Spring 2006 Table of Contents
Research in Focus
College of Dentistry Moves Up to Sixth Place on National Research List

Associate Dean for Research Dr. Louis Terracio

Ranking for federal research grants to dental institutions in 2005 put the NYU College of Dentistry sixth in the nation in order of grants funded by the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NYU moved up from 11th in 2004 to sixth this year, and now ranks first among private dental schools.

According to Dean Alfano, a number of initiatives account for this rapid rise in the national rankings, all of which derive from a philosophy that makes research a priority. “NYUCD’s mission today is dramatically different from what it was 10 years ago,” said Dean Alfano. “Today all major decisions made at NYUCD are considered not solely on their own merit, but also in terms of how the decision will affect our ability to do research and to innovate in healthcare delivery.

In addition to thoroughly integrating research into the fabric of the College, we have recruited senior research faculty from the top ranks in their fields. We have also sharpened our research focus by fostering an environment that encourages interactions and collaborations among research faculty and their colleagues in Medicine, Nursing and Arts and Science at NYU, and at other major research universities. Indeed, the majority of the research conducted today at NYUCD is driven by this collaborative approach. However, if asked to name the single change that was most important to our research growth, it would be the recruitment of Dr. Louis Terracio.”

Dr. Terracio joined NYUCD in 2000 as Associate Dean for Research from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, where he had served as Associate Dean for Basic Sciences and Carolina Distinguished Professor of Developmental Biology and Anatomy. “Today the entire gamut of research in important areas of dentistry is being conducted at NYUCD,” says Associate Dean Terracio. “Equally important, groups of researchers are working together synergistically to move fundamental basic science research into practice.”

One example of the College’s synergistic approach is the PEARL (Practitioners Engaged in Applied Research and Learning) Network, a regional networking of dental practices in research projects, which was established with a $26.7 million NIH grant. The PEARL Network marks the first time that the NIH has allocated funding for clinical research that directly involves dental practitioners, in collaboration with faculty researchers, from study concept initiation through implementation. (See related story).

Other major initiatives contributing to NYUCD’s growing strength as a research institution include the construction of the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research; the construction of new research labs; the full integration of basic science and translational research approaches focused on producing specific clinical research hypotheses that can be tested at the Bluestone Center; the continued expansion of the College’s epidemiology and health promotion activities, especially in the areas of oral cancer and infectious diseases; and its strong focus on improved dental implants, biomimetics, tissue engineering, and catastrophe preparedness.

Associate Dean Terracio also pointed to more subtle changes in the College’s culture as a factor in its success. For example, decisions were made to give faculty protected time from excessive paperwork and bureaucracy; to create a research “workshop,” which allows grant-seekers to discuss their grant applications with one another as they are being developed and to benefit from ongoing feedback; and to encourage mentoring relationships between newly-recruited A-plus level research faculty and younger faculty members. This type of mentoring relationship is also seen in NIH-funded, faculty-mentored, student research, which has also grown dramatically in recent years.