Cristina Vidal is an Assistant Professor at the of Iowa College of Dentistry, Iowa City. Vidal obtained her D.D.S. and M.S. in Dental Sciences (Restorative Dentistry) from the São Paulo State University, Araçatuba School of Dentistry, Brazil and her Ph.D. in Dental Materials from the University of Campinas, Piracicaba School of Dentistry, Brazil. She completed a two-year post-doctoral research training at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014.
Vidal’s research interests are on endogenous mechanisms that promote degradation of dentin organic matrix in caries lesions and in adhesive interfaces. Her previous work was focused on the presence and activity of different families of endogenous proteases in sound and carious dentin. Moreover, she has expertise in therapies to inhibit collagen degradation, strengthen dentin mechanical properties and increase tissue biostability by promoting collagen cross-linking with natural-derived compounds. Vidal’s recent research projects aim to characterize host-microbiome interactions in dentin caries progression to ultimately develop novel therapies that modulate proteases involved in dentin degradation and repair processes. With more than 35 peer-reviewed manuscripts published in the last 10 years, Vidal collaborates with different research groups in U.S., Brazil and Finland. Vidal served as Vice-president and President of the Iowa Section of AADR in 2019 and 2020 and currently is a member of the IADR Awards Review Committee.
How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join?
I learned about AADR when I was doing my Master’s program back in Brazil in 2007. Although the institution where I was doing my M.S. had a very strong research program, I did not have the chance to attend the AADR or IADR meetings at that time due to limited resources for travelling. I became an IADR member in 2009, during my Ph.D. training. My first IADR General Session was in 2010 and my first AADR meeting was in Seattle in 2013.
My motivation to join the AADR was the possibility to present my research findings, to interact with researchers from different institutions and to attend oral sessions and keynote addresses presented by researchers I admire. As a faculty member, I have attended most of the AADR meetings since 2016. Throughout the years, I have had many interactions with other AADR members and great discussions about my projects, which inspired me to try different methodologies and new ideas.
What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
I believe there are many benefits for members at all career levels. As an AADR member, besides the opportunity to share science, you can interact with other research groups, create new and strengthen existing collaborations and find opportunities for mentorship and career development. The AADR structural organization gives members the possibility to interact with small groups of researchers in the Local Sections in many U.S. dental schools, and also the chance to interface with big research groups and audiences at the IADR Scientific Groups/Networks.
As a dental student, you benefit from learning about the amazing science and interacting with dental students from other institutions. You also have the opportunity to meet and interact with researchers and program directors from many residency, masters and Ph.D. programs across the country. Establishing these connections are fundamental to the next stages of your training.
As a junior faculty member, AADR offers many leadership and mentorship opportunities for career development. Young investigators like me have the chance to expand their networks and connect with other research groups or maybe establish a mentorship relationship with a senior researcher for career mentoring. AADR also offers many awards that recognize and honor outstanding research in many fields related to oral science.
You have been selected as a mentee for the inaugural class of the AADR Mentoring an Inclusive Network for a Diverse Workforce of the Future (AADR MIND the Future), congratulations! What motived you to apply for this program?
I am thrilled to be selected as a mentee for the first year of the AADR MIND the Future Program. It is a great honor to be one of the 10 mentees in this program. Thanks to the AADR, NIDCR, PIs, the management committee, staff and mentors involved in this initiative, early-career investigators from diverse backgrounds like me have a great opportunity to develop their careers focused on the improvement of dental, oral and craniofacial health. Throughout my career, I had experienced challenges and obstacles as a Latina, woman and young clinical scholar. I believe my diverse background and experience working with many research and teaching groups in different countries has helped me to be more prepared for a career in academia. I understand that I will face many more challenges in the future as part of the demanding and challenging academic environment, and this program is a great opportunity for professional development. More specifically, the three domains described to be incorporated into the AADR MIND the Future (research, career development/growth and mentor-mentee/interpersonal relationships) summarize areas I need to focus on to be able to transition to the next level in my career.
What excites you most about being part of AADR MIND the Future?
Navigating the complex academic environment in a tenure-track position is a big challenge. I expect that this initiative will help me to set priorities, develop a network of advisors and strengthen my relationship with my current mentors and collaborators, increase my visibility in national and international professional and research communities and plan my next steps in the promotion and tenure process.
Training in grant writing will be another key aspect to help me improve my skills and develop competitive applications for funding. As part of a plan to build a better future for my career, I will benefit from opportunities to improve my communication in science (especially regarding publication plans and presentations at scientific meetings), negotiation skills, conflict resolution, career and research project management and establish a dynamic mentoring relationship. Moreover, I expect to learn time management and work/life balance techniques, and how to prioritize my work following not only my career goals but also my department and college goals and expectations.
What do you view as the best way for other members to become more involved in AADR and get the most out of the membership?
I would say that opportunities are out there, but you have to search for them. Moreover, you have to volunteer and be willing to participate in different activities. If you are a member, get involved with the AADR Local Sections, the IADR Scientific Groups/Networks and the different committees. Attend the business meetings, lunch-and-leaning sessions, symposia, chair an oral session and lead a poster discussion. You will make great connections, find new collaborators and make great friends as well. Attending receptions organized by universities, companies and scientific groups are fun and just as important as attending the symposia and keynote sessions. Schedule some time to discuss your research with the NIDCR staff and find more opportunities for training and research. It is a rewarding experience and the more you learn about the benefits of the membership, the more you want to get involved with the association.