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School of Dentistry faculty, students win research honors

Dr. Nisha D'Silva

Dr. Yu Leo Lei

Fatma Mohammed with her poster presentation at the IADR conference in San Francisco, Calif., last week.

Research office staff member Pat Schultz, left, and Dr. David Kohn pose with the program for the IADR annual conference, which includes a cover photo of them working the School of Dentistry display at a previous IADR conference.


Awards presented at IADR/AADR national conference

Ann Arbor, Mich., March 28, 2017 -– Faculty and students from the School of Dentistry received several awards and honors during the combined annual sessions of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) and the American Association for Dental Research AADR) last week.

Dr. Nisha D’Silva received the 2017 Distinguished Scientist Award for Oral Medicine and Pathology Research from the IADR.  The award recognizes outstanding and sustained peer-reviewed research that has contributed to the understanding of the mechanisms governing the health and disease of the oral cavity and associated structures, principally encompassing skin, bone, and the oral soft tissue.

Dr. D’Silva is the Donald A. Kerr Endowed Collegiate Professor of Oral Pathology and Associate Chair of the Division of Oral Medicine, Pathology, Radiology in the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine.  She is also an Associate Professor of Pathology in the U-M Medical School and member of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We are very proud to see that Professor D’Silva’s achievements have been recognized by the international dental research community,” said Dr. William Giannobile, chair of the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine. “Nisha epitomizes what it means to be a clinician-scientist as an outstanding oral cancer researcher while also contributing in major ways to our school’s oral and maxillofacial biopsy service. She is a highly dedicated teacher and serves as a wonderful role model to our students, young researchers and clinicians.”

Dr. D’Silva’s research of head and neck cancer focuses on biomarkers and molecular mechanisms of tumor progression and treatment resistance. She has published over 70 scientific papers and received national and international awards for her research, some of which is funded by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at the National Institutes of Health. She previously received the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research Distinguished Clinical and Translational Research Mentor award and the University of Michigan Crosby Award for women in science and engineering. She has served in several capacities for the IADR and is president-elect of its Oral Medicine and Pathology scientific group.

The Distinguished Scientist honor was presented during opening ceremonies of the IADR conference in San Francisco, Calif., last week.

Other U-M awards include:

 Dr. Yu Leo Lei, assistant professor in the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine, received the IADR Joseph Lister Award for New Investigators. Based on research originality and potential for public health impact, the award recognizes investigators in oral disease prevention or oral health promotion who are within 10 years of their first academic appointment. Eight finalists from around the world give an oral presentation in front of a panel of judges. As the first-place winner, Lei received $5,000 plus a $3,000 travel stipend.

Dr. Lei is also an adjunct assistant professor at the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at the U-M Medical School and a member of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.  He is leading an interdisciplinary team of investigators from the School of Dentistry, College of Pharmacy and Medical School to understand the mechanisms underpinning head and neck cancer immunogenicity. They have developed an innovative therapeutic vaccine to overcome head and neck cancer-related immune suppression.

The IADR/AADR William J. Gies Award for Biomaterials & Bioengineering Research was presented to several current and former researchers and current faculty affiliated with the lab of Dr. Brian Clarkson for their paper, “Autophagy Modulates Cell Mineralization on Fluorapatite-Modified Scaffolds,” published in the Journal of Dental Research: Yunpeng Li, Ting Guo, Zhaocheng Zhang, Yujia Yao, Syweren Chang, Jacques Nör, Brian Clarkson, Longxing Ni and Jun Liu (corresponding author). The Gies Award is given for the best paper published in the JDR during the preceding year. 

Fatma Mohamed, a PhD candidate in Oral Health Sciences, won first place in the AADR Hatton Awards, Senior Division. Abstract Title:  The Role of Discoidin Domain Receptor 2 in Craniofacial Morphogenesis. Authors: Fatma F. Mohamed, Abdulaziz Binrayes, Chunxi Ge, Nan E. Hatch and Renny T. Franceschi. Mentor:  Renny T. Franceschi. The objective of the Hatton awards is to encourage outstanding young dental scientists to carry out research and present it at the the IADR General Session.

• Nine faculty and staff members were inducted into 2017 Class of the AADR Fellows Program during the conference’s opening ceremonies. The new Fellows are: Nisha D’Silva, Margherita Fontana, Carlos González-Cabezas, Sharon Grayden, David Kohn, Jacques Nör. Peter Polverini, James Simmer and Russell Taichman. The Fellows program recognizes leaders and individuals who have served AADR in various ways throughout their careers, by being an active and longtime AADR member, making outstanding contributions to AADR and oral, craniofacial and dental research, and making outstanding achievement in AADR.

AADR Bloc Travel Grants pay for travel to the national conference for recipients whose projects are judged on originality of research design, innovations in technique and scientific merit. U-M recipients are:
Dr. Erin Ealba Bumann, a resident in the graduate program in pediatric dentistry.
Developmental Biology Oral presentation title: TGF-β Signaling in Neural Crest Affects Late-stage Mandibular Bone Development. Mentor: Vesa Kaartinen.
Christopher Donnelly, dual degree DDS/Oral Health Sciences PhD student. Neuroscience: Neurobiology of Pain and Related Disorders poster title: The Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Ret Mediates Neuronal Cell Death. Mentor: Brian Pierchala.
Joe Nguyen, dual degree DDS/Oral Health Sciences PhD student. Oral Cancer: Risk Factors and Mechanisms of Tumor Progression poster title: Mammalian EAK-7 is Required for mTORC1-mediated Proliferation and Migration in Human Cancer Cells. Mentors: Jacques Nör, Paul Krebsbach.
Nicole Pentis (D3). TMD and Imaging Studies poster title:  Evaluating Dental and Craniofacial Bionetwork for Image Analysis’s Dissemination Efforts. Mentor: Lucia Cevidanes.

AADR Student Research Fellowships were created to encourage dental students living in the United States to consider careers in oral health research.  Proposals are sought in basic and clinical research related to oral health. U-M winners are:
• Christopher Donnelly (D3). Title: Identification of a non-canonical Ret signaling pathway that mediates neuronal death. Mentor: Brian Pierchala.
William Thayer (D2). Title: Pursuit of Pharmacological Therapies for Eradicating Premature Suture Fusionin Crouzon Syndrome/ Mentor: Nan Hatch.
Neil Thomas (D2). Title: The Role of Autophagy in Craniofacial Bone Development. Mentor: Fei Lui.
Megan Utter (D2). Title: Role of Discoidin Receptor 2 (Ddr2) in Control of Mesenchymal Stem Cell Fate. Mentor: Renny Franceschi.

Yong-Hee Chun, an Oral Health Sciences PhD graduate now at the University of Texas Health Science Center, won an AADR Anne D. Haffajee Fellowship, which supports the academic and scientific development of female researchers towards an independent research career. Recipients receive up to $10,000 for their research.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:
Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communication, at, or (734) 615-1971.