U of M and 3M: benefiting global oral health

No matter where you live, oral health is important—so important, in fact, that 3M is helping dental professionals from developing and underdeveloped countries to study at the U of M’s School of Dentistry. Their goal is to improve the standard of oral health in their home countries.

Who are KOLs?

Called key opinion leaders (KOLs), these visiting scholars study for six to twelve months at the Minnesota Dental Research Center for Biomaterials and Biomechanics (MDRCBB). 3M is a long-time supporter of this multi-disciplinary resource dedicated to furthering research and development in biomaterials and biomechanics.

In 2016, a new commitment from 3M made it possible for the Center to recruit and host a select group of KOLs each year. Seven scholars from China, Malaysia, Egypt, and Taiwan were selected for the 2016-17 program.

Typically, the scholars are introduced to the latest research and development carried out by both the U of M and its industrial partners—including 3M—and learn numerical and experimental skills using state-of-the-art facilities. The KOLs also shadow clinical faculty members to observe clinical practices that may enhance what they learned back home. Corporate site visits provide the visitors with first-hand exposure to how new products are developed and tested. Attending national or international conferences further broadens their  knowledge and networks. Participants return home prepared to apply their experience and knowledge in helping to teach others or treat patients, truly becoming key opinion leaders in oral health.

Returning home with new ideas

One grateful KOL participant is Siti Mariam Ab Ghani, a dentistry faculty member at Malaysia’s MARA University of Technology. Describing the 2016-17 KOL experience as an “eye opener,” Ghani enriched her knowledge about the mechanics of dental restorations, how they work, and why failure occurs. She is returning home with new ideas to improve her university’s dental materials curriculum, which will ultimately benefit patients throughout Malaysia.  

3M a leader and partner

“3M is a worldwide leader in dental products and a great partner in helping us share advanced technologies with a select group of high-potential KOLS,” says the Center’s long-time academic director, Alex Fok. “It’s rewarding to know we can work together across disciplines and apply our expertise in biomaterials, biomechanics, and biofilms to help address the grand challenges of human health and welfare in such new and exciting ways.”

Photos: Minnesota Dental Research Center for Biomaterials and Biomechanics

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Key

CSE-College of Science and Engineering

CSOM-Carlson School of Management

DENT-School of Dentistry

ICA-Intercollegiate Athletics

OED-Office of Equity and Diversity

STEM-Science, Technology, Engineering, Math