Tara Aghaloo


Student Research Awards Meet Their Mark

A Student Research Training Award (SRTA) funded in 2013 allowed five dental students at UCLA to experience dental research firsthand.

“The program is intended to engage students in projects and show them the value of research in creating new knowledge and dissipating it to the practicing community within our specialty,” said Tara Aghaloo, DDS, MD, PhD, Assistant Director for Clinical Research at the UCLA School of Dentistry.

First awarded in 1992, since then the OMSF has awarded 47 SRTAs. The award provides funding to institutions, whose program directors use funding for research projects for dental students. The focus of the SRTA is to attract interested and highly qualified students to dental research and oral and maxillofacial surgery.

At UCLA, a variety of topics, including therapy for implant osseintegration, biomimetic scaffolds for bone regeneration, risk predictors for post-operative rhinosinusitis after sinus augmentation, the role of platelet derived growth factor combined with osteoconductive grafting materials, and barriers to care among Mexican children with congenital craniofacial defects were explored.

“Most significant has been the enthusiasm and fervor of these students in working toward completion of the projects and publication or presentation at meetings,” said Dr. Aghaloo.

The results of the program have been compelling. Students made presentations at three national meetings. One project also resulted in one publication in press and two funded grant proposals.

In addition, two individuals involved in the project are now residents in oral and maxillofacial surgery at UCLA School of Dentistry, and both have defended their master’s theses. All others are participants in our surgical track program, with the most senior students applying for residencies.

A large part of the program’s success at UCLA is due to the involvement of experienced research mentors, who work with students on each of the projects. Mentors promote positive research experiences and encourage dental students to pursue research in residencies, as well as interest them in academic careers.

The SRTA awarded in 2013 was so successful that Dr. Aghaloo applied for, and received,  2015 SRTA funding. “The value of these grants at our institution has been extremely worthwhile,” said Dr. Aghaloo. “Early research experiences are paramount in harnessing interests and encouraging students down the important path of replenishing the paucity of clinician scientist educators in oral and maxillofacial surgery.”