Chai Elected to National Academy of Medicine

Dentistry Today


Yang Chai, PhD, DDS, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). He is the associate dean of research at the University of Southern California (USC) Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry. He also is the only dental professional among the 85 members elected this year, with 75 in the United States and 10 abroad. 

“Your election reflects the high esteem in which your peers and colleagues regard you,” said NAM president Victor J. Dzau in a notification letter. “You are now part of a group of truly distinguished individuals who have made important contributions to health, science, and medicine.” 

The distinction honors Chai’s “pioneering studies on the molecular regulation of cell types during craniofacial development, leading to novel bioengineered treatment strategies and new hope to patients suffering from debilitating and emotionally devastating malformations of the head and face,” according to the NAM announcement. 

NAM is a nonprofit institution that advises national and international governments on issues related to health, medicine, health policy, and biomedical sciences. As a member, Chai will help NAM work toward its mission of improving health by advancing science, accelerating health equity, and providing evidence-based advice across the globe.

“This is an incredible recognition by my peers and for the work we do at USC,” said Chai. “But more importantly, this is an opportunity for me to contribute to the advancement of biomedical science at the national and international level.”

Candidates must have made distinguished contributions to health and medicine; demonstrated continued involvement with issues of healthcare, disease prevention, education, and research; and have exhibited a willingness and ability to help NAM with its mission. Also, candidates must be nominated by two current NAM members.

“We are so proud of Yang for this distinction,” said Avishai Sadan, DMD, dean of Ostrow. “The contributions he has made to the research community here at Ostrow, across the university, and for the dental profession are legion. I can’t think of a better way to honor him for a lifetime of scientific achievement.”

Chai earned his doctor of medicine degree in dentistry from Peking University before relocating to the United States. He completed his doctoral degree in craniofacial biology and his doctor of dental surgery degree at USC. In 1987, he joined the USC dental faculty as an instructor.

Chai is internationally renowned for his investigation into the genetics, cellular signaling, and development of craniofacial structures, including understanding the causes of and finding potential preventive measures for craniofacial deformities including cleft lip, cleft palate, and craniosynostosis.

Currently, Chai is director of the USC Center for Craniofacial and Molecular Biology, which has made significant discoveries in the molecular genetics of tooth development, the molecular basis for cleft lip and palate, and stem cell-mediated craniofacial tissue regeneration. He also holds the George and Mary Lou Boone Chair in Craniofacial Biology.

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