A Letter from Dr. Rena D’Souza, Newly Appointed Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

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National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Dr. Rena D'Souza

Hello everyone,

My name is Dr. Rena D’Souza and I bring warm greetings to each of you from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) community. Today is a special day for me, as my appointment as NIDCR’s new director was just confirmed by Dr. Francis Collins, director of NIH. Accepting this honor and the responsibilities of this position is the greatest privilege of my career and one I have aspired to for a long time.

NIDCR is strongly committed to improving the oral health of Americans, and my predecessors in this role have championed this mission with their thoughtful and innovative stewardship. So, as I begin my tenure here, I’d like to express my gratitude to those NIDCR directors who came before me. Your work has inspired me and will, I am sure, guide me going forward. I also speak on behalf of our entire community in thanking Dr. Larry Tabak, principal deputy director at NIH, for his outstanding leadership over the years and his recent stewardship of NIDCR as its acting director.

With an annual budget of approximately $477 million, NIDCR’s impact on oral health is profound. But this investment is greatly magnified when you have a team of researchers and professional staff ensuring that every dollar spent catalyzes scientific discovery and increases our understanding of the basic biological mechanisms behind dental, oral, and craniofacial diseases and disorders.

And, indeed, we have made tremendous progress. Over the years, NIDCR has funded cutting-edge research that has led to remarkable advances in science and technology, resulting in better oral health care and quality of life. Through the work of this institute and the vast research community it funds, oral health is now regarded as integral to the health of our global communities and our nation.

I actually launched my academic career with NIH funding. And, having directed two comprehensive research training programs, I personally witnessed the value of NIDCR’s steadfast commitment to train and develop a strong and diverse cadre of investigators for the future, an investment that remains a central mission for NIDCR.

These are, to say the least, challenging times, and there is much more work to do. COVID-19 has demanded an all-hands-on-deck response, and NIDCR has met this crisis head-on. Our relentless focus on discovery has resulted in an ever-expanding portfolio of research into the virus, as we work alongside our sister institutions here at NIH to unravel the coronavirus’s complex biology. And, although the pandemic is of course a priority, we have not taken our eyes off the issues that are at the core of our mission.

NIDCR’s scientific portfolio includes diseases and disorders that are complex in nature. In this unprecedented era when advances in science and technology have merged for the first time, there is an opportunity to identify previously unknown mechanisms of disease early, while using state-of-the-art scientific approaches that, ultimately, will drive best health practices and reduce disparities in oral health.

Although the issues we face today are formidable, the people of this institute are resolute, resilient, and exceptional. I have no doubt, as I take the helm of this venerable organization, that NIDCR’s community will continue to deliver on our mission, one I am proud to say I have always shared: to improve dental, oral, and craniofacial health…for all.

D'Souza signature




Rena N. D’Souza, DDS, MS, PhD 
Director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research