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Research


Training Program for the Next Generation of Oral Health Researchers (NextGen)


It is often stated that the oral health problems facing our nation extend beyond primary disease or developmental pathologies, but are complex and multi-factorial to include genetic, social, cultural, behavioral and environmental factors. In order to effectively manage oral health problems we need to address the multi-factorial nature of these conditions. It is our hypothesis that to comprehensively address these oral health needs requires individuals who can not only advance the science and discovery processes, but who can also lead and be effective members of multidisciplinary teams. Addressing the oral needs of the nation will require interdisciplinary teams composed of a uniquely trained group of scientists who not only have a firm understanding of the multi-factorial components of the complex oral, dental and craniofacial diseases, but who can also be effective leaders or members of interdisciplinary teams. Clearly, the era of solo or tower-based science programs has passed and highly effective research involves teams of clinicians and scientists.

The purpose of this training program is to develop a cohort of successful, independent, basic, clinical and translational Oral Health Research Scholars who can function as interactive scientists to address the nation's healthcare needs in dental, oral and craniofacial research. As designed, our program embraces the full spectrum of basic, translational and clinical research including fundamental mechanisms of human disease, therapeutic intervention, clinical trials, oral epidemiology, health services research and health policy. Our goal is to create a new cadre of highly interactive scientists who can serve as research leaders in academic dentistry and research institutions. The NextGen program encompasses three Ph.D. degree granting curricula in Oral Biology; Health Policy and Management, or Oral Epidemiology; one M.S. degree granting curriculum and training for Dentists in Clinical Research; and a Postdoctoral Fellowship for individuals seeking advanced research opportunities in Oral Biology, Health Policy/Management, or Oral Epidemiology.

The objectives of the UNC NextGen Training Program are to:


  1. Expand our current recruiting efforts targeting under-represented minorities and women and incorporate career development components designed to retain these researchers in academic settings.
  2. Provide students with the necessary didactic and experiential training so that each can develop skills in order to apply various cutting edge technologies, such as functional genomics, bioinformatics, and systems biology, to conduct rigorous biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research.
  3. Provide opportunities for formal training in career development skills that include experimental design, biostatistics and data analysis, manuscript writing, grant writing, clinical trials coordination and management, data base management, responsible conduct of research, and ethics.
  4. Provide opportunities for formal and experiential leadership training (conflict resolution, team management, and cultural competency), permitting trainees to function as leaders and effective members of research teams that integrate multidisciplinary activities ranging from molecules to populations.
  5. All trainees are supported up to 2 years on the NextGen program. Therefore one objective is to transition T90 trainees to individual research training awards or other mechanisms of research training support and to assist them in career development/job placement.