UW News

May 4, 2011

Dentistry Dean Martha Somerman leaving to direct NIH dental branch

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Dr. Martha Somerman,dean of the UW School of Dentistry, will be leaving to direct the dental branch of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Martha Somerman,dean of the UW School of Dentistry, will be leaving to direct the dental branch of the National Institutes of Health.

Somerman will assume her new duties at NIDCR in Bethesda, Md., on Aug. 29, Dr. Collins said.

“As you can imagine, the opportunity to lead an entire field of scientific research is tremendously exciting,” Somerman said in a message to the dental school, while  expressing sadness over her departure.

“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 said in her message. “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.”

She added, “Throughout my tenure here, I have been impressed with the dedication, commitment and professionalism of our staff and faculty.  They ensure that our students receive an outstanding education in oral health care, provide high-quality services for our communities, and pursue a strong research agenda focused on improving individuals quality of life. I also take great pride, as should we all, in the accomplishments of our students who continue to bring honor and distinction to our school.  Year after year they receive many national awards, become leaders in key dental organizations, and commit untold hours to volunteer service throughout our region.”

Dean of Dentistry and professor of periodontology at the UW since 2002, Somerman previously was at the University of Michigan as professor and chair of periodontics/prevention and geriatrics at the School of Dentistry and professor of pharmacology at the School of Medicine.

“I am delighted to have Dr. Somerman bring both her research expertise and her administrative skills to NIDCR and the NIH,” Dr. Collins said.

“We will miss Dr. Somerman immensely,” said UW Interim President Phyllis M. Wise. “When our leaders go on to even higher positions of influence at the national and international level, we take pride that their experience here helped prepare them for these new challenges.”

Dr. Timothy A. DeRouen will serve as interim dean of dentistry.

Dr. Timothy A. DeRouen will serve as interim dean of dentistry.

A practicing periodontist, 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.

In 2010, she was a co-winner of the first International Association for Dental Research/Straumann Award in Regenerative Periodontal Medicine. She has also received the Geis Award from the American Academy of Periodontology and the Distinguished Scientist Award for Research in Oral Biology from the International Association for Dental Research.

She is a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and past president of the American Association for Dental Research. She is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists.

Somerman holds a bachelors degree in biology and a D.D.S. from New York University, a masters degree in environmental health from Hunter College, and a doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Rochester. She completed her periodontal residency at the Eastman Dental Center in Rochester, N.Y.

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.

In 2008, the school launched its Regional Initiatives in Dental Education program, which sends dental students to the Eastern Washington University campus in Spokane to train alongside dental hygienists and medical students for their first and fourth years, fostering a greater appreciation of systemic health. RIDE students also serve clinical rotations in rural Washington, helping improve area residents access to oral health care.

In September 2010, the school opened its Center for Pediatric Dentistry, which seeks to reduce the incidence of childrens dental disease through education, research and patient  care, along with a focus on beginning clinical care by age 1. The new program is a joint venture with Seattle Childrens hospital and includes oral health training for pediatricians.

In her new position, Somerman will lead the NIDCRs 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,” Somerman said.

Established in 1948, the NIDCR is the federal governments lead agency for research on oral, dental and craniofacial health and disease. With an annual budget of more than $400 million, it funds research at universities, dental schools, and medical schools, primarily in the United States.

DeRouen, who said he would not be a candidate to replace Somerman permanently, was previously associate dean for research at the school. He has also chaired the schools Department of Dental Public Health Sciences. In addition, he has been director of the UWs Center for International Health, associate dean of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, acting chair of the Department of Environmental Health, and director of a training program in cardiovascular biostatistics. Before coming to the UW, he headed the Department of Biostatistics at Tulane Universitys graduate school.

Since 1992, he has directed the Summer Institute on Clinical Dental Research Methods, and also oversees the dental schools Northwest PRECEDENT regional practice-based research network.

DeRouen holds a B.S. in mathematical statistics from McNeese State University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in statistics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

He is a member of Phi Kappa Phi honor society, Blue Key honor fraternity and Pi Mu Epsilon mathematics fraternity.