ECU dental school partners with UF on practice-based research grant

The University of Florida College of Dentistry and the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine received a five-year $3,692,175 National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, or NIDCR, grant to establish an academic multidisciplinary practice-based research network within and between their respective dental schools.

Co-principal investigators Daniel W. McNeil, Ph.D., chair of the UF Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science and the Parker E. Mahan Endowed Professor, and David W. Paquette, D.M.D., M.P.H., D.M.Sc., professor and chair of the ECU Department of Surgical Sciences, along with their research teams, will collaborate on the project as part of the NIDCR’s Practice-Based Research Integrating Multidisciplinary Experiences in Dental Schools, or PRIMED, initiative to include research and science as an integral part of dental education and practice to prepare current and future dentists to be involved in practice-based clinical research.

McNeil, Paquette and the two institutions will embark on the five-year project, Development of Opportunities for Research (DOOR) in Dental Schools: Future Academic Interdisciplinary Workforce and Collaborators for the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network, from 2023-2028 to develop and test an integrated, multi-level and interdisciplinary program featuring training in clinical research skills, team-based science, mentoring and interdisciplinary collaboration, encompassing two clinical research studies with dental patients, one on diabetes detection and the other on acute/chronic pain.

“This partnership between UF and ECU is an exceptional opportunity that promises to benefit both institutions, the students and patients we serve,” McNeil said. “Our goal is ‘culture change’ to include research and science as an essential part of dental education and practice. With institutional support from the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the UF Academic Health Center, this five-year grant provides additional training for dental students, residents and clinical faculty, and is a unique opportunity to further infuse research and a scientific approach into oral healthcare, the training of dental students and resident training, and patient care of dental patients.”

“We are very excited about this NIDCR U01 research award and collaboration with UF. The project builds on the ECU School of Dental Medicine’s public mission of ‘developing leaders for the dental profession with a passion to care for the underserved and improve the health of North Carolina and the nation,’” Paquette said. “We anticipate that this grant will be transformative for our school’s research culture in providing formal, in-depth training and experiences in clinical and practice-based research for our dental students, residents and clinical faculty at Ross Hall and our community service learning centers across North Carolina.”

The partnership between UFCD, a research-intensive college with a 50-year history of dental education, and ECU, a newer dental school with a growing research focus that welcomed its first class of dental students in 2011, serves as a collaborative model that can be replicated in other U.S. dental schools and health education programs, making a positive impact on public health through a more research-informed and evidence-based workforce.

“This work addresses the challenge of extending clinical research outside of academic institutions so that it includes dentists and patients from all parts of the community,” McNeil elaborated. “It will allow us, at the student and resident level, to train future dentists about how to conduct and participate in clinical research as a part of their practice or clinic. It’s a game changer for the future of oral health research.”

About East Carolina School of Dental Medicine
The East Carolina School of Dental Medicine was established in Greenville, North Carolina, to address the lack of access to oral care for patients across the state, particularly in rural and underserved areas. The first students began classes in 2011; today, close to 90% of its more than 450 graduates are practicing dentistry in North Carolina. Fourth-year students spend time in three of the school’s eight community service learning centers situated across the state, an award-winning curriculum model that immerses students in rural communities where they receive diverse clinical experiences. The school’s vision is to lead the nation in community-based oral health education, research, patient care and service.

About the UF College of Dentistry
The UF College of Dentistry in Gainesville, Florida, was established in 1972 and is a leader in oral health education, clinical care, research and service. With 12 degree and certificate programs, it is one of only a handful of U.S. dental schools with residency training in the majority of clinical dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. About 90 new dentists and over 50 specialists graduate each year, with most choosing to practice in Florida.

As the only publicly funded dental school in the state, UFCD has a strong tradition of comprehensive and compassionate service to the community. Through the UF Statewide Network for Community Oral Health, the college provides oral health care for patients from all 67 counties in Florida each year, including its five college-owned dental centers and 10+ community partners. The robust research enterprise ranks No. 6 nationally among all U.S. dental schools in National Institutes of Health funding.


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