NIDCR-NCATS/CTSA Clinical and Translational Science Training Partnership Program

Research Training and Career Development Branch DEA, NIDCR


The translation of basic research discoveries to implementing interventions that improve public health requires teams of scientists, clinicians and other stakeholders with wide-ranging expertise and perspectives. The purpose of this initiative is to develop a pipeline of qualified investigators conducting research in translational science who can advance dental, oral, and craniofacial research. The initiative will leverage research training resources and expertise at the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) hubs to increase the NIDCR research workforce and advance dental, oral, and craniofacial research in areas requiring disparate disciplines to come together to diagnose, discover, and disseminate research findings, drugs, and interventions to the public expeditiously.

The initiative will co-fund administrative supplements to the CTSA KL2 Mentored Career Development program, which offers formal research training experiences for postdoctoral scholars. The KL2 appointment would provide an additional pathway for scholars pursuing dental, oral and craniofacial research to learn about the core knowledge, skills, and collaborative techniques needed to advance one’s research and impact human health. Dentist scientists and PhD investigators would obtain a rigorous translational science education, research training, and career guidance leveraging the infrastructure support, curriculum, and mentorship expertise of the CTSA program.


One of the over-arching goals of the CTSA program is to promote team science, and the development of a well-trained and skilled translational research workforce. Early exposure to collaboration leveraging disparate areas of expertise will better prepare clinical investigators to tackle current and emerging challenges facing clinical research.

All CTSA institutions have a KL2 program, which offers formal research training experience to scholars who have an M.D., D.D.S, D.M.D., Ph.D. or equivalent doctoral degrees. The program combines formal course work with direct research experience, and many institutions’ programs offer opportunities to pursue additional advanced degrees. All students, including those at CTSA partner institutions, have access to CTSA research facilities, which may include:

  • Training courses, seminars and workshops
  • Use of specialized equipment and databases
  • Access to clinical research mentor expertise
  • Administrative and regulatory support for research protocols
  • Funding for pilot research projects

KL2 awards support 2-5 years of mentored research career development for individuals who have recently completed professional training and who are commencing basic, translational and/or clinical research. The CTSA-funded institution selects KL2 candidates, providing them with a rich career development experience in a multidisciplinary setting. KL2 appointees — referred to as Clinical Research KL2 Scholars — come from a variety of fields (e.g., medicine, dentistry, nursing, the behavioral sciences, biostatistics and epidemiology) and can receive up to five years of career development support. To date, few dentist scientists have particpated in the KL2 program. Based on available data, between FY 2006-2013, only 12 of 1,233 KL2 Scholars had a dental degree (DDS, DMD, or BDS). Five of those individuals had a dental degree only, seven had a dental degree and a PhD.

The proposed NIDCR-CTSA Training Partnership Program will provide NIDCR an opportunity to stimulate interest in translational science that aligns with the Institute’s research mission by co-funding research training in dental, oral and craniofacial sciences as administrative supplements to the CTSA KL2 award. The aim of the program will be to immerse postdoctoral scholars in the core principles and skills required to advance research in translational science through the CTSA consortium, to foster team science across a broad range of scientific disciplines, and augment the development of a well-trained and skilled translational research workforce in dental, oral and craniofacial research.

The KL2 appointment would offer a unique career pathway for postdocs pursuing dental, oral and craniofacial research. Instruction would be provided on core competencies in translational research. There will be opportunities to explore novel research experiences with industry, community health centers, and federal partners (FDA, VA). The selected postdocs will become a member of a large collaborative research network prepared to tackle the biomedical challenges of today and tomorrow to improve human health. NIDCR supported scholars would obtain an individualized program of translational science education, research training, and career guidance that leverage the infrastructure support, curriculum, and mentorship expertise of the CTSA program.

Under the proposed pilot program, NIDCR would administratively review the KL2 scholar recommendations submitted by the KL2-Program Director PD/PI and manage the selection process. NIDCR programmatic administrative review would include evaluating the candidate’s qualifications and the alignment of the proposed research, research training, and mentorship with the goals of the KL2 program and the NIDCR research mission.

The proposed initiative is also responsive to one of the nine recommendations put forth by the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director’s Physician-Scientist Workforce (PSW) Working Group which was assembled subsequent to the ACD’s Biomedical Workforce (BMW) Working Group’s June 2012 report which recommended that NIH conduct a follow-on study that focuses on physician-scientists (includes scientists with professional degrees including MD, DO, DDS/DMD, DVM/VMD degrees and nurses with research doctoral degrees).

The PSW working group was charged with developing approaches that can inform decisions about the development of the U.S. PSW, analyzing the size and composition of the PSW; considering the impact of NIH funding policies; assessing the needs and career opportunities for physician scientist trainees; and identifying incentives and barriers to entering the PSW. The PSW Working Group report (June, 2014) describes key finding and challenges,  and puts forth nine recommendations to enhance and maintain the physician-scientist pipeline and workforce.

This NIDCR initiative is in response to recommendation #9: Leverage the Existing Resources of the CTSA Program to Obtain Maximum Benefit for Training and Career Development, and questions whether this resource is being optimally utilized, encourage testing of innovative pilot programs, and encourages extending the resources to non-MD components of the PSW. Specific recommendations for the dentist-scientist workforce, included in the report, also “encourage/incentivize promising dental school graduates to consider careers in developing team science perhaps by creating post-doctoral fellowships-faculty transition plans at their school with post-doctoral fellowships to be performed at leading centers for team science”.

Alignment with Institute Goals and Strategic Plan

The goals of this initiative are consistent with the NIDCR Strategic Plan 2014–2019: Objective 1-3: Conduct translational and clinical investigations to improve dental, oral, and craniofacial health; Objective 2-1: Support research toward precise classification, prevention, and treatment of dental, oral, and craniofacial health and disease. NIDCR encourages leveraging existing clinical research infrastructure supported by other NIH Institutes and Centers. One important resource is the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program, which aims to accelerate translation of laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, to engage communities in clinical research.

Objective 4-1 Collaborate with academic institutions, especially schools of dentistry, to create research pathways for faculty and trainees; Objective 4-3 Support research, training, and career development programs that value team science, transformative approaches, and diversity at all levels. This initiative would encourage formation of interdisciplinary research teams with the required expertise to conduct high quality studies. NIDCR believes that a variety of flexible and innovative research training and career development programs is needed to recruit and retain experts with the appropriate skills to conduct oral health research in an increasingly complex environment.

Current Portfolio Overview

NIDCR currently supports a number of research training and career development awards for individuals who have completed their professional clinical and/or academic doctoral degrees and are seeking mentored research experiences to foster their transition to research independence:

NIDCR also supports institutional research training programs (T32, T90R90, T15, K12, D43) that select and appoint trainees to the grant for training in basic, translational and clinical research. Institutional and individual programs provide mentored research training, support a broad range of approaches and scientific disciplines in conducting dental, oral and craniofacial research.


This concept is an opportunity to leverage resources at currently funded CTSA Hubs which have research training infrastructure.


NCATS Advisory Council Working Group on the IOM Report: The CTSA Program at NIH A Working Group of the NCATS Advisory Council to the Director Draft Report May 16, 2014 (accessed 12/10/2015)

The CTSA Program at NIH: Opportunities for Advancing Clinical and Translational Research (2013), Institute of Medicine of the National Academies

PSW Working Group Report June 2014 (PDF - 6358 KB)
Full set of data and graphs of the PSW Report accessible from NIH RePORTwebsite

The Advisory Committee to the NIH Director’s Biomedical Workforce (BMW) Working Group Report June 2012 (PDF - 4463 KB)

Giannobile WV, Joskow RW. Clinical and translational oral health research: prospects for the future; J Dent Res. 2012 Jul;91(7):633-6

Last Reviewed
July 2018