News from the Colleges
A Bird's-Eye View Into the Scholarship and Aspirations of NYUCD's NIH Postdoctoral Fellows

Back row (left to right): Sarah Rothenberg, MS, D Env (NYU Postdoctoral Fellow); Bianca Dearing, DDS, Pedo Cert (NYU Postdoctoral Fellow); Christian Salazar MPH, MPhil, PhD candidate (NYU Predoctoral Fellow); Lin Li, DDS, MS (NYU Postdoctoral Fellow); Richa Chhibber, BDS, MS (NYU Postdoctoral Fellow); Douglas Morse, DDS, PhD, associate director of the T32 program; Ms. Emilie Godfrey, MS, RD (Research Administrator). Front Row (left to right): Rima Gluzman, DDS, MS (NYU Postdoctoral Fellow); Ralph V. Katz, DMD, MPH, PhD (Program Director); Maria Chondronikola, MS, RD (Fulbright Fellow in Nutrition).

From the time Dr. Ralph V. Katz joined NYUCD in 2000 as professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, his responsibilities and initiatives have been varied, exciting, and rewarding. They include leading a faculty of impressive achievers and introducing innovative educational opportunities for dental students.

Perhaps less well known is Dr. Katz's role for the past 20-plus years as the principal investigator for an NIH National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Research Training Grant (T32) in Oral Epidemiology, which is designed to support postdoctoral training at institutions having the potential to supervise and develop research training programs in epidemiology. As such, Dr. Katz is both the supervisor and motivator-in-chief for a group of talented National Institutes of Health (NIH) Postdoctoral Fellows, who typically spend three to four years in the MS in clinical research track or five years in the PhD in epidemiology track. Both tracks focus on population-based research training. The PhD track has enrolled dentists who are concurrently enrolled as PhD students in epidemiology, either at Columbia University or Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Katz recently submitted a new competitive NRSA research training grant seeking funds to support the next five-year period. At a one-day research retreat, a group of Dr. Katz's postdoctoral fellows, including one Visiting Fulbright Fellow, presented their current research, which offers a bird's-eye view into the scope and quality of the research that the postdoctoral fellows conduct under the guidance of Dr. Katz, Dr. Douglas Morse, associate director of the T32 Program, and the four other epidemiologists in the Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion: Drs. Ananda Dasanayake, Mary Northridge, Stefanie Russell, and Walt Psoter.

Lin Li, DDS, MS, completed five years as an NRSA T32 postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at NYUCD in spring 2011, having previously completed her MS in clinical research degree in 2008. Dr. Li's research focuses on oral cancer, health behavior, and health disparities. She has actively collaborated with researchers from different disciplines on multiple projects. In addition to research, she has found her passion in teaching, and has taught the Skills in Assessing the Professional Literature (SAPL) course, within both the postgraduate and the predoctoral dental programs. She aspires to become an independent researcher and to teach full-time at the university level. She is currently enrolled in the PhD in epidemiology program at Louisiana State University in New Orleans.

Richa Chhibber, BDS, MS, a third-year NRSA T32 postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology and health promotion, completed her MS in clinical research degree in 2010 and conducts research on oral health, health disparities, and health behavior. Her primary research interest is in assessing the risk factors associated with oral cancer, especially among South Asians. She is also interested in addressing ethical issues in research, especially regarding the informed consent process and conflict of interest. She aspires to become a full-time faculty member at a university where she can teach as well as dedicate herself extensively if not exclusively to conducting independent and collaborative research among underserved populations.

Christian R. Salazar, MPH, MPhil, a fourth-year NRSA T32 oral epidemiology predoctoral fellow, is completing a PhD degree in epidemiology at Columbia University. His research focuses on understanding how oral diseases relate to cancer etiology, treatment, and outcomes in vulnerable populations. Christian came to NYUCD having completed two years of training at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Environmental Health Program at Columbia University. Chris is the first-ever non-dentist in the history of Dr. Katz's T32 program.

Rima Gluzman, DDS, MS, a fifth-year NRSA T32 postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology who completed her MS in clinical research degree in 2008, has served since 2008 as an examiner in two oral health-related human research studies. Her primary research interest is in geriatric dentistry. Currently she serves as a team leader and a lead examiner in an ongoing "Oral Health of Homebound Elderly" study, which will identify the oral health status of nearly 1,000 homebound elderly New Yorkers currently participating in the Mount Sinai Visiting Doctors program.

Sarah Rothenberg, who earned a D Env (Doctor of Environmental Science and Engineering) from UCLA in 2007, was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) International Research Fellowship in 2008. Between 2008 and 2010, she lived in Guizhou Province, China, where 600 years of historical mercury-cinnabar extraction has severely polluted the water, air, and paddy soil. During three rice-growing seasons, Dr. Rothenberg characterized mercury cycling in rice paddies, and investigated mitigative measures to reduce residential methylmercury exposure through rice ingestion. In January 2011, Dr. Rothenberg joined the T32 postdoctoral training program at NYUCD with the goal of quantifying the environmental risks associated with mercury amalgam use in developing countries. She is the second-ever non-dentist in the training program's history. In her first scientific abstract written at NYU, Dr. Rothenberg identified a major flaw in the international index for calculating mercury pollution from dentistry, one which seriously overestimated its impact. Based on her findings, the international committee is currently revising the index.

Bianca A. Dearing, DDS, a fourth-year NRSA T32 postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology, is a pediatric dentist whose research interests are in pediatric oral health, health disparities research, and influencing health policy. She is involved in a collaborative doctoral degree program between NYU and Columbia University. After earning a certificate in clinical research at NYUCD, she continued her graduate studies in the PhD program in epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, where she is currently a third-year graduate student. Her professional goals are to acquire a full-time faculty appointment and to develop as an independent researcher specializing in pediatric oral health.

Maria Chondronikola, MS, RD, a Fulbright Fellow who earned her MS in nutrition degree from the NYU Department of Nutrition and Public Health (CAS), is focusing on expanding NYUCD's nutrition curriculum as a joint nutritional consultant to NYUCD's Departments of Epidemiology and Health Promotion and Cariology and Comprehensive Care. In a six-month period, Ms. Chondronikola successfully developed an expanded nutritional curriculum that focuses on the integration of nutrition education into the education of dentists and nurses, and, specifically, on the role of nutrition and lifestyle in the prevention and treatment of chronic conditions (i.e., obesity-associated metabolic disorders, cancer, and pediatric asthma). After completing her doctorate in nutrition at the University of Texas Medical Branch, she plans to conduct translational research and provide nutrition education to other healthcare professionals.