OU Health Sciences Center to participate in grant fostering minorities’ dental research through mentorships | News

Elwanda Tulloch

The OU Health Sciences Center will be part of a $1.3 million national grant to help foster the careers of minorities in dental research. 

According to an OU Medicine press release, the five-year national grant was awarded to the American Association for Dental Research by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. 

According to the release, Sharukh Khajotia, OU College of Dentistry associate dean for research, is joined by Oklahoma Center for Mentoring Excellence Director Natasha Mickel to train 10 mentors across the U.S. each year, who will in turn advise 10 early-career researchers for one year. 

The purpose of the grant is to create opportunities for those of underrepresented populations in the research workforce, according to the release. 

“There is a significant need to enhance the diversity of researchers who work in the dental, oral and craniofacial sciences,” Khajotia said in the release. “We need more diverse ideas and opinions in the research workforce.”

The release states the mission of OCME is to equip mentors with maintaining effective communication, aligning expectations, assessing understanding, addressing equity and inclusion, fostering independence and promoting professional development.

“Mentoring is a type of activity that people do according to how they’ve been mentored,” Mickel said in the release. “But our role is to equip mentors with tools that have been shown to be effective,” 

According to the release, mentors will be chosen from diverse backgrounds in order to expand research on dental health in underrepresented communities. 

“Such diversity is important because people who come from under-represented or disadvantaged backgrounds tend to focus their careers on work that serves the communities they came from.” Mickel said in the release. “In this case, the focus is oral health.”

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