Dental School faculty and program in the national spotlight
Contact: Rosanne Fohn, 210-567-3079
The educational, research and mentoring efforts of the Dental School at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio have been recognized this spring on the national level.
Bjorn Steffensen, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., received the first American Association of Dental Research (AADR) Irwin D. Mandel Distinguished Mentoring Award March 21 at the association’s annual meeting in Tampa, Fla.
In addition, the Dental School’s Evidence-Based Practice education program was premiered at the American Dental Association’s Evidence-Based Practice Champions Conference in Chicago. John Rugh, Ph.D., and two Health Science Center dental students gave the presentation March 10. The San Antonio program was selected from all North American academic dental programs for this distinction.
AADR mentoring award
Dr. Steffensen, who received the distinguished mentoring award, has served as the associate dean for research and director of the Comprehensive Institutional Research Training Program in Craniofacial Oral Biology since 2005. Dr. Steffensen is sought after as a mentor for aspiring investigators and collaborators. He has mentored six faculty, nine postdoctoral fellows, 10 M.S. and Ph.D. students, and 14 dental, college and high school students. This mentorship has led to 20 peer-reviewed publications and more than 50 abstracts for presentation by his protégés at national and local research meetings. Complementing his hands-on approach to mentoring, Dr. Steffensen has been a key figure in research training at the Health Science Center.
Since 2002, he coordinated the dental student research program and organized a summer research seminar series for the trainees. Under his direction, 125 dental students have had research experiences, and most of the students have presented their research findings at national scientific meetings.
“The AADR is proud to recognize Bjorn Steffensen for his outstanding commitment to mentorship and development of dental research students and professionals. The mentor relationship is key to the continued success of dental professionals,” said AADR President Jeffrey Ebersole.
Dental School Dean Kenneth Kalkwarf, D.D.S., M.S., added, “Dr. Steffensen is truly an outstanding clinician-scientist and a mentor with sincere dedication to research training. He combines the best of hands-on research guidance with strong administrative skills for program and research management. By his multifaceted contributions to trainees at multiple levels, Bjorn has significantly impacted our university and the training of new scientists for oral health research. His own trainees and those from his comprehensive research training program are becoming recognized across the country as they enter productive positions in academia.”
Dr. Steffensen also was named a fellow in the American Dental Education Association Leadership Institute this spring.
Evidence-Based Practice Program
With the profusion of dental research and the competing demands of a busy dental practice, it is often difficult for dentists to keep up with the latest evidence-based treatment recommendations for their patients.
Dr. Rugh, professor in the Department of Developmental Dentistry, was invited by the American Dental Association to give a presentation on the Dental School’s Evidence-Based Practice Program that he directs. Supported by a National Institutes of Health grant, the Education Research Program trains dental students and residents to become lifelong learners using translational research methods that help answer clinical questions. Assisting Dr. Rugh with the presentation were dental students Sarah Shin and Judy Philip.
During their dental education, students learn to ask focused clinical questions. They then search for available studies on the topic, evaluate which approach is best and write critically appraised topics (CATS) – structured one-page summaries and critiques of the best available evidence ― on the focused question. More than 400 CATS are archived in the Health Science Center’s searchable CATS Library (http://cats.uthscsa.edu), where they also are available to practicing dentists and the public.
“CATS serve as a mechanism to infuse science and critical thinking skills into dental education at all levels,” Dr. Rugh explained. As they progress through Dental School and into residencies, students learn to apply their skills and work in collaboration with faculty members and alumni to find the best evidence to solve clinical questions, which they then share with practicing dentists in the community.
Dr. Rugh credited the enthusiastic support of the dental faculty, residents, students and Dental School administration for the success and national recognition of the program. He reported that 83 dental faculty members have completed training in evidence-based practice and now serve as mentors and co-authors with dental students and residents writing CATS for the school’s online CATS Library. The library has been selected for indexing on the British Trip Database – Clinical Search Engine and is becoming a worldwide resource for up-to-date oral health knowledge.
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