interest in diseases that occur in populations that suffer from health care disparities.
While many programs exist at NIH to address the shortage of minority researchers, the success of these programs is unclear. And in light of the general shortage of dental school faculty, it is unlikely that any changes will take place without strong programs that are specifically targeted in this area.
The need for augmented research in oral health clearly exists. However, equally clear is the shortage of faculty to carry out the training and act in the interest of dental trainees in research. For this situation to improve, dental schools must place a higher priority on research and ensure that exposure to research is part of the curriculum. Unfortunately, recommendations in this regard are beyond the scope of this committee. However, some positive steps can be taken in existing programs to provide incentives to prospective trainees.
Recommendation 5-1: This committee recommends that NIDCR fund all required years of the D.D.S./Ph.D. program.
The current program is not sufficient to attract high-quality students. As with the highly successful MSTP, full support must be provided as an incentive for students to enter research. The partial support currently provided is not a good test as to whether a D.D.S./Ph.D. program is viable. The program should be closely monitored to assess the quality of applicants, the training of applicants, and the research success of applicants.
Recommendation 5-2: This committee recommends that the NIDCR loan forgiveness program require documentation of time spent in research and scholarly success.
Loan forgiveness should not be viewed as a means of providing general support for dental faculty but should instead be regarded as a means of promoting high-quality research in dentistry. Faculty members who receive loan forgiveness should provide evidence they have performed productive research, as judged by grant support and publications.
Recommendation 5-3: This committee recommends that NIDCR should design and implement programs intended to increase the number and quality of dental school applicants who are committed to careers in oral health research.
The creation of a cadre of high-quality oral health researchers has been severely hampered by the culture in dental schools, where the clinical faculty are often drawn from private practice and students enter with the intention of pursuing such careers. Dental schools associated with research universities can draw on colleagues in the basic sciences to supervise doctoral training for D.D.S./Ph.D. trainees, but D.D.S./Ph.D. programs in those schools will have trouble finding qualified applicants until a more suitable cadre of research-oriented students are attracted to dental schools. Innovative programs will likely involve the promotion of D.D.S./Ph.D. programs to undergraduates considering biomedical research careers. The dental school research culture will evolve slowly, but a necessary step toward the resolution of current problems may be the creation of well-trained D.D.S./Ph.D. graduates who can assume faculty positions and serve as role models in the future.