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Dr. Mark Filiaggi

Associate vice-president research


Dr. Filiaggi’s main appointment is in the Faculty of Dentistry, where he’s chair and associate professor in the Department of Applied Oral Sciences. He is also cross-appointed to the School of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Radiology, and holds a staff appointment as an affiliated scientist with Capital Health (Diagnostic Radiology). He maintains a research lab in the Dentistry Building, where he pursues research on biomaterials and biomedical devices.

In July 2012, Dr. Filiaggi took on additional responsibility when he became associate vice-president research. To this position he brings a dedication to health research initiatives of all kinds, particularly interdisciplinary collaborations between researchers and health-care providers seeking to improve the health and well-being of patients requiring relief from chronic conditions or trauma, or the general public through health promotion or disease prevention programming.

Read Dr. Filiaggi's full profile

When Dr. Filiaggi came to Dalhousie in 2000, his primary appointment was – and still is – in the Faculty of Dentistry. But he knew he’d also be involved with the new School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME). In addition to helping shape the school’s curriculum, he’s recruited graduate students from SBME and from Dentistry to work in his research lab.

Though the AVP role often comes with a reduction in other duties, Dr. Filiaggi felt it was important to keep his research group, so Research Services doesn’t “lose sight of what researchers are faced with,” he says. “If you aren’t engaged yourself, it can be easy to be dismissive – ‘what’s the problem with meeting the new requirements?’ But we’re just as involved in research as others in the community.”

Having an interdisciplinary approach to research has given Dr. Filiaggi the belief that such “cross-breeding” is beneficial: it “brings in different perspectives and [allows you to] feed off the strengths of others.”

In the Faculty of Dentistry, this spirit of collaboration and collegiality made for a “positive research environment” that resulted in many successful collaborative projects during Dr. Filiaggi’s term as assistant dean research. “It goes hand in hand with our research approach: the key is to get the project going and make a contribution.”

Examples include the Integrated Health Research Training Partnership (IHRTP), an initiative involving the faculties of Dentistry, Medicine, Health and Graduate Studies, as well as the IWK and Capital Health. More recently: an oral health intervention study of Aboriginal youth and children in Labrador, a team effort between researchers and clinical faculty members and researchers both within and outside the Faculty of Dentistry. Another success led by Dr. Debora Matthews is the Network for Canadian Oral Health Research. Based out of Dal and encompassing Canada’s 10 dental schools and faculties, the network “helps researchers create much stronger research teams across the country.”

These successes in Dentistry have to do with why Dr. Filiaggi took on the AVP role. “The potential to [develop collaboration] at the university scale was very appealing,” he says. He does see Dal’s scale as “small” compared to other universities in Canada’s research intensive “U15” ranking. But in his view, this is a positive, as it comes with “an intimacy – the chance meetings that you can’t imagine at larger institutions. I think we can do more to take advantage of [our size], while striving to enhance our place in the U15.”

He also wants to enhance Dal’s recognition by “doing more to promote the higher-profile awards faculty members can receive, such as the Royal Society of Canada and Trudeau fellowships.” He believes that making people more aware of the tremendous contributions and impact that Dal researchers have made “helps us attract the best and brightest, both faculty and students. And it helps develop our reputation nationally and internationally. Drawing attention to our research mission can also enhance our research funding, yielding nicer facilities and better and more comprehensive training opportunities. Having access to those things makes our students more valuable or marketable [once they graduate].”

Making sure budding young researchers – and their supervisors – adhere to the rules of respectful research conduct is another area of Dr. Filiaggi’s responsibility. Over the next year or so, he’ll also help create workshops and other educational opportunities “to make sure the research community is aware of the expectations around conduct and the things we associate with that: good practice in terms of supervision, the attribution of work, responsibility around handling data.”

“Research is the basis for education and for new innovations,” he affirms. “Having a credible and vibrant research environment continually boosts our ability to train students – and to make substantive contributions to the world around us.”

Quick facts

  • Earned his BSc in Pennsylvania before heading to Toronto for his MASc and PhD
  • Received early-stage commercialization funding from Innovacorp, along with co-investigators Dr. Bob Abraham and PhD student Arash Momeni, to develop a gel that blocks blood flow to tumours and stops their growth
  • Teaches biomaterials courses in the Faculty of Dentistry