This application is for renewal of the T32 comprehensive institutional research training grant COSTAR (Craniofacial Oral-Biology Student Training in Academic Research). Building on longstanding institutional research training experience, COSTAR has trained 14 DDS/PhD students, 24 PhD students, 17 Post-doctoral Fellows, 4 faculty fellows, and 93 summer dental student research fellows since first funded in 2002. Our outcome measures since 2002 indicate an outstanding training environment, as documented by publication of 270 peer reviewed papers by trainees, including Nature and PNAS, and 19 trainees (35%) receiving and transferring to individual NIH awards (F30, F31, F32, K08, K23, or R21) or equivalent fellowships. Our tracking of former advanced degree COSTAR trainees, graduates, and fellows shows an exemplary rate (82%) of retention in research settings, including academic or scientist positions or continued postdoctoral research training. The COSTAR program has made great strides in promoting diversity with recruitment of 44% underrepresented minority and 73% women trainees. Based upon these objective measures of success and our continual self-assessment process, we propose a renewal for an additional five year period of support. Our focused goal remains devoted to train a cadre of highly skilled, interactive scientists who can successfully address the new opportunities in dental, oral, and craniofacial research and become a part of the future academic faculty in US dental schools. The COSTAR program will offer three integrated training tracks: 1) DDS/PhD program, 2) PhD program, and 3) Basic or Clinical-translational Postdoctoral research fellowships. These three training tracks are provided in three integrated thematic areas by a highly selected, research intensive, and collaborative, Program Faculty representing the best mentors across the Dental, Medical, and Graduate Schools at UTHSCSA, and united by their shared interest in Craniofacial Oral Biology research. Thus, COSTAR serves as a strong institutional nexus for an exceptional multi- and inter-disciplinary research and training environment further enhancing the institutional infrastructure for research in Craniofacial Oral Biology. Highly motivated and dedicated students and fellows who are selected for research training in the COSTAR program will participate in a series of COSTAR core courses and experiences that are integrated with programs across the Dental School and the campus at large. Importantly, COSTAR-sponsored activities yield a strong programmatic identity, collaboration, and networking among trainees. Trainee development towards research independence and future success in academic research will be encouraged by successful submission of applications for individual awards. By formally developing a tracking and analyzing plan focused on continuously improving our training program, the COSTAR Leadership Council and Advisory Boards provide an optimal environment for research training of new scientists in Craniofacial Oral Biology following the tradition of our long-term success in academia of former trainees at the UTHSCSA.
Oral diseases remain highly prevalent and greatly affect the health of the US population. In addition, there is a well-documented shortage of faculty members in US dental schools and a persistent need for research and improved dental treatments. Therefore, building on our expertise in research training, our goal is to train a cadre of highly skilled scientists who can successfully address the new opportunities in dental, oral, and craniofacial research and serve as future academic faculty in US dental schools.
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