It is both an honor and a privilege for me to serve NIDCR at this time in our 73-year history. While the devastation caused by the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 threatens our world and those around us, there has never been a time more urgent than this, when science and technology truly matters. There were multiple initiatives that led to the rapid development of a novel mRNA vaccine: global collaboration, swift governmental actions, and the urgency of human compassion. But also, our defenses against the pandemic were the result of decades of careful, strategic planning by the National Institutes of Health.
Envisioning the future through a fresh set of lenses, NIDCR considered the lessons offered to us by the pandemic. We also reviewed our past before planning next steps and assessed how a changing world and the limitless bounties of science and technology can create the future we all seek. In these pages, NIDCR, and its diverse stakeholders, identify where value-driven resources can yield the greatest impact for those who endure the burdens of dental and oral diseases.
As NIDCR’s 2021 report Oral Health in America: Advances and Challenges describes, we prioritized the science that puts patients and people first, that alleviates the pain and discomfort, that improves the quality of those lives. That kind of science requires caring, collaboration and a commitment toward equity, diversity, and inclusion. I am happy to report, in this “living” document, that NIDCR’s community exemplifies all three.
When you have a dedicated, talented team of people, and a solid plan for harnessing their shared vision, creativity, and purpose promoting public health, you get basic science that transforms into real world progress: a collaboration becomes a cure; from a vision, a vaccine.
Now is an incredible time to conduct the kind of science that breaks down disparities and inequities in health; that fuels innovation and brings about a coalescence in research; that embraces technology as a driver of discovery. Together, now is the perfect time to move forward.
As I write this, the pandemic is by no means over. But there is hope and signs of progress. And, at NIDCR, we are taking what we have learned and becoming stronger, and planning for a bright future that improves oral health—and overall health—for all.
With appreciation for all input received in developing NIDCR’s strategic vision,
Rena D’Souza, DDS, MS, PhD
Director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research