By Timothy Hyland
Dentists who see patients daily know a lot more about dentistry and oral health than many academics are willing to acknowledge.
Not Gregg H. Gilbert.
A professor and department chair at the University of Alabama (UAB), Gilbert, DDS, MBA, FAAHD, FICD, is one of the nation’s leading evangelists for practice-based dental research involving a close collaboration and communication between practitioners, researchers, and patients.
Since joining UAB in 2000, Dr. Gilbert, now 59, has convinced a lot of people to see the world of dental research his way; he has secured more than $117 million in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. Most recently, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, which is part of the NIH, announced that it is directing $22.4 million to UAB over the next seven years in support of Dr. Gilbert’s efforts.
Dr. Gilbert and UAB head the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network (NDPBRN) and oversee satellite research centers in Rochester, New York; Gainesville, Florida; Minneapolis, Minnesota; San Antonio, Texas; and Portland, Oregon.
“The dental practice-based research network is a unique investigative union of real-world practicing clinicians and academic clinical scientists that aims to improve the nation’s oral health by expanding the knowledge base for clinical decision-making and moving the latest evidence into routine care,” Dr. Gilbert explained in a statement. “The network is a precious natural resource for our profession and our patients.”
Underpinning all of NDPBRN’s work is Dr. Gilbert’s belief that dental practitioners, who have long been ignored by the research community, can contribute essential knowledge to the scientific community—if only they are allowed to be a part of the scientific process. By tapping into the everyday experiences of practicing dentists, NDPBRN works to solve some of the most vexing problems facing the profession.
Since its formal launch in 2012, NDPBRN’s research has examined issues including opioid misuse, the dangers of nicotine products, oral HPV detection, and the use of electronic dental records. In all, the consortium includes more than 6,000 practitioners nationwide.
A Key Voice
“This network gives the everyday clinician a key voice in the science behind patient care,” said Michelle Robinson, DMD, interim dean of the UAB School of Dentistry.
Dr. Gilbert, who received his DDS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1985, has published more than 200 peer-reviewed research papers.
He joined UAB in 2000 as chair of the Department of Diagnostic Sciences and also serves as a senior scientist in the UAB's Center for Outcomes and Effectiveness Research and Education, the Diabetes Research Center, the Lister Hill Center for Health Policy, the Comprehensive Center for Healthy Aging, and the Center for the Study of Community Health.
In 2018, the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees awarded Dr. Gilbert the rank of Distinguished Professor in Dentistry in recognition of his work expediting the application of scientific discoveries into everyday clinical practice.
“Dr. Gilbert’s vision has innovated the oral health research model by bringing practitioners, student dentists, clinical staff, and patients to the discussion table; end-users who have an immense amount of practical knowledge and wisdom that previously had been largely overlooked,” the board noted in bestowing the honor on him.
Dr. Gilbert’s collaboration and communication between practitioners, researchers, and patients will continue to provide groundbreaking results and the dental community will be better because of his efforts.
Author: Contributing writer Timothy Hyland has more than 20 years’ experience as a writer, reporter, and editor. His work has also appeared in Fast Company, Roll Call, Philadelphia Business Journal, and the Washington Times.
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