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The NYU Global Postdoctoral Oral Epidemiology Training Program: a PhD epidemiologic research training program for dentists

Program Description
The successful 20 year-long NYU Oral Epidemiology Training Program will, as of the 2013-14 academic year, shift its training focus to the international pool of candidates. After years of 20 years of continuous funding as an NIH NRSA-funded program to train U.S. dentists for academic/research careers as oral epidemiologists, the majority of training slots will be reserved for international dentists from the global community in this re-focused, re-named NYU Global Postdoctoral Oral Epidemiology Training Program, i.e, the NYU Global POET Program. This new program will still include a limited number of training slots for U.S. dentists.

Following the same highly successful format as used for the past 20 years, the NYU Global POET Program Fellows will be concurrently enrolled as doctoral (Ph.D.) graduate students in epidemiology at Columbia University. The program typically requires five years for completion with the majority of the first two years occupied by formal course work at Columbia University. During the final three years, the six oral epidemiologic faculty members at NYU will mentor the Fellows as they conduct and complete their thesis research as well as complete research seminars, research skill rotations, research field experiences, and pedagogical training experiences at the NYU College of Dentistry.

The goal of the NYU Global POET Program is to provide its Fellows with four distinct outcomes which, when combined, define oral epidemiologists who are fully capable of meeting the high goals: 1) a Ph.D. in epidemiology; 2) oral epidemiologic research skills and experiences across an array of oral disease topics utilizing a broad spectrum of epidemiologic research designs; 3) a working definition of “oral epidemiologist” that fully incorporates the responsibility for collaborative research and consultation; and 4) communication skills, attitudinal awareness, and working experiences essential for the successful fulfillment of collaboration and consultation responsibilities in their future careers.

The NYU Global POET Program, housed in the Department of Epidemiology & Health Promotion in the NYU College of Dentistry, is exceptionally well-qualified to train oral epidemiologists given that (1) the NYU director and associate director of the program have a combined total of over 45 years experience in administrating and teaching in NIH/NIDCR NRSA postdoctoral training programs with 38 of those years of experience focused on the training of oral epidemiologists; (2) NYU has six Ph.D.-trained oral epidemiologists on faculty; (3) NYU has a rich history of a highly active research program in oral epidemiology having obtained over $51m in NIH funding (with Department faculty serving as Principal Investigators (PIs) for over $26m in grants, and as key co-investigators for another ~$25m in grants), e.g. via a series of NIDCR funded investigator initiated R-type grants (R01's, R21's and an R03's), an NIDCR funded U54 Oral Health Disparities Center grant consisting of four separate epidemiologic studies, and international collaborative epidemiologic studies with collaborators in Denmark, and Haiti; and, (4) NYU has an active, established, and highly successful collaborative institutional relationship with the epidemiology faculty at Columbia University for the doctoral training of oral epidemiologists.

The style of the NYU Global POET Program will be a continuation of its current style in which a mentor or mentors closely supervise and consult with the Postdoctoral Fellows on a regular (several times per week) basis during the summers of the first two years and during their last three years of their training. Of course, during certain intense periods of research activity, this becomes a daily, if not several times daily, interaction. This is, by definition, a labor intensive effort which—while accelerating the rate of development of any given oral epidemiologist in-training—necessitates that only a track of modest size can be properly supported as regards faculty involvement to achieve the desired level of intensity and thoroughness of mentoring and research training.

The history of population-based projects in the Department of Epidemiology & Health Promotion all potentially provide valuable research training opportunities for the NYU Global POET Fellows. Postdoctoral Fellows will have access to the databases from over 13 large-scale studies conducted by the departmental faculty, and nine large epidemiologic databases stored on personal computers in the Department of Epidemiology & Health Promotion.

Didactic Program
All Postdoctoral Fellows spend the Fall and Spring Semesters of the first two years in this full-time, five-year program as graduate students on the campus of Columbia University. The 3-month Summer Sessions at spent at NYU building research skills and conducting research studies. During these first two years, Postdoctoral Fellows complete the didactic course work and typically take the Comprehensive Doctoral Examinations in the Fall Semester of the 3rd year in the program, after which they design and write a doctoral thesis proposal which typically will be approved by June of the 3rd year. The remaining two years in the program are occupied primarily with conducting and writing the doctoral thesis project, supplemented by complementary research projects (other studies and grant writing) as well as by some pedagogical/teacher training experiences.

Research Program
Over the 20-year history of this Ph.D. in epidemiology training program, Postdoctoral Fellows have conducted their Ph.D. dissertation research over a wide array of oral health topics. Postdoctoral Fellows spend the final three years of their training program focused on research activities, including the planning and conducting of their thesis research and the submission of grants. Examples of Postdoctoral Fellows Ph.D. thesis topics including the following:

  • Early childhood protein-energy malnutrition in rural Haiti as a risk factor for enamel hypoplasia and dental caries in the permanent dentition
  • Progression of Periodontal Disease over 20 Years: Time-Trend Analyses of Sri Lanka Tea Workers
  • Sickle Cell Anemia and its relationship with Dental Caries and Oral Health Care
  • Dental Implants in Women: The Role of Bisphosphonates, Implant Length and Location in Implant Failure
  • Allostatic Load in relation to periodontal disease, tooth loss and mortality in older adults
  • Relationship between diabetes mellitus and periodontal disease and tooth loss.
  • An Analytical Epidemiologic Study of the Association Between Enamel Fluorosis and a History of Fluoride Supplementation, Infant Formula Ingestion, and Fluoride Dentifrice Use by Young Children
  • Relationship Between Multivitamin/Folic Acid Dietary Intake and the Occurrence of Oral Clefts
  • Risk Factors for Oral Epithelial Dysplasia
  • Oral Cancer Comorbidities
  • Patterns of Dental Caries in Early Childhood
  • Retrospective Study of the Relationship Between Tooth Loss and Past Pregnancies
  • Patterns of Dental Caries in Early Childhood

Clinical Program
There is no clinical component in the research-oriented Ph.D. training program. Given the intense nature of this training program, concurrent dual training in dental specialties is not permitted during this five-year pathway.

Accreditation Status
The Ph.D. degree is awarded by the graduate schools associated with the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University which is a fully accredited and, in fact, has a long history of being regarded as one of the most highly regarded epidemiology graduate programs in the United States.

Length of the Program
First-year Postdoctoral Fellows typically begin their academic year in June at NYU, spending the first summer at NYU prior to the initiation of their fall semester course work at Columbia University in September.

Director: Ralph V. Katz, DMD, MPH, PhD, FACE. Professor and Chair
Associate Director: Douglas E. Morse, DDS, MS, PhD, Associate Professor both in the Department of Epidemiology & Health Promotion, NYU College of Dentistry

Admission
The candidate selection process has several steps which begin 9 months prior to matriculation as a graduate student and oral epidemiology Postdoctoral Fellow. In the first step, which occurs in the early Fall, in September or October (~9 months prior to June matriculation), an interested candidate simultaneously submits a full set of application documents both: 1) to the director of the NYU Global Postdoctoral Oral Epidemiology Training (POET) Program; and, 2) to the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University. After an independent admissions review of the candidate's credential occurs at each university, candidates viewed favorably will be invited for an interview.

Application Process
Applying to NYU:
For the NYU oral epidemiology faculty review, the candidate application materials include:

  1. all transcripts post-high school, e.g., college/university and graduate school
  2. any U.S. National Dental Board scores,
  3. proof of citizenship status
  4. three letters of recommendation, and
  5. the candidate's own personal letter of career interests

The faculty review the entire set of materials, as well as the impressions gained via the interview, for evidence of past history of high-quality performance and for predictors that indicate the candidate is likely to be successful in an academic/research career in oral epidemiology.

All admissions materials related to this Ph.D. in Epidemiology NYU Global POET Program should be mailed to Dr. Ralph V. Katz, Professor and Chair, Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, NYU College of Dentistry, 250 Park Avenue South, New York, NY, 10003. Inquiries about the program should be made by telephone contact with Dr. Katz (212-998-9550) or e-mailed to ralph.katz@nyu.edu. The fax number for this program is 212-995-4436.

Applying to Columbia University: Check the details for the latest up-to-date online admissions procedures for the PhD in epidemiology in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health website:
http://www.mailman.columbia.edu/academic-departments/epidemiology/academics/phd-program

Funding Support:
All international (i.e., non-U.S. citizen) candidates must 'bring their own funding support', i.e., either personal monies—or full financial support from a government or university—that will pay for their program costs and their living expenses. Program costs, including tuition, will be about $50,000/yr for each of the five years. Annual living costs in New York City are estimated to be ~$36,000/yr for housing and food for a single person.

U.S. citizens are eligible to apply for research training support from NIDCR/NIH using the F32 grant mechanism. NYU faculty will assist U.S. candidates to complete the F32 grant application. The F32 grant application must be submitted ~15 months prior to anticipated matriculation in the program, i.e., if one anticipates matriculating on June 1, 2015, the F32 grant application must be submitted in April 2014, which means the writing of the F32 grant must initiate in September 2013.