Producing experienced, scholarly surgeons well trained in the full scope of oral and maxillofacial techniques is a UAB tradition.

Mary MacDougall and Michael Reddy (center) are directing the new Dental Academic Training Research (DART) program. The training program is one of the most comprehensive at UAB and focuses on research related to oral, dental and craniofacial health.

Now a new training program funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) will enrich that history by preparing students for dental academic careers.

A $3.9 million, five-year grant will fund the new Dental Academic Training Research (DART) program directed by Mary MacDougall, Ph.D., and Michael Reddy, D.M.D. DART, one of the most comprehensive training programs at UAB, focuses on research related to oral, dental and craniofacial health.

“The program will provide multi-disciplinary training for the next generation of dental academicians,” MacDougall says. “We will target oral health discoveries and provide novel research discoveries related to dentistry. Hopefully that will have an impact on the future practice of dentistry.”

There are 23 dental-training programs funded in the United States. UAB’s School of Dentistry is No. 10 in the country in research funding as ranked by the NIDCR.

The addition of the grant for the DART program “puts UAB in elite company,” says MacDougall, who ran a similar training program at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Dental School.

A recent survey of dental school faculty with four years or less of service showed renewed interest in academic careers, and teaching and scholarship are the most important influences on their choice of academic careers. Other positive factors include the influence of mentors and role models, long-term aspirations and research.

Interfacing programs
The DART program will integrate with other School of Dentistry grant programs, including the William Gies Research Award fostering undergraduate students toward careers in dental academics, the D.M.D./Ph.D. program, the practitioner network research grant directed by Greg Gilbert, D.D.S., and the research curriculum development grant directed by Kent Palcanis, D.D.S.

This year’s entering dental class has three D.M.D./Ph.D. students, and MacDougall says the program is integrating Ph.D. training with clinical training.

“The dental school has received a large number of these special research-related grants and is integrating them into these new training programs,” MacDougall says. “That’s attracting top students nationwide.”

In fact, the dental school’s most recent recruit had a 4.0 grade-point average and scored a 25 on the dental admissions test – one of the highest scores nationwide.

“She applied to eight different programs around the country and ultimately chose UAB,” MacDougall says. “For a relatively new program, that speaks to the quality of research activities in the dental school under the leadership of Dean Huw Thomas.”