Bradley S. Henson, DDS, PhD
Interim Vice President Research & Biotechnology, Associate Dean for Research and Biomedical Sciences, Associate Professor, College of Dental Medicine
The primary focus of Dr. Henson’s research is to identify the molecular events that predict the biological behavior of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. Over the course of his career he has endeavored to meet this research objective on multiple fronts: participating in a multidisciplinary parotid gland-sparing radiation program, pioneering the use of salivary biomarkers for the early detection of head and neck tumors, and deciphering the role of the galanin receptors and small GTPase signaling in tumor development and progression. As biomedical research continues its trend toward a translational research objective, Dr. Henson’s research laboratory has strived to partner basic science exploration with practical clinical application. Consistent with this philosophy, Dr. Henson, in his role as Assistant Dean for Research and Biomedical Sciences, facilitates student participation in research, supports faculty research development, and leads a team to integrate the basic and clinical sciences into an exciting case-based approach to delivering the human systems courses.
- International Association for Dental Research and American Association for Dental Research
Dr. Bradley Henson was appointed Interim Vice President Research & Biotechnology on March 1, 2022. He is an Associate Professor and has served as the College of Dental Medicine Assistant/Associate Dean for Research and Biomedical Sciences since 2011. He received his Doctor of Dental Surgery and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the University of Michigan. As a dentist-scientist, his approach to teaching and research in dental education has always focused on bridging the biomedical sciences with the clinical sciences. His time and efforts at WesternU as an Associate Professor and as an Associate Dean have been the very embodiment of this philosophy. For example, he is the chief architect and team lead in the development and delivery of CDM’s innovative Human Systems series which, through case-based instruction, integrates basic, translational, and clinical sciences and is presented to dental students with special emphasis on concepts and principles specifically related to dental practice. Similarly, as biomedical research continues its trend toward a translational research objective, his research program has strived to partner basic science exploration with practical clinical application. The primary focus of his research is to identify the molecular events that predict the biological behavior of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas and develop non-invasive therapies to target them.
Over the course of his career, he has endeavored to meet this research objective on multiple fronts: participating in a multidisciplinary parotid gland-sparing radiation program, pioneering the use of salivary biomarkers for the early detection of head and neck tumors, deciphering the role of epidermal growth factor and galanin receptor signaling in tumor development and progression, and testing two novel therapies for the treatment of head and neck cancer. The most recent project in his laboratory carries a mark of importance for him beyond scientific interest. This project weaves together his research interests, his respect and regard for traditional indigenous healing practices, and his own family heritage as a mixed Native American man. He is Kaskaskia through his paternal grandfather and Lake Superior Ojibwe through his maternal grandmother. Members of his family have been using an old Ojibwe remedy, called Chaga Mushroom, with much success to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, which is consistent with the way it is used amongst other indigenous cultures in northern climates. However, the Ojibwe also describe an anti-tumor use for Chaga that is supported by few published articles in the scientific literature. Dr. Henson endeavors to change that by verifying the effectiveness of Chaga to combat oral squamous cell carcinoma in the laboratory, and the results thus far have been intriguing to say the least. Dr. Henson is also passionate about promoting oral and overall health in Indigenous communities, with special interests in reducing the burdens of cancer and diabetes, promoting food sovereignty and decolonial diets, reclaiming traditional healing practices and fostering diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism in health education.
During his time at WesternU, he has published 23 peer-reviewed articles in the scientific literature, 3 reviews of the literature and dozens of abstracts. He has served as a Session Chair and presenter for multiple national research meetings and has presented scholarly presentations to a wide variety of audiences on topics as diverse as saliva diagnostics in systemic disease and the impact of periodontal disease on the diabetic condition. He has been an invited guest editor for multiple journals, and he currently sits on the Editorial Board of the Journal of the California Dental Association. He has mentored many DMD students in the laboratory and has served as the primary advisor for dozens of graduate students. He also served as WesternU’s IRB Chair for four years and he currently sits on the Board as a member.
As Associate Dean for Research and Biomedical Sciences, he has been responsible for facilitating CDM’s research enterprise and ensuring the biomedical sciences curriculum meets CDM and University standards of excellence. Carrying out this responsibility has included a significant investment of time and effort into planning and organization as well as mentorship support and intellectual guidance for faculty and students. Under his leadership, CDM, despite opening its doors to students just several years ago, has already become engaged in the University’s greater research enterprise as a result of the expertise, creativity, and initiative of its research faculty and students. Over the past several years the college has seen steady growth in scholarly productivity, intra- and extramural grant dollars, and CDM expenditures on research. He oversaw the build-out of collaborative CDM laboratory space and has distributed seed money for innovative research projects. He has designed and delivered research development opportunities, like CDM’s “Research 101” series, and has established a Faculty Research Group. Historically, developing research capacity in a new dental school has proved to be difficult for most institutions given the time, effort and resources directed at developing and implementing the notoriously complex dental curriculum. Given CDM’s early successes, he was recently recruited to give a published interview for the American Dental Education Association’s (ADEA) Curricular Change and Innovation Ledger on the steps he has taken to build research capacity as a new dental school.
Dr. Henson has spent a considerable amount of time mentoring students through research projects and establishing resources to encourage student participation in scholarly activity. He set aside funds in the budget each year to support student travel to national and international conferences to present their research findings. He has delivered innumerable scholarly presentations to the students that are aimed at generating enthusiasm for research and he served as the founding advisor for the American Association for Dental Research/Dental Student Research Group (AADR/DSRG).
Finally, as an active and collaborative faculty member and as an Associate Dean, his service and administrative contributions to CDM and across the WesternU campus have reflected his training and experience as a dentist-scientist as well. On any given day one might observe him engaged in projects and committee assignments that cut across colleges, disciplinary lines and curricular blocks. For example, one day he may spend the early morning period reviewing Institutional Review Board applications, the late morning teaching Endocrine physiology, the lunch hour reviewing student cases as a member of the Student Performance Committee, and the late afternoon speaking about research development topics in front of CDM’s Faculty Research Group or Student Research Group. Dr. Henson describes himself as excited and humbled by the opportunity to support WesternU’s research faculty and students.