduction necessary for secondary chondrogenesis. Hague joined AADR that same year and received an AADR Student Research Fellowship that allowed her to further explore dental research. The following year she received an AADR Bloc Travel grant that enabled her to travel to and present her research at the 2013 AADR Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington. 

In 2014, Hague was one of three dental students inducted into the 2014-2015 class of the NIH Medical Research Scholars Program. The MRSP is a comprehensive, year-long research enrichment program designed to attract the most creative, research-oriented medical, dental, and veterinary students to the intramural campus of the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland.

In addition to being an AADR member, Hague is a member of the AADR National Student Research Group (NSRG) and served as president for the 2014-2015 term. The AADR NSRG is a student-run organization whose main purpose is to foster an environment in every dental school whereby students interested in enriching their dental education through research are encouraged to do so. 

How did you first get involved in AADR?
Initially it was my interest in research that led me to join AADR and apply for an AADR Student Research Fellowship. Early on in dental school I was doing research at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. I was very interested in craniofacial anomalies and craniofacial development, and I knew the project I was working on could be transferred to similar mentors at UCSF. When I transferred to UCSF I searched for mentors and UCSF helped guide me to Dr. Rich Schneider who was doing research on the mandibular development of ducks. After I transferred to UCSF, I did a basic science summer project and that’s when I became aware of AADR and decided to join. Having the support of AADR has been very helpful.

What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of your AADR membership?
One of the most valuable benefits of my AADR membership is the networking opportunities that are available to me as a member. These in-person networking opportunities take place at the meetings, and if I qualify for any of the meeting-related fellowships I apply so that I’m able to attend the AADR meetings. At the meetings there are innumerable opportunities to network with students and faculty, and I’m able to attend presentations on my research interests. In addition to the networking, I really enjoy having access to the research published in the Journal of Dental Research, which I use as a resource. As a student, I find value in the AADR National Student Research Group, which I learned more about when I attended my first AADR meeting in Seattle, in 2013. At that meeting, when I attended the NSRG meetings, the NSRG members introduced me to other student members and told me ways to get involved in the NSRG. They also told me how to encourage students at my school to pursue research. Sometimes it’s difficult to balance research and involvement in dental school, but by attending that first meeting I learned more about how to balance everything while helping other students become interested in research. 

What would you say to other student members to encourage them to participate in the NSRG?
To encourage other student members to be more involved in the NSRG I would say first attend an AADR Annual Meeting. Attending a meeting will give students an opportunity to meet face-to-face with other NSRG members that they otherwise might not meet. I know it’s not always possible for students to attend the meetings but students can also interact with one another on the NSRG’s social media platforms. I also would encourage students to be more involved at the university level by joining their local research group at their university. 

This summer you completed your NIH Medical Research Scholars Program fellowship. Why is it important for more dental students to apply to be part of that program? 
I applied to be in the NIH MRSP because I’m extremely interested in research and I wanted to see if research is something I want to pursue further as a Ph.D., if I want to do a specialty in research or if I want to pursue a more academic track. Prior to being in the program I hadn’t had the opportunity to take a year off for research—I had only done three-month sectors for a total of nine months. I knew that through the NIH MRSP I would have the opportunity to do basic science and get a taste for what research is really like on a day-to-day basis, and also learn what it’s like to be at the NIH. Being in the program gave me an opportunity to hone in on my critical thinking skills, and to learn what are some of the questions in dentistry that need to be answered, if we don’t keep asking questions this profession will grow stagnant. I wanted to learn how to ask those questions and explore how basic science can connect people from the bench to the bedside. I encourage all dental students to apply because this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to live on the NIH campus and learn more about basic science and patient care.


JUNE 2015

Daniel W. McNeil, Ph.D., is professor of psychology (with tenure) and a clinical professor of dental practice & rural health at West Virginia University (WVU). There he is also Distinguished Eberly Family Professor of public service. He earned his B.S., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. 

As director of his Anxiety, Psychophysiology and Pain (APP) Research Laboratory, he is involved in the training of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as dental students, and chairs dissertation and thesis committees, mentoring trainees at all levels and across disciplines. He is a supervising psychologist in the WVU Department of Psychology’s training clinic, the Quin Curtis Center.  With a particular focus on behavioral dentistry and other clinic-based studies in health care settings, his APP lab encompasses basic laboratory studies on human behavior related to pain and emotion, including such constructs as emotional pain.

As a licensed and practicing clinical psychologist, McNeil is a clinical researcher with interdisciplinary interests in health psychology, including behavioral dentistry, studying the experience and expression of emotion, particularly anxiety and pain. Working broadly within a clinical health psychology framework, and including a specific focus on behavioral dentistry, he is involved with several externally funded research projects as a principal or co-principal investigator at WVU, examining factors contributing to oral health disparities in Appalachia (2R01 DE014899; grant from the National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research/National Institutes of Health) and enhancing exposure therapy for dental phobia using d-Cycloserine (grant from the WVU/University of Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institutes Partnership). He also serves as a mentor and co-investigator on a project investigating the assessment of negativity bias in depression, and changes in that bias as a result of behavioral activation therapy (NARSAD grant from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation). As a Fulbright Senior Scholar in New Zealand in 2010, McNeil also is interested in psychological implications of cross-cultural interactions, including groups for whom health disparities exist, including Appalachian populations and indigenous peoples, particularly including American Indians and Alaska Natives. 

McNeil has been funded by the National Institutes of Health for more than 10 years for behavioral dentistry and other oral health research. Currently, he is on the executive committee with the Center for Oral Health Research in Appalachia (COHRA), working collaboratively with the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan to address oral health disparities. 

McNeil joined AADR in 1993 and is involved in the IADR Behavioral, Epidemiological, and Health Services Research (BEHSR) Scientific Group. He currently serves as the Group’s secretary/treasurer and recently was elected to be president-elect.  

How did you first get involved in AADR?
When I joined the faculty at West Virginia University, colleagues here encouraged me to become involved in AADR. It made sense because it was consistent with my research. I attended my first meeting shortly after joining AADR and was very impressed with it and in interacting with colleagues from other disciplines. After attending my first meeting I was inspired to become even more involved.

What is your favorite AADR membership benefit? 
One of my favorite benefits is the networking opportunities AADR and IADR provide. In my area of dental fear and anxiety, and oral health care utilization, the opportunity to interact with colleagues from across the country and North America is very helpful. Another valuable benefit of being an AADR member is that it has propelled me into international interactions through my participation in the BEHSR Scientific Group and through the IADR/AADR combined meetings. That is extraordinarily helpful in terms of advancing science, public policy initiatives and interventions. 

How has being in an IADR Scientific Group helped to further your research?
Being active in the BEHSR has been incredibly important for me because of the opportunities to interact with colleagues. The Scientific Groups bring together people from various disciplines from across the world and allow us an opportunity to interact and discuss joint research ventures. The BEHSR has crystalized everything in AADR and IADR for me to gain benefits for myself and my students, and to make a contribution through professional service as an officer. The experience is very rewarding and I encourage my students to also be involved because being a member of a Scientific Group gives you another professional home. 

What advice do you offer to your students to encourage them to pursue careers in research?
I try to share my enthusiasm and passion for research with my students, and I hope my excitement is infectious. I also encourage them to be active in research by reminding them of the opportunities to attend AADR meetings and present their work. Doing this allows the students and I to have input from fellow researchers from outside of our campus. Consistently students are rewarded and have positive experiences from attending the meetings, and those experiences prove to them how a career in research is rewarding. 

What would you say to a nonmember to motivate them to join AADR?
There are many reasons why nonmembers should join AADR but one specific reason is the chance to continue to grow professionally, scientifically and clinically. Being part of AADR will help them stay abreast of the latest developments in the field to understand where the field is heading, and it’s a very stimulating and enriching environment. Through being a member, there’s also the opportunity to make a contribution toward how the field is moving forward. AADR provides that ongoing professional growth that is needed to further research.


MAY 2015

Donald L. Chi, D.D.S., Ph.D. is associate professor, oral health sciences at the University of Washington School of Dentistry. There, he is also an adjunct associate professor, health services; adjunct associate professor, pediatric dentistry; and a faculty member of the graduate college. 

He earned his A.B. in government and Asian studies from Cornell University; his D.D.S. in dentistry from the University of Washington and his Ph.D. in health services research from the University of Iowa. 

His research interests include dental care utilization for Medicaid-enrolled children with special health care needs; sugar-sweetened beverages and dental caries in Alaska Native children; dental caries in children and adolescents with cystic fibrosis; health care transitions for adolescents with special health care needs; and behavioral determinants of parents saying no to topical fluoride for their children. His scientific findings have been published in many peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Dental Research, and he has authored/co-authored nearly 70 papers.

Since joining AADR in 2004, Chi has remained an engaged member by presenting his research at AADR and IADR meetings, and serving as a program coordinator and symposium organizer for the IADR Pediatric Oral Health Research Group. In 2013 he received the IADR Colgate Community-Based Research Award for Caries Prevention.  

What inspired you to go into dental research?
I studied political science as an undergrad and I’ve always been interested in studying health issues. When I was an undergrad at Cornell I had opportunities to participate in research. After I graduated from college I went to Korea University on a Fulbright to study the effects of the financial crisis on the national health insurance system. That’s really when I began to understand how I could build a career based on my research interests. When I started dental school I knew that I wanted to do research and I had meaningful experiences conducting research on children’s oral health disparities and publishing findings in peer-reviewed journals. Part of the research process included the opportunity to attend and present at my first AADR meeting as a student. It opened my eyes to all the wonderful opportunities in dental research and a lot of important questions that had not yet been answered. From there I developed an interest in pediatric dentistry. I realized that my research interests in health inequity, prevention and policy went hand-in-hand with my interests in clinical pediatric dentistry. 

How was the experience when you attended and presented at your first AADR Annual Meeting?
I attended and presented an oral poster at the 2004 meeting when I was a second year dental student. The presentation focused on access to dental care for children in the New Hampshire Medicaid program. It was a little intimidating because the audience consisted of many well-known scientists in the field. It was a 10-minute presentation and the attendees were extremely interested and supportive, and they asked great questions. My presentation turned into a conversation and that was fun for me. That was my introduction to presenting my work to scientists and since then I’ve had many more positive experiences presenting my findings at meetings. I attribute my initial interest and success to my first presentation at the AADR Annual Meeting.

What would you say to encourage AADR National Student Research Group members to present their research at AADR meetings?
Sometimes when you’re doing your work in the lab or in your office you might feel isolated or feel as though you’re working in a bubble. One of the great things about attending the AADR and IADR meetings is that you meet people who are doing research in your field, and it’s amazing to know that you are actually part of a larger community. I’ve mentored a number of students who I have encouraged to present their findings at the meetings. I think that attending these meetings is an important part of the research dissemination process, and I share that with them. I also let them know that presenting their research at the meetings is a great way to meet potential future collaborators and mentors, especially when you’re just getting started in research. Secondly, it can be tough to find grant funding and to get your research published but perseverance pays off. Students sometimes think of career success as being linear but often times there are setbacks and roadblocks. Career trajectories aren’t always linear so I encourage students to persevere because this is an exciting time to do research. 

What role has cross-collaboration played in your scientific findings?
The interdisciplinary aspect of my research has been critical to moving my work forward in new and interesting ways. My research focuses on the understanding and developing solutions to children’s oral health disparities. At the root of oral health disparities are social inequities, like poverty, homelessness and low health literacy, and suboptimal oral health behaviors. This type of research lends itself naturally to collaborations with colleagues outside of dentistry. That’s why attending the AADR meetings are important because there I’m able to meet collaborators. So many new ideas result from meeting people at the poster sessions and other symposia. 

What is the most valuable benefit of your AADR membership?
There are many factors that make AADR membership valuable—one being the opportunity to attend the annual meeting. Being a member of AADR also means I can participate in the Scientific Groups. I’m part of the IADR Pediatric Oral Health Research Group and within that group there’s a lot of important work that takes place at the meeting, but that work continues between meetings. At the meeting in Boston we put together a symposium on adolescent oral health disparities. That provided an opportunity for symposium presenters to come together before the meeting and share ideas for the presentation and brainstorm future manuscript and grant ideas. Attending the meetings and being part of a scientific group helps me to continue to develop new ideas and make new collaborations. 




In this section

Annual Report

Learn More »