The ADA Foundation (ADAF) has awarded Rafael Bowen, DDS, the 2014 American Association for Dental Research (AADR) Distinguished Scientist Award. Bowen works with the Foundation’s Dr Anthony Volpe Research Center (VRC).

The award, sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, annually recognizes a scientist “who has contributed outstanding research of particular significance in any of the fields related to oral science.” The award consists of a $5,000 cash prize, a plaque, and travel expenses to the AADR Annual Meeting in Charlotte, NC, where Bowen received the award.

After serving in the Army during World War II, Bowen enrolled at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. From dental school to dental practice, Bowen’s concern for the welfare of his patients grew into an interest in the strength and durability of the materials being used for dental restorations. He set up a small materials testing lab on his screened-in porch, which eventually led to publishing his first research paper and a presentation at an International Association for Dental Research meeting. There he met Dr Robert Nelson of the ADA Research Unit at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in Washington, DC. By 1956, Bowen had joined the Research Unit (later called the Paffenbarger Research Center, and ultimately the VRC) to continue his work on what today are called “composites,” tooth-colored restorations. Today Bowen is best known for his development of dental composites in the 1960s.

“The notice of being given the AADR Distinguished Scientist Award came as a surprise—a very happy surprise!” Bowen said. “It inspires me to continue current efforts to develop improved preventive and restorative dental materials.”

“Dr Bowen has achieved legendary status in this field of research, because of his long history of important discoveries and the impact those have made on dentistry,” said Dr David Whiston, president, ADA Foundation Board of Directors. “We are very proud of his contributions to our profession, and pleased to see him still at work at the ADA Foundation Dr Anthony Volpe Research Center.”

“The author of more than 265 research articles, seven book chapters and 37 patents, Bowen personifies what the VRC works so hard to accomplish to this very day,” said Dr Charles Norman, ADA president. “He has spent his scientific career improving the oral health of the public through unwavering commitment and exemplary research.”