Institute Releases Strategic Plan, New Vision, Mission
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health, has released a strategic plan—Science: Advancing Oral Health for All—outlining its research and training priorities over a five-year period (2021 – 2026). The plan is predicated on the institute’s newly redefined mission: to advance fundamental knowledge about dental, oral, and craniofacial (DOC) health and disease, and translate these findings into prevention, early detection, and treatment strategies that improve overall health for all individuals and communities across the lifespan.
The plan also set forth a new vision statement: “We aspire to transform human lives through scientific discoveries and innovations that advance dental, oral, and craniofacial health and overall wellbeing for all.”
Science: Advancing Oral Health for All also identifies lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, new scientific areas for exploration, gaps in promising areas of research, and new approaches to address the lack of diversity in the DOC workforce, as well as the inequities in oral health treatment and outcomes in underserved and marginalized populations.
“With regard to oral health, science holds the promise of really moving the needle in terms of access to care and the diminishment of inequities,” said Rena D’Souza, Director, NIDCR. “So, two decades into the 21st century, NIDCR continues to dramatically expand its research purview, to include genomic studies, microbiome research, regenerative medicine technologies, the development of technologically advanced restorative dental materials, and, of course, COVID-19 research.”
The plan lays out NIDCR’s guiding principles (Scientific Excellence; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Stewardship; and Embracing and Managing Change) and research priorities, which aim to:
- Advance discoveries across the translational research spectrum and drive innovations that improve the early diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of DOC diseases across the lifespan.
- Develop more precise and individualized treatments for the management and prevention of DOC diseases.
- Accelerate the translation of research and the implementation of new discoveries into oral and general healthcare practices that reduce health inequities and disparities and improve oral health outcomes for individuals and communities worldwide.
- Nurture future generations of DOC researchers and oral health professional scholars who can address public health needs within a continually evolving landscape of science and technology advances.
- Expand existing partnerships and create new ones to advance the NIDCR research enterprise and increase its reach and impact.
The above priorities are the basis for specific objectives and tactics, put forth in the plan, that will encourage collaboration among multidisciplinary scientific teams to address public health priorities within NIDCR’s purview. Such details resulted from a methodical, data-driven, and transparent process that welcomed input from NIDCR staff, external scientists, patient advocates, professional societies, and the general public. Over the next several years, NIDCR plans to collaborate with partners in government, academia, and industry to advance the plan’s scientific goals and objectives, and to institute a program to measure the plan’s outcomes and impact.
“Our resources are not unlimited, so every dollar spent must have maximum impact with regard to realizing our overall vision and mission, which is why tracking outcomes is so vital” added D’Souza. “I challenged our teams to make bold predictions about the impacts NIDCR can have, and I believe this plan ensures that the entire research enterprise we shepherd delivers on the promise of discovery, innovation, and oral health for all."