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Forging a Path in the Field of Dental Research

(Pictured left to right: Brian R. Morrow and Dr. Garcia-Godoy)

At the core of the College of Dentistry (COD) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) mission are three fundamental values: Teaching, Service, and Research. The COD has placed an increased emphasis on research in the past few years which has started them on a journey of transformation. While teaching will always remain their primary focus, the college has recognized the educational significance of dental research and the results are incredible.

Through the successful hiring of several new research-oriented faculty members, the COD has acquired five patents since 2014. Furthermore, in the past academic year alone, the college published over 106 papers and brought in nearly $1 million in clinical and lab studies over the past three years. Franklin Garcia-Godoy, DDS, MS, PhD, PhD, senior executive associate dean for research (pictured top right), states the College of Dentistry is striving to build their research reputation from the ground up.

“Research provides a foundation for evidence-based practices,” says Dr. Garcia-Godoy. “56% of our full-time faculty have participated in research at the College of Dentistry. The morale is heightened in our faculty and students. They are not only excited to participate in research, they are receiving national recognition for it.”

Currently, the COD has 27 dental students doing research including several foreign exchange students. They have multiple ongoing collaborations across several departments, colleges, and the state of Tennessee including projects with the Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to name a few. The college has been featured in publications such as the Dental Products Reports and texts like “Cancer Metastasis – Biology and Treatment” and “Stem Cell Niche.”

Dr. Garcia-Godoy

Future growth opportunities for the COD include the creation of a new Master’s program, the formation of an Oral Cancer Research Institute that will be used mainly for diagnosis, and starting a Saliva Research Center aimed to define biomarkers for general diseases. Infrastructure improvements to the Memphis campus include the modernization of the Dunn Building and the new addition of the Dental Building in the coming years giving students and faculty alike access to state of the art facilities and resources to further research efforts.

“The University of Tennessee is uniquely positioned to be a leader in the research community,” says Dr. Garcia-Godoy. “One way we are doing that is keeping the National Institute of Dental and Cranial Research’s mission to improve dental, oral, and craniofacial health through research, research training, and the dissemination of health information. Dental research is also leading the way through collaborative team efforts, such as the CORNET projects, to help establish the development of practice parameters and standards to benefit all areas of health care.”