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Margherita Fontana receives MICHR mentoring award

Margherita Fontana

Darya Dabiri (left) nominated Margherita Fontana for the MICHR mentoring award.

Ann Arbor, Mich., Dec. 10, 2018 -– School of Dentistry faculty member Dr. Margherita Fontana has received the 2018 Distinguished Clinical and Translational Research Mentor Award from the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research, or MICHR.

Fontana, the Clifford T. Nelson Endowed Professor of Dentistry in the Department of Cariology, Restorative Sciences and Endodontics, is one of seven U-M faculty members to receive the award this year at a ceremony and mentoring forum on Nov. 29.

MICHR established the award in 2012 to recognize faculty who foster the intellectual, creative, scholarly and professional growth of their students, fellows and trainees in the areas of clinical and translational health and research. In announcing the awards for this year, MICHR called the seven faculty members “remarkable and generous research leaders” who represent a diverse group of U-M schools – Dentistry; Engineering; Institute for Social Research; Literature, Science and the Arts; Medicine; Nursing; and Public Health.

Fontana’s nomination and letters of support were from Jacques Nör, chair of the dental school’s Department of Cariology, Restorative Sciences and Endodontics, Darya Dabiri, a pediatric endodontist and research investigator with Michigan Medicine who also has an adjunct appointment with hospital dentistry and oral surgery as a clinical lecturer, and Van Wallace McCarlie, Jr., assistant professor at East Carolina University, a former student of Fontana's when they both were at Indiana University 10 years ago.

Nör said Fontana’s mentoring of Dabiri, the first female pediatric endodontist in North America, is an illustration of how Fontana’s collaboration with her mentees produces work that is innovative and has high impact. Fontana has introduced more than 100 undergraduates, dental students and graduate students to her world-class research in cariology, particularly as it affects children. She transfers her passion for the plight of children, and her vision to eradicate pain and suffering for the children worldwide, to her students and mentees, Nör said. “She gives of herself without question, holds her mentees to the highest standards because so much is at stake, and encourages them to believe in themselves and to follow their passion with dedication and persistence,” he said.

Dabiri said Fontana’s mentorship allowed her to take “the road less traveled” as she developed her career track with dual master’s degrees in endodontics and clinical research. “Dr. Fontana taught me the importance of global, racial and cultural perspectives in producing new information to build a collective capacity to improve oral health, and to promote global health equity through research, education and service,” she said. Dabiri cited several examples of her research that resulted from Fontana’s encouragement and leadership. “I often felt like the proverbial kid in a candy store, sampling all that I could through her insight and mentorship. ... Margherita Fontana is not only an exemplary mentor: she is a role model, she has a warm and approachable style that demonstrates how much she cares for her mentees, and she is an inspiration through her own career and her many accomplishments."

Van Wallace shared that his mentoring by Fontana was based on a strong, trusting relationship.  "I could not have picked a more effective communicator and supportive mentor who was focused on encrouaging and carrying out clinical and translational research in order to help the profession and those it serves."  Thanks to her help, Van Wallace obtained two career development awards in clinical and translational reserach at Indiana University.

MICHR’s mission is to enable clinical and translational research in order to improve the lives of individuals and their communities. Since its founding in 2006, MICHR has promoted clinical and translational investigation at U-M, serving as a research hub for faculty and staff from 20 schools, colleges, and institutes and more than 170 departments and divisions across campus. Founded in 2006, MICHR received a Clinical and Translational Science Award in 2007 from the National Institutes of Health. Renewed in 2012 and 2017, MICHR is part of a national consortium of about 50 academic research institutions funded by the CTSA program, accelerating discoveries toward better health.

More information and the other award winners can be found on the MICHR website (https://www.michr.umich.edu/news/2018/6/27/faculty-members-recognized-fo...).

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The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at: www.dent.umich.edu.  Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at dentistry.communications@umich.edu, or (734) 615-1971.