NIH names new director of dental research institute

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The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) named Rena D'Souza, DDS, PhD, as the new director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) on August 13.

Dr. D'Souza is a licensed dentist and currently serves in multiple roles at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, including as a professor of dentistry. She has also served as a principal investigator for multiple NIH and other federal grants and has published 140 journal articles and book chapters.

Rena D'Souza, DDS, PhD. Image courtesy the University of Utah.Rena D'Souza, DDS, PhD. Image courtesy the University of Utah.

As NIDCR director, Dr. D'Souza's responsibilities will include overseeing the institute's $475 million annual budget for research related to oral cancer, orofacial pain, tooth decay, periodontal disease, and other oral or craniofacial topics. The department also oversees about 770 grants and funds research training and career development programs.

She was appointed by NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and will begin her new role later this year. Dr. D'Souza is replacing NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD, who has served as acting director since January.

"Dr. D'Souza is renowned for her research in craniofacial development, genetics, tooth development and regenerative dental medicine," Dr. Collins stated in a press release. "She has worked as a proponent for NIH for decades, serving on critical advisory committees and as an expert consultant on multiple projects."

In addition to her current role as a dentistry professor, Dr. D'Souza also serves as the University of Utah's Ole and Marty Jensen chair of the school of dentistry, assistant vice president for academic affairs and education for health sciences, and professor of neurobiology and anatomy, pathology, and surgery. Her research focuses on developmental biology and tissue engineering, and her research group discovered a mutation that opened a new field of research on genes and therapies for craniofacial inherited disorders.

Dr. D'Souza previously served as the inaugural dean of the University of Utah School of Dentistry and as president of the American Association for Dental Research and the International Association for Dental Research (AADR/IADR). She has also served on the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director and won the 2017 AADR Irwin D. Mandel Distinguished Mentoring Award.

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