Michael Chavez

Michael Chavez, DDS student

Seeks regenerative treatment for bone

“Unlike medicine, there are very few combined DDS/PhD programs. As a result, Michael has created his own program to become a serious oral health clinician-scientist. Dental school is a full-time plus ‘job’ for most of our students; Michael has balanced both his dental school responsibilities and maintained his doctoral studies.” -Teresa Marshall, professor

New Bern, North Carolina

Faculty mentor/advisor:
Brian Foster, PhD, associate professor, College of Dentistry, Ohio State University

What is your degree program and anticipated graduation date?
Doctor of Dental Surgery (University of Iowa) and oral biology PhD (Ohio State University) 2025

Please describe your research:
In our lab, we conduct research on mineralized tissues, including bones and teeth. Our primary focus is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms that regulate mineralization throughout the body, in both health and disease. We aspire to discover innovative regenerative treatments that can improve patient outcomes, all the while expanding our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms that govern mineralized physiology.

In simple terms, why does this research matter?
Every year, millions of people are affected by diseases, conditions, and injuries involving mineralized tissues. These encompass a wide spectrum of conditions, including osteoporosis, periodontal disease, caries (cavities), bone fractures, and osseous implants, among others. Mineralized tissues possess an inherent capacity for repair and regeneration, and gaining insights into the underlying mechanisms governing mineralization can pave the way for innovative treatments and an expansion of human knowledge. Initially, we must comprehend these systems and their functioning before we can explore ways to harness natural mechanisms to enhance human health and well-being.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research?
Before starting my dental training at the University of Iowa, I was already involved in research at Ohio State University in the lab of my mentor, Dr. Brian Foster. Upon commencing my training in Iowa, I discovered that the University of Iowa’s College of Dentistry offers an excellent incentive known as the Student Research Program. This initiative provides support and classes to help students initiate and maintain their research projects while studying at the College of Dentistry. I became a part of this program during my first week at the College.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa?
Research fundamentally compels you to view the world through a different lens. This perspective encourages an individualized approach to scrutinizing the information we acquire during dental school, prompting us to question the rationale and evidence behind it. This approach fosters a more holistic understanding of the subject.

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