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

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. 




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