UNE College of Dental Medicine part of $4.4M Harvard-led research network
The University of New England College of Dental Medicine (CDM), Maine’s only dental school, is among seven collaborators sharing a $4.4 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to launch a novel clinical practice-based research network to train future clinician-scientists.
Known as the Collaborative Clinical Practice-based REsearch Program for DENTal Schools (H-CREDENT), the five-year grant from NIDCR, a division of the National Institutes of Health, is being led by the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) and will establish UNE’s Oral Health Center, home to the CDM, as a clinical research site for approximately 40 dental medicine students throughout the grant period.
Mohamed ElSalhy, B.D.M., Ph.D., M.Sc., M.P.H., assistant clinical professor of dentistry, will serve as principal investigator for UNE on the project. Nicole Kimmes, D.D.S., dean of the College of Dental Medicine, will oversee the facilitation of administrative, academic, and clinical logistics.
Additional collaborators on the project include Cambridge Health Alliance, Charles River Community Health, Harvard Catalyst, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and Meharry Medical College. H-CREDENT will leverage the consortium’s collective expertise and encourage scientific partnerships between students and research faculty across collaborating sites.
The goal of the collaborative research project is to look for predictors of pain in patients as they recover from oral surgeries like root canals or tooth extractions. Participating students will collect saliva samples from patients and monitor their post-operative pain as they heal. Through the process, ElSalhy said, students and faculty will develop a system for identifying patients who experience higher-than-normal levels of pain to aid clinicians in making evidence-based decisions for treating post-operative pain.
“The project aims to train dentists to have a good research background so that they can do research in whatever setting they choose, including private practice,” ElSalhy said.
Dean Kimmes said students who participate in the program will benefit from a Harvard-developed research curriculum in addition to early, pre-career research opportunities and mentorship by skilled faculty from the CDM and from across the research network.
“This opportunity will provide participating students and faculty with valuable research training using the curriculum that Harvard has created. The data gathered from training sites will contribute to our understanding of the risk factors that contribute to patient pain development following invasive dental procedures,” she said. “This research project perfectly aligns with UNE’s mission and the mission of the College of Dental Medicine to improve the health of Northern New England, and we are grateful to collaborate with colleagues across the consortium.”
ElSalhy added that the project will empower dental students to bring their research skills into their practices when they graduate. He said practice-based research can lead to better health outcomes for patients in underserved areas as clinician-researchers can tailor their studies to a community’s specific clinical situation.
“University clinical research is very centralized,” he explained. “Enabling dentists to train in practice-based research means they can bring their ideas to underserved communities and create better health outcomes using techniques that are more accessible to those communities.”
Kimmes added that the H-CREDENT program is a great example of the profession’s efforts to expand the practice-based research network.
“For practicing dentists who aren’t affiliated with the university setting, practice-based research is a vital way to contribute to the science and scholarship of dentistry,” Kimmes said. “By giving dentists that foundation while they’re students, we’re setting them up for success in their own practices with conducting their own research studies or collaborations with other colleagues.”
HSDM Dean William Giannobile, D.D.S., M.S., said partnering with UNE will advance both institutions’ “shared vision” of enhancing research in the dental health sphere.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the University of New England College of Dental Medicine and our other regional partners to advance our shared vision of fostering a new generation of clinician-scientists and scientifically astute clinicians,” Giannobile said. “We look forward to trainees in the program going on to make an impact here in New England as well as widely across the profession.”