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UF, ECU open DOOR for practice-based research

The University of Florida College of Dentistry building.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida College of Dentistry and the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine will use a new grant to help young dentists incorporate research into their practice.

The five-year, $3.7 million National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, or NIDCR, grant will support the creation of an academic multidisciplinary practice-based research network between the dental schools.

Co-principal investigators Daniel W. McNeil, Ph.D., chair of the UF Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science and the Parker E. Mahan Endowed Professor, and David W. Paquette, D.M.D., M.P.H., D.M.Sc., professor and chair of the ECU Department of Surgical Sciences, and their research teams will collaborate as part of the NIDCR’s Practice-Based Research Integrating Multidisciplinary Experiences in Dental Schools, or PRIMED, initiative.

The goal: to include research and science as an integral part of dental education and to prepare current and future dentists to conduct practice-based clinical research.

“This work addresses the challenge of extending clinical research outside of academic institutions so that it includes dentists and patients from all parts of the community,” McNeil said. “It will allow us, at the student and resident level, to train future dentists about how to conduct and participate in clinical research as a part of their practice or clinic. It’s a game changer for the future of oral health research.”

The institutions will work together on the DOOR, or Development of Opportunities for Research, project through 2028.

They will work to develop and test an integrated, multilevel and interdisciplinary program that features training in clinical research skills, team-based science, mentoring and interdisciplinary collaboration, encompassing two clinical research studies with dental patients, one on diabetes detection and the other on acute/chronic pain.

ECU’s Paquette said his team is excited about the collaboration with UF, which builds on the North Carolina dental school’s mission of developing leaders in dentistry with a passion to care for the underserved and to improve the state’s overall health.

“We anticipate that this grant will be transformative for our school’s research culture in providing formal, in-depth training and experiences in clinical and practice-based research for our dental students, residents and clinical faculty at Ross Hall and our community service learning centers across North Carolina,” Paquette said.

The collaboration between UFCD, a research-intensive college with a 50-year history of dental education, and ECU, a dental school that welcomed its first students in 2011, serves as a model that can be replicated in other U.S. dental schools and health education programs. It is hoped that such cooperation will make a positive impact on public health through a more research-informed and evidence-based workforce.

McNeil said the collaboration represents a big change for dental education.

“This partnership between UF and ECU is an exceptional opportunity that promises to benefit both institutions, the students and patients we serve,” he said. “Our goal is ‘culture change,’ to include research and science as an essential part of dental education and practice.”

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