School of Dentistry research enterprise ranks among top U.S. dental schools

By Kristen Zapata

The UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry’s research enterprise has been ranked seventh among all U.S. dental schools for National Institutes of Health funding for 2019, jumping 11 spots over previous years.

The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research ranks U.S. dental schools annually by analyzing NIH award data. In 2017 and 2018, UT Health San Antonio ranked 18th overall in dental research funding, awarded just over $3.8 million and $4.1 million in NIH grants, respectively.

In 2019, funding more than doubled from the previous year to more than $8.6 million, which places the school among the top 10 academic dental research institutions in the country.

“The increase in NIH rankings shows that we have built a robust research program in oral biology at our school,” said Brij Singh, PhD, the School of Dentistry’s associate dean of research. “The research we perform is exemplary and will lead to the better understanding of oral health-related diseases and the identification of new treatment options for patients.”

NIH grants and contracts accounted for 48% of research funding within the School of Dentistry for fiscal year 2019 and contributed to the overall research budget of more than $13.9 million.

With these funds, researchers in the departments of comprehensive dentistry, developmental dentistry, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery and periodontics have been able to further their investigations into the link between oral health and overall health, biomaterials, oral cancer and non-addictive pain management, which includes the study of neurosciences.

Multimillion-dollar federal grants have also benefited community dentists and patients as well as dental students. Notable federal grants to The National Dental Practice-Based Research Network and to the school from the Center for Medicare Services have provided for expanded community outreach.

Dental research faculty are well on their way to surpassing the No. 7 seven spot for 2020.

“Our researchers are constantly pushing the envelope to churn out novel research,” said Aries Okungbowa-Ikponmwosa, senior research coordinator. “This June and July cycle, we are submitting 14 grants alone, which include collaborations within the dental school, across the UT Health San Antonio institution and with outside collaborators.”

Peter M. Loomer, DDS, PhD, professor and dean of the School of Dentistry, noted that these research endeavors expressly contribute to the overall education and patient care missions of UT Health San Antonio.

“The dedicated faculty who conduct research at UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry are world-renowned leaders in their field,” Dr. Loomer said. “They also educate, in their labs and clinics, the next generation of oral health researchers, and at the same time provide outstanding dental care for patients. Their accomplishments are truly exceptional.”

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