E. Dianne Rekow is Professor Emeritus and former Executive Dean of King’s College London Dental Institute, England, now the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences, King’s College London. Her career has integrated engineering, material science and clinical dentistry. She first earned a B.S. in Physic and Mathematics, MSME in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and a MBA from St. Thomas College, St. Paul, Minn. After 11 years in various technical positions in industry, she returned to academics, earning a D.D.S., Orthodontic Certificate, and Ph.D. in Bioengineering all from the University of Minnesota. Throughout her career, she has held a number of leadership positions in both academics and industry, spanning Project Lead on a multi-million-dollar product development, Department Chair, Provost and Dean. Though a basic researcher, as a licensed clinician she has been able to identify research needs and integrate dental and engineering findings into clinical care. Dianne’s early work pioneered many of the concepts now integrated into dental CAD/CAM systems. Her team’s later work, funded by NIDCR, focused on damage initiation and propagation in brittle materials, integrating researchers from five academic institutions and five corporations across the world. Many students and post-doc fellows from the team are now successful academics and researchers in their own right. Dianne has and now holds leadership positions in a number of professional organizations. She is a Fellow of AADR, IADR, the Greater New York Academy of Prosthodontists (and Schweitzer Research Awardee of that organization) and the Academy of Dental Materials.
Rekow was elected to membership in the Royal College of Medicine (England) and is a Fellow of King's College London. Now retired, she volunteers time to her community and continues to be actively engaged professionally, particularly focusing on demystifying technology and digital systems that can enhance oral and systemic health.
1. How did you first learn about AADR and what motivated you to join? What do you find to be the most valuable benefit of AADR membership?
As a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, it was clear that AADR was an important resource; an organization that featured research emphasis I was pursuing while providing a conduit for me to explore numerous other areas of craniofacial science. The delightful surprise has been the unanticipated and copious benefits it delivered.
Perhaps the most valuable benefit to me has been building friendships and relationships within and beyond my own field of research with other scientists that I would otherwise probably never have met. Many have become both formal and informal mentors. It is wonderful to be able to pick up the phone or sit down at a meeting and share ideas and enthusiasm about one’s work. Equally important, it is extremely valuable to be able to pick up the phone or e-mail them to ask, “What would you do if you were in my position? What would you do in your organization?”, and know that I would get thoughtful answers that integrated both their knowledge and their understanding of me as a person with all of my personality quirks!
Beyond that, participation in meetings held throughout the U.S. and the world was a platform for presenting my science. More importantly, it became a priceless vehicle for seeing the world in ways not possible as an ordinary tourist. Through these, I learned much about cultures, including the uniqueness and sameness of academic and scientific challenges across borders. Additionally, I forged new friendships and discovered colleagues who eventually became collaborators.
2. What is the best way for other members to become more involved in AADR?
Perhaps the best way to become involved begins by participation in meetings. During that time, have discussions with other members throughout the breadth of the meeting, including topics related to presenting abstracts either orally or as a poster and attending lunch and learn sessions. Besides discussing your science, let members know your interests and willingness to participate on committees. Doing so will unquestionably enrich your understanding of all that AADR and IADR encompasses and will enhance your career in many often-unexpected ways.
3. You served as the 35th President of the AADR from 2006-07 and as the 88th President of the IADR from 2011-12. What motivated you to run for office? How has this leadership experience within AADR shaped your career?
Interestingly, I never expected to become President of AADR or IADR. One of my mentors suggested that my name be added to the ballot as an AADR Vice President nominee. I was astounded when I later received a call from the then-President informing me that I had been elected. What a wonderful set of circumstances that triggered! As a new Vice President, I was able to watch and learn from the other officers, expanding leadership skills beyond those that one learns in a research environment. In doing so, I came to understand some of the opportunities and challenges of trying to make changes in a large, well-established, high-quality organization. Importantly, it became possible to integrate ideas that I aspired to for the organization, leveraging the momentum of already in-place initiatives.
Not surprisingly, the leadership experience from both AADR and IADR was valuable in shaping my career. Not only did I have in-depth relationships with former leaders, but I also learned the challenges –and opportunities – of leading large groups and managing national and international meetings. These experiences, of course, were in addition to the sound friendships I forged through the international exposure that is intrinsic to the position. Importantly, it should be noted that while this was a personally enriching experience, potential future employers unquestionably recognize and value this kind of experience, which I am certain contributed to the amazing opportunities and positions that I have been offered and have held.
4. You were named a 2019 AADR Fellow. What does this mean to you?
Being named an AADR Fellow is a great honor and responsibility. It is a delight to have more than 30 years of AADR membership and contributions at various levels recognized. More importantly, though, the Fellowship serves as a foundation for mentoring and enabling others’ successes, both at the meetings and throughout the years.
5. What do you want to see in the future for AADR?
AADR is already an extremely strong organization with both a sound and impressive heritage – and a world of opportunities for the future. One of the few things that I see not yet leveraged to the extent possible is the creation of a mechanism whereby AADR can become the ‘glue’ that ties together researchers across fields, focusing on interdisciplinary research to a greater extent than is now the case. In my opinion, as today’s world becomes more complex, we need to continue in-depth research, but it needs to be complemented and perhaps expanded by cross-disciplinary collaboration, ultimately leading to new approaches to health and education.