The School of Dental Medicine is known for its robust research program, with faculty and students receiving millions of dollars in grant awards on a yearly basis to conduct cutting-edge research.
The highly successful research program would not be possible without Business Services Manager Laura Didden, who says that “integrity” is the key to her role.
With over 90 grant applications submitted and 130 active research funds to manage each year, it’s important that School of Dental Medicine researchers adhere to several rigorous standards and guidelines—a task that Didden takes seriously.
“Working with individuals who are doing research, there are so many compliances that need to be in place and federal or sponsor guidelines that need to be followed,” said Didden. “The financial consequences to the institution and/or to a faculty’s career could be greatly harmed if we don’t follow them or make sure that the faculty follow them.”
Didden began working at UConn Health in 2005 as a financial clerk in Patient Financial Services. Two years later, she moved to the School of Dental Medicine where she had her first exposure to research grants and grant management.
In 2010, Didden began developing a centralized pre-award system in the dental school and was instrumental in establishing the School of Dental Medicine research office. Today, as Business Services Manager, under the leadership of Dr. Rajesh Lalla, associate dean for research, Didden supports faculty with pre-and post-award management of sponsored research.
“I am fortunate to have a strong, dependable staff that surrounds me and helps us accomplish the goals of the School of Dental Medicine Research Office. I stress the importance of customer service, and as a result, I think that our office has earned the respect of faculty, other administrators that we work with on a daily basis, and central administration,” said Didden.
Dean of the School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Steven Lepowsky, agrees that Didden embodies integrity in her everyday work: “In her role in the research office, she has to ensure that everyone is fully in line with all aspects of research integrity. Additionally, in her interactions with faculty, staff, and students, she embodies integrity – honesty, adherence to strong moral values, truthfulness, trustworthiness.”
For Didden, integrity has always been a part of her character.
“I grew up with integrity being instilled in me by my parents. Integrity means ‘doing the right thing.’ It has a broad definition which could encompass many things – it means being dependable, loyal, treating others with respect and letting them know you value them, being accountable for actions – good and bad, and following the rules.”