News Release

Friday, May 6, 2011

Martha J. Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D., named director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Martha J. Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D., has been appointed as director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). She is currently dean of the University of Washington School of Dentistry, Seattle, a position she has held since 2002. She will begin her duties as NIDCR director on Aug. 29, 2011. National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., selected Somerman.

"I am delighted that Dr. Somerman will be bringing her exceptional research expertise and administrative skills to this leadership position at the NIDCR," said Collins. "I would also like to thank Dr. Isabel Garcia for her outstanding service as acting director of NIDCR since August 2010."

As director of NIDCR, Somerman will oversee a budget of $410 million and lead a staff of more than 400 researchers and administrators on the NIH campus as well as hundreds of grantees at universities, medical schools, dental schools, and other research institutions. NIDCR-supported scientists conduct research on the full spectrum of topics related to oral, dental, and craniofacial health and disease.

"As you can imagine, the opportunity to lead an entire field of scientific research is tremendously exciting," Somerman said.

An internationally known researcher and educator, Somerman’s research has focused on defining the key regulators controlling development, maintenance and regeneration of oral-dental-craniofacial tissues. Her work has been recognized with numerous honors and awards.

Before joining the University of Washington, Somerman was on the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor, from 1991 to 2002. There, she served as a professor and chair of periodontics/prevention and geriatrics, and also held an appointment as professor of pharmacology at the School of Medicine. From 1984 to 1991, Somerman was on the faculty of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery.

Somerman has been a long-standing member of the NIH and NIDCR communities, having received her first NIH grant in 1987. In the early 1980s, she was a staff fellow in the dental institute’s intramural research program. She served on the National Advisory Dental and Craniofacial Research Council from 1999 to 2002.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Somerman holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a D.D.S. from New York University, a master’s degree in environmental health from Hunter College, New York City, and a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Rochester, N.Y. She completed her periodontal residency at the Eastman Dental Center in Rochester.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research is the Nation’s leading funder of research on oral, dental, and craniofacial health.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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