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Supporting Canadian Researchers: Highlights from the Network for Canadian Oral Health Research

In its first full year of operation, the Network for Canadian Oral Health Research (NCOHR) achieved significant milestones towards its mission to build capacity in the Canadian oral health research community. Highlights from the year are published in NCOHR’s 2013 annual report.

CDA talked with Dr. Debora Matthews, Director of NCOHR, to get her thoughts on the year.

Deb MathewsNCOHR had a productive year in 2013: two team building grants were awarded, a workshop for dental students on careers in academic dentistry was held at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, a team building workshop on chronic orofacial pain was held in Montreal, and the NCOHR website was launched—to name just a few highlights. What was the most challenging part of pulling off these accomplishments?

One might think that trying to organize such a diverse group of people would be like herding cats, but that’s not been the case. The success of this network is a result of the cooperation, enthusiasm and commitment of the oral health research community across the country. People have been interested and engaged right from the Network’s inception.

Can you comment on CDA’s role with NCOHR?

CDA played an integral role in the development of this Network by providing partner funding, and continues to provide core support through the efforts of Dr. John O’Keefe, CDA’s Director of Knowledge Networks. He is a member of our Steering Committee and chairs the Knowledge Translation Council for NCOHR. Dr. O’Keefe is also our key link to the clinical community and is a wealth of knowledge as we plan our future activities.

Part of NCOHR’s mission statement is to “aid development of interdisciplinary teams.” Have there been any interesting or surprising outcomes from the work supported by NCOHR, as a result of the interdisciplinary nature of the teams? 

We have had two very successful team building workshops to date, and another one was recently funded.

The first workshop in Montreal, led by Dr. Gilles Lavigne, brought together a diverse group of researchers to look at opioid misuse in dentistry. This workshop resulted in a publication and the team received federal funding to hold a conference in fall 2014 to develop a team network.

The second workshop, led by Dr. Mary McNally of Dalhousie University and Dr. Bob Schroth from the University of Manitoba, opened a dialogue between members of Aboriginal communities and oral health researchers. This team is beginning to examine innovative ways to take scientific evidence and move it forward in ways that improve indigenous children’s oral health.

The most recent funding was awarded to a team led by Dr. Elham Emami from McGill University and includes junior and senior researchers from Toronto, British Columbia and Alberta. Their goal is to develop a team to investigate bio-psycho-social pathways leading to increased caries risk in vulnerable communities.

Can you share any examples of how NCOHR has facilitated communication among knowledge creators (the oral health researchers) and users, such as dentists?

There are several avenues available for this on our website ncohr-rcrsb.ca. We have a searchable registry of researchers that allows anyone—be they a clinician, another researcher, or a patient advocate—to contact someone in Canada who is involved in a particular aspect of oral health research.

Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Network can do so. You don’t have to be a researcher. Affiliate Network members could be a dentist or dental hygienist with little or no research training but with an interest in becoming involved in clinical research. This has the potential for practice-based research—research conducted on real patients in regular dental practices. Results of this kind of research would have direct applicability to Canadian dentists, hygienists and their patients.

The website also links to JCDA Oasis and other evidence-based sites that may be of interest to clinicians.

What do you hope NCOHR will accomplish in 2014 and beyond?

We have another research student/trainee workshop planned for June 2014 in Edmonton. Dr. Pat Flood (associate chair in the school of dentistry at the University of Alberta) has promised this will be at least as exciting and engaging as our first student workshop, so I am really looking forward to that.

We hope to have all Canadians involved in oral health research signed up to the Network by the end of 2014.  This is essential to have a clear picture of who is in our community and what their needs are and will facilitate advocacy for future research funding.

We are in the midst of organizing a showcase of the work of Canadian oral health researchers, to be presented in 2015. We will have the best and brightest presenting their research and how it can make a difference to dental clinicians and their patients. This, to me, is the ultimate way to link clinicians and researchers. It will help clinicians understand the impact of research on how they practise every day, and may lead to the development of new research questions for our community to tackle. 

 

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