National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins has announced that Dr. Martha J. Somerman, Dean of the University of Washington (UW) School of Dentistry, has been named Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).
Dr. Somerman will assume her new duties at NIDCR in Bethesda, Maryland, on August 29, 2011. “I am delighted to have Dr. Somerman bring both her research expertise and her administrative skills to NIDCR and the NIH,” said Dr. Collins.
Dr. Somerman received her D.D.S. from New York University, a master’s degree in environmental health from Hunter College, and a doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Rochester. She has been Dean and Professor of Periodontology at the dental school since 2002.
Under her leadership, the UW School of Dentistry has consistently ranked in the top tier of dental schools for NIDCR grant funding. Research by students, faculty, and staff has also focused on solutions that enhance dental, oral, and craniofacial health for diverse communities. “As you can imagine, the opportunity to lead an entire field of scientific research is tremendously exciting,” Dr. Somerman said in a message to the UW dental school. “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,” she continued. “I leave secure in the knowledge that the school is well positioned for the future, and I look forward to hearing of its continuing accomplishments.”
Dr. Timothy A. DeRouen, Executive Associate Dean for Research and Academic Affairs at the dental school, will serve as Interim Dean during the search for Dr. Somerman’s permanent replacement. Dr. DeRouen indicated he would not be a candidate for the permanent position.
Before her appointment as Dean, Dr. Somerman 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.
A practicing periodontist, Dr. Somerman has won global 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.
Dr. Somerman is a member of the ADEA Legislative Advisory Committee. She is also a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and Past President of the American Association for Dental Research, as well as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International College of Dentists, and the American College of Dentists. In addition, she has been recognized as a co-winner of the first International Association for Dental Research/Straumann Award in Regenerative Periodontal Medicine in 2010 and with the William J. Gies Award from the American Academy of Periodontology and the Distinguished Scientist Award for Research in Oral Biology from the International Association for Dental Research.
In her new position, Dr. Somerman will lead the NIDCR’s scientific direction, policy development, program review, and administrative management. Since August 2010, the NIDCR has been led by Dr. Isabel Garcia as Interim Director.
“I would like to thank Dr. Garcia for her fine leadership in directing NIDCR through this transition during a time of budget challenges, and I greatly look forward to working with her and the rest of the outstanding staff,” said Dr. Somerman.