Mary Daum (301) 594-7559
Dr. Harold Slavkin, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), one
of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has announced that he will resign his position in July 2000. Dr.
Slavkin joined the NIDCR in August 1995 on an "extended leave of absence" from the University of
Southern California (USC), where he served as director of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology. He will return to Los Angeles to become dean of USC's School of Dentistry, his alma mater.
As the Institute's sixth director, Dr. Slavkin spearheaded many advances during his tenure, including the
development of an Institute Strategic Plan, "Facing the Future." The planning process, begun in August
1995, involved "taking stock" of the Institute's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and
formulating three strategic initiatives to be realized over 5 years. One of the most visible outcomes of the Strategic Plan was the Institute's name change. On October 21, 1998, the Institute officially became the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The new name more accurately communicates the depth and breadth of the Institute's research and training activities.
Under the Strategic Plan, the Institute has continued to expand its research portfolio, which includes areas of study as diverse as oral cancer, the genetic causes of craniofacial defects, the link between oral and systemic disease, and biomimetics and tissue engineering. In support of this broadened agenda, Dr. Slavkin restructured the Institute's extramural and intramural programs to align their components with NIDCR's major areas of scientific interest, ensuring that the programs are able to take full advantage of new research opportunities. Additionally, he expanded the use of research centers, creating six Centers of Discovery, where multidisciplinary teams of scientists address research problems by integrating basic, clinical, and behavioral sciences with epidemiology, technology transfer, and public and professional education.
As director, Dr. Slavkin also positioned the Institute to collaborate with the public and private sectors to
leverage NIDCR dollars, enabling additional important research to be funded. Activities such as
state-of-the-science workshops have increased the visibility of NIDCR within the research community and helped foster cross-disciplinary collaboration with other Institutes at NIH. NIDCR now also collaborates with Federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Furthermore, Dr. Slavkin has strengthened the link between NIDCR and patient advocacy groups by initiating annual meetings with them to discuss research priorities and potential collaborations. Similarly, he met with industry representatives each year to ensure that the Institute and industry were taking advantage of opportunities for the accelerated development of new diagnostics and therapeutics. To promote collaborations abroad, Dr. Slavkin established the NIDCR Office of International Health, whose staff works with agencies and organizations involved in oral health research around the globe.
Additionally, Dr. Slavkin has led an expanded effort by the Institute to recruit talented individuals from
diverse scientific fields into craniofacial-oral-dental research. He appointed a Blue Ribbon Panel on
Research Training and Career Development that produced a comprehensive plan for ensuring the
education and training of outstanding scientists who will address the challenges of oral health research in the 21st century. He also created an Office of Education within the Institute's intramural research program that serves as an access point, advocate, and resource for prospective candidates interested in training opportunities at NIDCR and NIH. At the NIH level, he chaired the trans-NIH Committee for Recruitment of a Diverse Workforce in Medical Research. The committee's final report, dubbed the "Slavkin Report," calls for expanding recruitment, retention, and promotion efforts; identifying and removing barriers to full participation in biomedical research; and challenging private industry and non-profit groups to support education in science for individuals underrepresented in the research arena.
Under Dr. Slavkin's leadership, the Institute has strengthened its commitment to improving the oral health of underserved populations in the U.S. Recently, the Institute issued a Request for Applications for research centers aimed at reducing oral health disparities. The proposed Centers will support research to understand the factors involved in craniofacial, oral, and dental health disparities, and will also work toward expanding opportunities for scientists from underrepresented groups. The long-range goal of these Centers is to reduce health disparities by increasing research, training, and access to health care. Moreover, the NIDCR is organizing both a Surgeon General's workshop and conference on children and oral health scheduled for the spring and early summer of 2000, respectively, which will highlight issues of equity related to the oral disease burden among the nation's children. The Institute is also taking the lead role in producing the first ever Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health, a document that will offer recommendations on improving the oral health of all Americans.
Dr. Slavkin is known for his work on the genetics of craniofacial, oral, and dental development. While
serving as NIDCR director, he pursued his own research interests as chief of the Craniofacial
Development Section, Bone and Connective Tissue Biology Branch, at the National Institute of Arthritis
and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, NIH.