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NIH Collaboration Leverages CTSA Program for Research Mentoring

Bo Yu in a research laboratory.

Bo Yu, D.D.S., Ph.D., received a CTSA Program Mentored Career Development Award to develop and test a treatment for periodontitis. The experience is helping him learn the science of translation — moving from basic research toward clinical applications.

NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) is collaborating with NCATS through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program to provide translational research training opportunities to oral, dental and craniofacial scientists early in their careers. Through supplemental funding to the program’s Mentored Career Development Awards, NIDCR is supporting career development of five investigators conducting research in oral, dental and craniofacial disease and prevention.

This pilot effort was initiated in response to a 2014 Physician-Scientist Workforce Working Group Report (PDF -  6.2MB) to the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director that highlighted the need for greater representation of dentist-scientists in the physician-scientist workforce. The report also recommended that NIH Institutes and Centers leverage the CTSA Program hubs for training and career development of early-career physician-scientists.

“The CTSA Program hubs offer unique resources and expertise in translational research and team science,” said Lynn Mertens King, Ph.D., chief of NIDCR’s Research Training and Career Development Branch. “NIDCR’s supplements afford the oral, dental and craniofacial research community additional opportunities to participate in mentored clinical research career development and will help these scientists transition to an independent career.”

Through their participation in the program, scholars have more time set aside for research, mentoring from diverse investigators, and opportunities to hone grant-writing and other skills needed for a successful research career.

The five scholars and CTSA Program hubs are:

  • Ejvis Lamani, D.M.D., Ph.D., at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for Clinical and Translational Science
  • Annie Chou, D.D.S., Ph.D., at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Clinical & Translational Science Institute
  • David Reed, Ph.D., at the University of Illinois at Chicago Center for Clinical and Translational Science
  • Bo Yu, D.D.S., Ph.D., at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Clinical and Translational Science Institute
  • Jin Xiao, D.D.S., Ph.D., at the University of Rochester Clinical & Translational Science Institute

Their projects represent the broad spectrum of NIDCR-supported research, from studying the oral yeast and bacteria of infants to identify risk factors for severe early-childhood caries to evaluating treatment strategies for people with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune condition that affects oral health.

“Receiving this award has been an eye-opening experience,” said Yu, an assistant professor at the UCLA School of Dentistry. “My mentoring team has rich experience in basic science, public health, and bioengineering and provides the perspective I was not able to get from the dental school alone.”

The NIH collaboration expands the reach of translational science training conducted at the participating CTSA Program hubs. NCATS and NIDCR also hope the impact of the pilot will extend far beyond the individual scholars to other investigators in the schools of dentistry.

This has certainly been the case at UCLA, according to Yu: “My involvement in the CTSA Program has led to a strong encouragement for a team science approach in the dental school and to forming more collaborations throughout the campus.” 

Posted February 2018