Alumna named director of National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
Martha J. Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D. (PhD ’80), dean of the University of Washington School of Dentistry since 2002 and an internationally known researcher and educator, has been named director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) of the National Institutes of Health.
She begins her new job Aug. 29.
Somerman received her doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She also completed her periodontal residency at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health in 1978.
“As you can imagine, the opportunity to lead an entire field of scientific research is tremendously exciting,” Somerman said in a message to the University of Washington School of Dentistry. “My time at the UW has been one of tremendous growth for me personally, and I have enjoyed watching new ventures for our school become realities.”
Somerman previously was a professor and chair of periodontics/prevention and geriatrics at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. She also held an appointment as professor of pharmacology at the School of Medicine there.
A practicing periodontist, Somerman has won international recognition for her research on defining the key regulators controlling development, maintenance and regeneration of oral-dental-craniofacial tissues. She has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and served on several journal editorial boards.
In 2010, she was a co-winner of the first International Association for Dental Research/Straumann Award in Regenerative Periodontal Medicine. She has also received the Geis Award from the American Academy of Periodontology and the Distinguished Scientist Award for Research in Oral Biology from the International Association for Dental Research.
She is a past president of the American Association for Dental Research. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists.
Under her leadership, the University of Washington School of Dentistry has consistently ranked in the top tier of dental schools for NIDCR grant funding and also has launched several educational patient-directed programs in Seattle and the state of Washington.
In her new position, Somerman will lead the NIDCR’s scientific direction, policy development, program review and administrative management. Established in 1948, the NIDCR is the federal government’s lead agency for research on oral, dental and craniofacial health and disease. It has an annual budget of more than $400 million.
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