An enriching experience: First-ever AO CMF R&D Junior Reviewers program offers opportunities for young talent

Young reviewers

Identifying, engaging, mentoring, and retaining young talent is essential to the future of the AO network, and the new AO CMF R&D Junior Reviewers program does all that—and more. Program participants and mentors in the inaugural program, which got underway in December 2020 and concluded in April 2021, say it was an enriching experience that they would happily repeat.

The program gave young researchers—all 40 or younger—the opportunity to hone their grant proposal reviewing—and writing—skills by playing an active role in the review of applications for AO CMF Start-Up Grants. Promising talents were identified based on their experience as AO Innovation Translation Center (formerly AO Clinical Investigation and Documentation) fellows, AO CMF R&D grant recipients, or AO CMF clinical fellows.

Junior reviewers, working together in groups, were asked to review preproposals and discuss them with a mentor. They were then reassigned to work in groups to review one of 12 selected full project submissions and submit one combined review of each project submission, including details such as checking the abstract, the research question, hypothesis, and specific project aim.

On top of the latest technologies and research

“My experience as a junior reviewer will help me in my work reviewing funding applications, and it has already helped me in terms of seeing what is going on in research around the world,” he said. “I also see the program as a great way to involve more people across the AO CMF regions and bring them together.”

Dr Rodrigo Licéaga Reyes, oral and maxillofacial surgeon working in Campeche, Mexico.

“We didn’t know before we started the program who our mentors would be. I was assigned to AO CMF R&D Commission Chair Eppo—whose AO CMF research is incredible—and R&D Commission member Daniel Buchbinder,” Chiasson said. “Both of them were incredible generous with their time and advice on how to conduct those reviews.”

Geneviève Chiasson, program director of oral and maxillofacial surgery at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

“I took this as a great opportunity to learn about new research ideas and to interact with international colleagues,” he explained. “The program gave me a platform to share my views and, more importantly, to learn under the guidance of senior, experienced mentors—in my case, Dr Wolvius, Dr Thomas B Dodson, and Dr Andreas Thor. I learned different things from each of them; for example, one has great experience in artificial intelligence (AI) and supported my idea on AI and encouraged me to move ahead along with my information technology (IT) team in India.”

Anand Gupta, assistant professor oral and maxillofacial surgery at Government Medical College & Hospital, Chandigarh, India.

Bringing new insights

Eppo Wolvius

The program was equally rewarding for the mentors.

“I noticed the junior reviewers developing as reviewers during the process of the program,” Wolvius said. “For example, they were coming up with ideas and asking better questions. I have to say that it is fun to see how young reviewers from around the world think about research projects. Sometimes, we have our own tunnel vision, and the junior reviewers can bring us new insights.”

Wolvius said that—to his knowledge—AO CMF is the only organization providing such opportunities for young researchers to work alongside senior reviewers to help shape the future of patient care.

The ultimate grant-writing training

Jill Helms

AO CMF R&D Commission member Jill Helms agreed.

“I would act as a mentor again in a heartbeat. I review grants for organizations around the world and have never heard of another program where senior reviewers mentor young reviewers,” she said. “The greatest reward is that we—as senior people—are able to help the next generation take the reins. The AO CMF R&D Junior Reviewers Program is the ultimate training in how to be a better grant writer because you learn what funders are looking for.”