Gayle B. McCombs, RDH, MS, Director of the Center for Dental Hygiene Research, Associate Professor, School of Dental Hygiene, Old Dominion University
Ms. McCombs did not go through dental hygiene school thinking she wanted to conduct research. However, while in graduate school at the University of North Carolina, she was required to complete a research project. She embarked on her first clinical trial for which she was able to secure funding from a dental industry company. Through this process, her interest in research blossomed.
What skills are necessary for a career in research?
All dental hygienists are very organized, which is key in research. You must be able to manage and multi-task. Our organizational skills are invaluable. You also have to be adaptable; you must be able to accept change. Being self-motivated and a self-starter and being able to critically analyze are all important qualities for research. You need to be able to lead but you also need to be a team player. There are courses you can take through organizations like the National Institutes of Health and the Society of Clinical Research Associates, including how to coordinate clinical trials, the basics of clinical monitoring, HIPAA guidelines, grant writing, and clinical research design. The North American Dental Hygiene Research Conference is also coming up June 15-17 in Bethesda, Md. I would advise dental hygienists interested in research to give one of these classes a try.