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Center for Oral Health Research (COHR)

 MUSC College of Dental Medicine until the mid-1990’s was a strong clinical dental school with minor emphasis on dental research. A major shift in the dental school was recognized following the implementation of the South Carolina COBRE for Oral Health in Fall 2002, with a long-term goal of developing a multidisciplinary, sustainable oral and craniofacial research center based in the College of Dental Medicine. Together with institutional commitments, funding from the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provided a sturdy platform to develop research in dental, oral and craniofacial research at MUSC. This has created a dramatic cultural change within the College of Dental Medicine fostering a huge influence with the oral health research recognition at MUSC and at the national level. The Center for Oral Health Research was established to help harness this growth with approval at the highest level of the University since 2007. 

The COHR was conceived to expand the critical mass of funded investigators at MUSC in areas of oral and craniofacial research and to enhance scientific core resources that will serve as platforms to increase the capacity of our target faculty to compete successfully for NIH funding.

The primary components of COHR are:

  1. C-COHR is the clinical core for the COHR that has a mission to foster clinical and translational research within the CDM and MUSC through sharing of resources and expertise. In addition, this core stimulates new research discoveries through community-based participatory research facilitating the translation and adoption of new research findings into the community settings by engaging academic-community partnerships thus transforming oral health care and eliminating oral health disparities in South Carolina communities;
     
  2. L-COHR is the laboratory-based core of the COHR provides services through four interactive facilities—the Gnotobiotic Animal Research Facility, the Mineralized Tissue Facility, the Oral Cancer Research Facility, and the Laser Capture Microdissection Facility. These facilities provide a range of services including oral histology of calcified and non-calcified tissues, germ-free animal facilities, preclinical models of oral cancer and pathological services, small animal bone phenotyping, and digital imaging services for researchers in the College of Dental Medicine, in other departments on the MUSC campus and outside MUSC; and
     
  3. Training in Craniofacial and Oral Health Research (T-COHR), an integrated research training program based in the College of Dental Medicine comprised of a) a Dental Scientist Training Program (DSTP), a consolidated DMD/PhD degree pathway, b) predoctoral research training leading to the PhD degree in craniofacial biology or bioengineering with applications to oral/craniofacial health; and c) postdoctoral research training for dentist-scientists and/or non-clinician PhD scientists in basic, translational or bioengineering sciences important to dental, oral or craniofacial health.

The COHR’s growth and activities have fueled a major cultural shift within the College of Dental Medicine and fostered notable recognition for oral health research at both campus and national levels.Research discoveries and grant success have created an interactive and supportive environment for research within the College of Dental Medicine. To date, a total of 50 research grants from NIH and other sponsors, 9 NRSA Fellowships, and a T32 training grant and competitive renewal have been awarded directly or indirectly as a consequence of COHR support. With South Carolina leading the country with oral cancer-related deaths in African American men, many of these grants have focused on basic/translational aspects of oral and pharyngeal cancer or on racial/ethnic disparities in oral health. These foci have facilitated outstanding faculty recruitment and establishment of service facilities to meet research needsin oral cancer and translational research. COBRE-supported investigators have obtained federal grants in oral cancer, periodontal disease and early childhood caries. With a focus in community-based participatory research (CBPR) to engage the unique African American population of South Carolina’s barrier island communities in oral health outcomes research, the COHR is making a significant impact to improve the oral health of the Gullah population in South Carolina, developing novel, effective CBPR models that can be adapted across the country to help change the perception of oral healthcare in other populations.

The COHR has parallel goals of moving the MUSC College of Dental Medicine into the top 15 dental schools nationally in terms of NIH funding and moving MUSC into the top 15 academic institutions in terms of funding from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). As a baseline, MUSC’s NIDCR ranking moved 7 spots in 4 years from 28th to 21st (of 61 dental schools), based on Federal FY 2006 to FY2010 data. COHR’s goals build on significant achievements in developing successful research training programs, enhancing research infrastructure, recruiting oral health researchers with NIDCR funding to MUSC, attracting other investigators into the oral health research arena, and obtaining/renewing grants from NIDCR and other institutes and centers. Indeed, the MUSC COHR is changing what is possible in oral health.

Related Link:
- COHR Website
 
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