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From the Director

Martha J. Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D. 

The oral health of Americans has improved dramatically in the past half-century. These gains are due in large part to research and research training supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Today, the fruits of this research investment enable us to understand human biology like never before. Our challenge is to ensure that new knowledge and technologies are used strategically and quickly to yield evidence-based, individualized oral health care. Our approach must be comprehensive and collaborative across multiple research and health care disciplines.

NIDCR maintains a varied and productive research portfolio of basic investigations in molecules and cells; animal, tissue, and computer models that interrogate human disease; and clinical studies with individuals, communities, and populations in the United States and abroad. To chart the Institute’s course for the next six years through strategic planning, we engaged in a process of introspective analyses and consultation with our stakeholders. As an Institute with an expansive agenda, we seek innovative solutions to a broad array of health problems and to probe the mysteries of biomedicine as they relate to the NIDCR mission.

The NIDCR Strategic Plan for 2014-2019 embraces the multidisciplinary essence of dental, oral, and craniofacial health and the research that informs its evidence base. The plan centers on four key goals:

Let Science Drive. We will support the best basic, translational, clinical, and community-based research to build a strong evidence base in dental, oral, and craniofacial health. Doing so will help bridge the gap between research and health care practice for improved human health. Our first strategic goal affirms the basic tenet that rigor and reproducibility of experimental design and results are essential elements of scientific investigation.

Enable Precise and Personalized Oral Health Care. As trusted providers of health care, dentists and physicians have long recognized variations among patients and have provided personalized care based on the many biological and behavioral components that shape health. NIDCR-supported research can help enhance personalized health care in two ways. We will encourage better integration between health-related researchers and health care providers, and we will work to identify influences on oral health at the molecular level through biomarker discovery and the development of risk-assessment tools.

Address Oral Health Disparities. NIDCR’s involvement in oral health disparities research is a long-term, deliberate investment. It focuses on building a foundation of knowledge that has had, and will continue to have, a measurable impact on clinical practice, public policy, and the oral health of many of the nation’s most vulnerable populations. Although our commitment to eliminating oral health disparities is steadfast, it will continue to take time to reach fruition. This strategic goal signifies the importance of sustained effort that requires collaboration with many partners in government and industry, and with a range of organizations and individuals in communities.

Engage a Diverse Oral Health Research Workforce. Our fourth strategic goal applies to all areas of this strategic plan. It articulates the notion that people—scientists and practitioners, individuals and communities—are the lifeblood of biomedical research. Innovation and problem-solving require a workforce that is multidisciplinary and inclusive of scientists from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. Promoting education, scholarship, and training at all levels and types of institutions—from students to laboratory investigators to health care providers—helps ensure that evidence-based care reaches patients and communities. Novel and collaborative strategies to engage a diverse oral health research workforce and to disseminate evidence-based information will guide us through the highly dynamic landscape of 21st century biomedicine.

There has never been a better time to take advantage of the remarkable opportunities in science and technology waiting at our doorstep. Seizing this moment brings us closer to preventing and treating dental, oral, and craniofacial conditions as well as other diseases that share risk factors and therapeutic strategies.

I welcome your continued input as we strive to revolutionize oral health through research.

Martha J. Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Discover — Enable the best science to solve problems in dental, oral, and craniofacial health.

Integrate — Promote the convergence of science, health care, and the research workforce toward ensuring that oral health is integral to overall health.

Collaborate — Partner with individuals and organizations within and outside dentistry, government, and academia, to improve the nation’s dental, oral, and craniofacial health.

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This page last updated: July 29, 2014