The Birth of a Discipline: Craniofacial Biology
Former NIDCR Director Reflects on Biomedical Research and Healthcare Advances
Over the past 50 years, the field of craniofacial biology has evolved from disconnected studies by individual scientists to a multidisciplinary, trans-professional field working to address the needs of patients and their families. How the efforts and ideas of many diverse individuals converged to advance craniofacial biology is the subject of The Birth of a Discipline by Harold C. Slavkin, DDS.
As a dental student at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Dentistry, Slavkin discovered an interest in biomedical research, inspired by his professors and fellow students. This path led him to become director of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at USC, and of the National Institute of Dental Research. Subsequently, Slavkin returned to USC as dean of the School of Dentistry. Throughout this period, the author was privileged to participate in and witness many of the pivotal moments in craniofacial research and its translation through public/private partnerships that resulted in improved patient outcomes.
“I wanted to explain the history behind these ideas and applications,” Slavkin says. “I believe it’s useful to revisit those moments, as they help to inform our future directions.”
The Birth of a Discipline journeys from the author’s personal story—becoming a biomedical research scientist—to a reflection on how research advances, political necessities, cultural events, patient advocacy, and the economy influenced the direction and momentum of craniofacial biology.
Along the way, Slavkin introduces the reader to many talented individuals—researchers, educators and students, patient advocates, industry and non-profit foundation leaders, politicians, government employees, and, of course, healthcare workers—whose efforts culminated in significant scientific and public health advances. In particular, the author contemplates the role of teams in healthcare delivery, exemplified by Herbert K. Cooper’s groundbreaking multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary team for treating and supporting patients with orofacial anomalies.
The Birth of a Discipline is the story of how biomedical research was translated to benefit patients with congenital or acquired (resulting from trauma, burns, and cancers) malformations of the face. Throughout the book, readers will find examples of transformational leadership and ideas that shaped this field and that are now being applied to other healthcare conversations.
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About Harold C. Slavkin, DDS
Dr. Slavkin has spent nearly five decades engaged in biomedical research focusing on craniofacial developmental biology. He was director of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the University of Southern California (USC). In 1995 he took a leave of absence to serve as the sixth director of the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (1995-2000). He was instrumental in the name change for the Institute to become the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in 1998. Slavkin and his team served as the lead agency for the first Surgeon General’s Report “Oral Health in America” released in May 2000. He then returned to USC as dean of the University of Southern California School of Dentistry from August 2000 through December 2008, and he continues to be a full-time member of the faculty. A past president of the American Dental Research Association. Slavkin also received the Larry Meskin/Ed Shils Award, ADA Gold Medal Award, Pierre Fauchard Award, and the William Gies Award from the American College of Dentists.