In keeping with the NIH's COBRE objectives, our primary goal is to develop a multidisciplinary and interactive center in MUSC's College of Dental Medicine that advances knowledge in oral health by supporting investigators from several different disciplines and enhances their research competitiveness. To accomplish this, we combine a strong mentoring approach with enhancement of critical core components that provide the necessary infrastructure required to build a nationally competitive program in oral health research. The overarching research theme addresses two health issues in which significant disparities exist nationally and in South Carolina - the relationship between oral health and systemic health (focusing on patients with diabetes) and oral cancer. Investigations in this arena will generate information that can ultimately lead to new approaches to improve both oral and general health. This scientific programmatic focus addresses an area of significant healthcare disparity and builds on recent investments, achievements and collaborative research at MUSC. By building on existing strengths and emerging potential, we will more readily achieve our overall goal and accelerate the rate at which a new cadre of oral health investigators in South Carolina can successfully compete for other, complementary NIH research grant support.
While the scientific thematic focus is oral health, the operant theme for implementation is mentoring. Mentoring of new investigators is an essential element of a research development plan, especially in states that are less competitive for research funding. and particularly in oral health research. This proposal addresses these needs directly by:
Pairing target investigators with established NIH-funded researchers who have exceptional mentoring records as well as relevant expertise;
Developing structured activities for skills acquisition and enhancement;
Guaranteeing access to essential core resources with sufficient scientific expertise and technical support to optimize their use; and
Implementing a regular schedule of progress reports and evaluation with critical assistance from an External Advisory Committee of nationally recognized scientists in oral health research.