Research Training and Career Development Branch
Division of Extramural Activities
The NIDCR combined Dental Specialty and PhD Program (DSPP) supports early career dentist scientists who have recently completed their dental degree and are seeking advanced dental clinical training in a program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) as well as mentored research career development and research training leading to a PhD in biomedical or behavioral science, or in another field applicable to dental, oral, and craniofacial research. The combined and integrated dental specialty and PhD training program is intended to support a unique dentist scientist research career pathway and to ensure a supportive environment for both advanced dental specialty and PhD training. The program is expected to accelerate the process of achieving competencies in both areas, and to facilitate the dentist scientist’s transition to an independent research career. This program is expected to recruit, educate, and train future scientific leaders in academic dentistry, and to maintain a critical mass of investigators with a unique and intimate knowledge of dental, oral, and craniofacial biology who can participate in multidisciplinary research teams, work across organizations including industry partners, academic partners, community practitioners, and professional organizations, and provide leadership in improving dental, oral, and craniofacial health.
NIDCR has a long history of supporting programs to prepare dentists for careers as clinical research scientists and leaders in oral health research. The Dentist Scientist Award (DSA) program implemented in 1984 provided an opportunity for dentists to undertake five years of study integrating a clinical science component, career development component (including didactic coursework) and mentored research experience component that is part of a doctoral program leading to a PhD or an equivalent degree. The most recent DSA funding opportunities include the Individual Dentist Scientist Award (K15) (PAR-94-065) (the dentist and mentor apply for the award, detailing the specific clinical and research components) and the Institutional Dentist Scientist Award (K16) RFA DE-94-005) (a Program Director leads and administers a DSA program at a university with a dental school or dental school affiliation, and is responsible for selecting the dentist appointees to the program).
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) consolidated career development programs in 1995 (Revision of NIH Career Development Grant Mechanisms) and the Individual Dentist Scientist Award (K15) was replaced by the replaced by the K08 Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (K08) and the Institutional (K16) Dental Scientist Award was replaced by the K12 Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Program Award. Unlike the NIDCR K15 and K16 awards, which supported both clinical and research training, the K08 and K12 awards support a minimum of 75% of full-time professional effort for individuals conducting research, career development, and research related activities under the guidance of a qualified mentor. The remaining 25% of full-time professional effort, supported by the institution, may be devoted to developing other clinical and teaching activities that are consistent with the K08/K12 goal to support career development experiences for clinicians leading to research independence.
NIDCR participates in the NIH Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award (K08) to provide clinicians with 3-5 year of mentored research training and career development experiences leading to research independence. Dentists may use the research training and career develop experiences as part of a doctoral program leading to a PhD or an equivalent degree in biomedical or behavioral sciences. With institutional support, some K08 supported dentists have arranged individualized DSA-type programs, pursuing clinical specialty training in 25% effort supported by their university or dental school while devoting 75% professional effort pursuing a PhD or equivalent degree.
The NIH K12 institutional career development award has effort requirements like the K08, and like the Institutional K16 DSA, it is led by a Program Director, who is responsible for selecting scholars for yearly appointments to the program. The intent of the NIDCR K12 DSPP is for universities and dental schools/oral health focused institutions to create and establish structured pathways and programs for dental specialty training and for research training and career development, leading to a PhD or equivalent doctoral degree in biomedical or behavioral science. Strong commitment from the institution for the program and guarantee sustained commitment to each dentist scholar through the completion of dental specialty training and a PhD or equivalent degree is expected. The establishment of structured K12 DSPP programs is intended to attract and prepare dentists for careers as highly skilled investigators and potential leaders in the full scope of dental, oral, and craniofacial health research.
A unique feature of the NIDCR K12 DSPP is the allowable minimum of 50% of full-time professional effort supported per year, based on the number of years a scholar is appointed to the K12. The NIDCR supports 5-year K12 DSPP awards. For scholars appointed to the K12 DSPP for four or five years, one or two of those years, respectively, may be reduce to a minimum of 50% of full-time professional effort to enhance integration of the proposed DSPP program components. The NIH approved reduction in minimum professional effort provides additional flexibility for institutions in achieving the goals of the NIDCR DSPP.
In 2014, the NIH Physician-Scientist Workforce Working Group (PSW-WG) reported the size and composition of the physician-scientist biomedical workforce, described key findings and challenges, and offered nine recommendations to enhance and maintain the physician-scientist research workforce. The report included recommendations for the dentist-scientist, nurse-scientist, and veterinarian-scientist workforce. Recommendations addressing challenges facing all clinician scientists include:
- NIH should establish a new physician-scientist-specific granting mechanism to facilitate the transition from training to independence.
- NIH should support pilot grant programs to rigorously test existing and novel approaches to improve and/or shorten research training for physician-scientists.
The NIDCR DSPP program addresses these challenges by providing dentists with advanced clinical specialty training, research career development opportunities, and rigorous research training, which is expected to build a critical mass of clinician researchers as faculty, enabling them to build and maintain a vibrant research program, contribute to the NIDCR and NIH research mission, and mentor future generations of clinicians and researchers.
Key Features and Requirements
- Programs will provide dentist scholars with intensive supervised research training and career development experiences leading to a PhD in a field relevant to dental, oral and craniofacial research, and advanced clinical knowledge and skills development in one of the advanced dental education programs accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) (Appendix I).
- Applicant institutions must have well-established research, research career development, and clinical programs, adequate numbers of highly qualified faculty in clinical departments and departments supporting graduate PhD-level research training.
- Applicant institutions must be able to provide programs individually tailored to meet the unique research and clinical development needs of each DSPP scholar. How the advanced clinical training will integrate with, or augment, the research training component and form a cohesive DSPP must be described. The DSPP should provide a foundation to support future clinically relevant dental, oral, and craniofacial research.
- Applicant institutions must provide a clear and agreed upon governance statement for the proposed DSPP ensuring that the scholars have protected time for the agreed upon schedule of advanced clinical and PhD graduate research activities over the duration of the scholar’s DSPP. A process for dispute resolution between clinical faculty and PhD graduate research mentors, independent of the DSPP scholar, must be included.
- Applicant institutions must ensure that scholars complete the DSPP program with requisite competencies in an advanced dental clinical specialty and in biomedical or behavioral research (PhD or equivalent degree).
- Institutions must demonstrate commitment and guarantee sustained support for scholars through the completion of their DSPP (both phases). Plans must be provided for the support of an individual beyond the five-year maximum of NIDCR K12 support for the research training component of the program or if funding from the NIDCR is not available.
- The NIDCR DSPP supports research career development and graduate PhD research training through K12 appointments, non-PHS/NIH sources can support specialty training.
- Scholars must be appointed a minimum of 3 consecutive years and up to a maximum of 5 years of K12 DSPP support (consecutive or not). Yearly appointments are 12 months in duration.
- Scholar are required to devote 3 years at a minimum of 9 person months (equivalent to 75% of full-time professional effort) in mentored career development and research training experiences.
- Scholars appointed 4 or 5 consecutive years of support may devote 1 or 2 of those years, respectively, at a minimum of 6 person months (50% of full-time professional effort) pursuing PhD related research and career development activities. The remaining effort must be devoted dental specialty training. See Table 1 for examples of program structure and phasing.
- A minimum of 50% continuous and consistent full time professional effort towards research and research career development must be maintained during each year a scholar is appointed to the K12. For example, 75% of full-time professional effort could be met by 6 months at 50% effort and 6 months at 100% effort, or by 12 months at 75% effort.
- If the appointment and effort requirements are met, the structure and phasing of the proposed dental specialty and PhD training program is developed by the applicant institution. Institutions may plan for an individual to begin or complete specialty training prior to or following K12 support.
- Career development activities are expected to be integrated into the DSPP and include submission of an application for an individual career development award (K) before completion of the DSPP.
Table 1. Example of a six-year DSPP program with five consecutive K12 appointments supporting PhD research and research career development at 50% - 100% of full-time professional effort. The total length of DSPP programs (e.g., longer than this six-year model) and effort requirements will depend on an institution’s specific dental specialty and PhD training requirements.
|Year in DSPP||Dental Specialty Training Effort||PhD Research & Career Dev. Effort||Dental Specialty Training Support||K12, PhD & Career Dev. Support|
|Year 1||100%||0%||Other source||Not appointed|
|Year 2||50%||50%||Other source||Other source|
|Year 3||25%||75%||Other source||Other source|
|Year 4||25%||75%||Other source||Other source|
|Year 5||0%||100%||Other source||Other source|
|Year 6||0%||100%||Other source||Other source|
NIDCR issued two RFAs (RFA-DE-18-003, RFA-DE-18-012) for the NIDCR Dental Specialty and PhD Program (DSPP)(K12) and issued three awards (Table 2). Nine applications were submitted to RFA-DE-18-003and no awards were made. Seven applications were submitted to RFA-DE-18-01 2 and three awards were made, with project start dates 9/1/2018 and project end dates 8/31/2023. This pilot DSPP supports 1 or 2 scholars per year. Six scholars have been appointed to the K12.
Table 2. Status of NIDCR K12 DSPP programs in 2021.
|Grant Number||Program Director||University||Title of Program||Number of Scholars|
|K12DE027827||Keith Kirkwood, DDS, PhD||SUNY Buffalo||Buffalo Oral-Research and Specialty Training Program (BORST)||2|
|K12DE027830||Ichiro Nishimura, DDS, DMSC||University of California, Los Angeles||UCLA Dental Specialty and PhD Program||2|
|K12DE027826||Vesa Kaartinen, PhD||University of Michigan||Accelerating Interventions for Craniofacial Diseases and Disorders via DSPP Scholar Training at Michigan||2|
Gaps and Opportunities
The NIDCR K12 DSPP program fills a gap in current NIDCR research training opportunities by providing structured programs specifically designed to provide additional pathways for dentist scientists to pursue independent research careers. Based on an increased number of inquiries from potential scholars, the DSPP is gaining visibility and demonstrating a need for the program in the dental community.
NIDCR supports several individual (F, K) and institutional (T) research training and career development programs dentists may use to pursue mentored research training experiences in DOC research. The awards require either 100% full time professional effort (F32, T32, T90/R90) or a minimum of 75% of full time professional effort (Ks, K12) see NIDCR Careers & Training for Dentists & Physicians. Eligible individuals include dentists with or without a PhD, and with or without dental specialty training.
- Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Postdoctoral Fellows (F32)
- Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Institutional Training offers postdoctoral training for U.S. citizens and permanent residents (T32, T90) and Institutional Research Education for non-citizen dentists (R90)
- NIDCR Mentored Career Development Award to Promote Diversity in the Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research Workforce (K01)
- Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (Parent K01) NIDCR uses this award to support individuals who are seeking re-entry into the research workforce.
- Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award (K08)
- Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)
- NIDCR Dual Degree Dentist Scientist Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) Dentists who have a PhD degree are eligible for this award.
- NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R0). Dentists who do not have a PhD degree are eligible for this award.
- NIGMS Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity (K99/R00)
- Notice of Special Interest: Administrative Supplements to Support Dentist Scientists Post Specialty or Residency to Develop Expertise in Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Research
Reissuing the K12 DSPP funding opportunity has the potential to expand DSPP training opportunities to other organizations and to continue support for existing competitive programs. Robust engagement in the DSPP is anticipated to have a positive impact on enhancing participation of dentists-scientist in the DOC research workforce, on fostering the independent research careers of highly trained dentist- scientists, and on developing future mentors and national and international leaders dedicated to improving dental, oral, and craniofacial health.
- Lipton JA. The Dentist Scientist Award program and prosthodontics. J Prosthet Dent. 1996 Jun;75(6):666-70. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3913(96)90254-1. PMID: 8725844.
- PSW Working Group Report June 2014
- RFA-DE-94-005 NIDCR Institutional Dentist Scientist Award (K16)
- PAR-94-065 NIDCR Individual Dentist Scientist Award (K15)
- PA-95-053 Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (K08)
- RFA-DE-18-012 NIDCR Dental Specialty and PhD Program (DSPP)
Advanced dental education programs accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), (alphabetical order)
- Advanced Education in General Dentistry
- Dental Anesthesiology
- Dental Public Health
- General Practice Residency
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
- Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
- Oral Medicine
- Orofacial Pain
- Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
- Pediatric Dentistry