School of Dentistry

Research and Research Training

PhD Student Avathamsa Athirasala with her winning Research Day poster
PhD Student, Avathamsa Athirasala, presents her winning SOD Research Day 2020 poster.

The OHSU School of Dentistry encourages and supports research concerning dental disease, clinical techniques, oral biology, and basic biomedical research. The basic science and clinical research faculty have their primary appointments, teaching commitments and laboratories at the school of Dentistry.

Research projects are funded by Federal grants (NIH, NSF, NASA) as well as a variety of corporate sponsors. More than twenty principal investigators and numerous technical staff pursue a wide variety of project listed below, ranging in scope from the basic mechanisms of diseases to evidenced-based dental treatment. For further information and opportunities for research contact the principal investigators or the Office of Research Affairs at the School of Dentistry.

OHSU School of Dentistry offers monthly lectures to share new and ongoing research with students, faculty, staff, and the greater community. The Dean's Research Seminars provide an opportunity to learn from and connect with distinguished speakers in the area of oral health research from respected institutions worldwide. Speakers are hosted by OHSU School of Dentistry faculty, and regularly offer Continuing Education (CE) credits for alumni and the greater dental community. On a quarterly basis, the School of Dentistry offers Faculty Research Seminars, wherein current OHSU SOD faculty share information and current research from their labs and specific areas of expertise. At the beginning of each school year, OHSU SOD research faculty also present a Meet the Mentor seminar, introducing students to research activities and opportunities throughout the school.

Dean's and Faculty's Seminars will be hosted virtually until further notice, and are streamed and recorded for viewing on the SoD Research Echo360 page:

Monday, January 10, 2022, 12:00-1:30pm

Dr. Alan Weil, "Improving Population Health by Addressing Social Determinants and Racism"

Dr. Alan Weil
Dr. Alan Weil

For the January Dean’s Seminar, SOD is pleased to present Dr. Alan Weil, Editor-in-Chief of Health Affairs, the nation’s leading journal at the intersection of health, health care, and policy. Dr. Weil will present on the topic “Improving Population Health by Addressing Social Determinants and Racism.” This talk is SOD’s annual Toni Eigner-Barry Sponsored Lecture for Topics in Community Dentistry.

For the previous decade Dr. Weil was the executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research and policy organization.  Previously, he directed the Urban Institute's Assessing the New Federalism project, one of the largest privately funded social policy research projects ever undertaken in the United States; held a cabinet position as executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing; and was assistant general counsel in the Massachusetts Department of Medical Security. Mr. Weil is a frequent speaker on national and state health policy, Medicaid, federalism, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  He is the co-editor of two books, publishes regularly in peer-reviewed journals, has testified before Congress more than half-a-dozen times, and is called upon by major media outlets for his knowledge and analysis.

Lecture Abstract:

A strong evidence base demonstrates the role of social determinants (defined by the World Health Organization as the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life) on population health. A strong evidence base also demonstrates the negative health effects of racism. While these phenomena are related, they are not the same. Understanding their similarities, differences, and the relationship between the two is important for designing policies to reduce health inequities. Negative social conditions are highly correlated with poverty and low income, and income patterns in the US follow racial lines, leading many to conflate responses to social determinants and racism. Yet, negative social determinants can be ameliorated through myriad strategies that have no racial component. Such strategies may improve individual and even population health but are unlikely to lead to lasting reductions in health inequities. At the same time, policies designed to reverse structural racism may yield no noticeable population health effects in the short run and, thus, may be viewed as ineffective or unworthy of investment by the health care sector. This presentation will explore the relationship of population health inequities to social determinants of health and racism from both a theorical and evidence-based perspective and will discuss the public policy implications of these relationships. 

Researchers in Dr. Bertassoni's lab
SOD PORT program track director Dr. Luiz Bertassoni (r) oversees tissue engineering research in his lab.

In July 2021, OHSU School of Dentistry was awarded the $3.8 million, 5 year T90/R90 Institutional Training Grant from the National Institute of Dental and Oral and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). The grant funds the Portland Oral Health Research Training (PORT) program, led by Professor and Associate Dean for Research, Dr. Hui Wu, which will fill an important gap among training programs at OHSU and will strengthen cross-school, -institutional research, particularly in microbe-host interactions, biomaterials and tissue engineering, and clinical and translational research in TMJ and pain modulation. To read more about the PORT program training grant, please click here:…

PORT Program Requirements and Activities

The OHSU SOD Portland Oral Health Research Training (PORT) Program is a PreDoctoral, Dual Degree, PostDoctoral, and Foreign-Trained Dentist coordinated mentored research fellowship training program in oral and craniofacial health research.

OHSU SOD provides a highly productive, interdisciplinary team science environment augmented with with partners from other OHSU Schools and local institutions serving as active participants in the PORT program. The program provides an enriching experience for trainees, one that prepares them for a long and fulfilling academic and professional career in oral health research. 

PORT trainees in all tracks will be expected to participate in PORT activities that will advance their knowledge and experience in research, including:

  • Establishment of an Individual Development Plan, in consultation with PORT program mentor;
  • Participation in the PORT journal club;
  • Presentation of an abstract at the PORT Trainee Seminar Series;
  • Presentation at the SOD's annual Research Day in March;
  • Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research;
  • Participation in a grant writing program;
  • Submission of an NIH individual fellowship application (e.g. F30 or K99/R00).

The PORT program provides training through four main tracks, offering research training and support at Pre- through Post-Doctoral levels of research:

PreDoctoral Training Track (PhD Program)

The PORT PreDoctoral track supports students pursuing a PhD through one of two OHSU graduate programs, Biomedical Engineering (BME), and the interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences (PBMS). Participants in this track will have research focused around one of the PORT program's three main research themes: biomaterials, tissue engineering/regenerative medicine; microbiology and microbiome; and clinical and translational research in pain modulation in TMJ. 

Contact PORT PreDoctoral Track director Dr. Luiz Bertassoni for more information. 

PostDoctoral Training Track

This program offers to different sub-tracks of training:

  1. Traditional PostDoctoral training for candidates (DMD/DDS, DMD/DDS/MS, DMD/DDS/PhD, MD/PhD, or PhD) with a focused research experience in oral health within a productive and collegial research-intensive laboratory; and
  2. PostDoctoral Master's in Clinical Translational Research or Community Health Program. 

Contact PORT PostDoctoral Track director Dr. Justin Merritt (Traditional Sub-track 1) or Dr. Laura Iwasaki (Clinical Sub-track 2) for more information. 

Dual Degree Training Track

This seven-year program offers students the opportunity to obtain a dual degree (DMD/PhD) in an oral health relevant research area through the SOD (DMD degree) and OHSU BME or PBMS graduate programs (PhD degree). 

Contact PORT Dual Degree Track director Dr. Carmem Pfeifer for more information. 

Foreign-Trained Dentist Training Track

This program offers foreign-trained dentists with a DDS or DMD degree from an accredited foreign institution the opportunity to receive research training while pursuing a PhD degree in OHSU's BME or PBMS graduate programs, or the opportunity to pursue PostDoctoral training, similar to that outlined in the PostDoctoral track description. 

Contact PORT Foreign-Trained Dentist Track director Dr. Jens Kreth for more information. 

PORT Trainee Applicants

The OHSU SOD Portland Oral Health Research Training (PORT) Program, a Pre-Doctoral, Dual Degree, Post-Doctoral, and Foreign-Trained Dentist coordinated mentored research fellowship training program in oral and craniofacial health research, is accepting applications for the 2022-2023 academic year. Please consult with your current or potential research mentor(s) before completing the application form. A list of mentors currently collaborating with the PORT program can be found below.

The form requests that you provide a statement of your research interests (3 pages max) including: Introduction; statement of the problem/significance; objectives; approach, and project relevant to the PORT focus areas (Oral and Craniofacial Health; Biomaterials or Tissue Engineering; Microbiology and Immunology; and/or Community Health). In addition, please upload the following documents: 1) Your CV/resume; 2) Your mentor's Biosketch; 3) your mentor's Other Support document showing their external grants and funding sources; and 4) at least two letters of support: one from your mentor and at least one additional letter of support or recommendation from a previous mentor or faculty member familiar with your research and interests. 

Please complete the following application form to indicate your interest in the program: OHSU SOD PORT T90/R90 Trainee Application

Questions? Please contact PORT Program Director and SOD Associate Dean for Research Dr. Hui Wu with programmatic/scientific questions, or SOD Senior Grants & Contracts Coordinator, Tarn Allen with any administrative questions or issues with this form. 

PORT Mentors

The PORT Program has assembled a broad cadre of mentors, many of whom are faculty within the OHSU School of Dentistry, but also include faculty from across OHSU, as well as external Oregon institutions Portland State University (PSU), Oregon State University (OSU), and University of Oregon (UO), enabling trainees access innovative and collaborative research mentorship across the entire state. The PORT program mentors are:

PORT Program Directors and Mentors:

  • Hui Wu, Ph.D., Professor and Associate Dean for Research, OHSU School of Dentistry, PORT Program Director
  • Jack Ferracane, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Restorative Dentistry, OHSU School of Dentistry, PORT Program Co-Director
  • Luiz Bertassoni, D.D.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor, OHSU School of Dentistry, PORT PreDoctoral Track Director
  • Jens Kreth, Ph.D., Professor, OHSU School of Dentistry, PORT Foreign-Trained Dentist Track Director
  • Justin Merritt, Ph.D., Professor, OHSU School of Dentistry, PORT PostDoctoral Track Director, basic science sub-track
  • Laura Iwasaki, D.D.S., M.Sc., Ph.D., Professor, OHSU School of Dentistry, PORT PostDoctoral Track Co-Director, clinical sub-track
  • Carmem Pfeifer, D.D.S., PH.D., Associate Professor, OHSU School of Dentistry, PORT Dual Degree Track Director

PORT Faculty Mentors:

Bacteriology Research Group

SoD hosts a monthly Bacteriology Research Group, featuring discussion and presentations by faculty and staff in this field across the OHSU campus and beyond. Most sessions are held on the 3rd Friday of the month at 1:00pm. Please contact Stephanie Momeni , Postdoctoral Scholar in Dr. Hui Wu's lab, for more information.

Office of Research

Hui Wu, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Research

Research Administration

Stefani Sheldon, M.P.H.
Research and Finance Administrator
503 494-8774

Tarn Allen
Senior Grants and Contracts Coordinator

Dustin Filipek
Finance and Accounting Analyst 2