“My career has grown with the Osteology Foundation”

Jae-Kook Cha is from Seoul, South Korea. He takes us back to 2016, the year of his first Osteology Foundation success: being selected as the first Osteology Foundation Scholar from Korea. Learn how his Osteology Foundation story continues to this day and his most recent success with the Foundation: the Andre-Schroder research prize 2020.

Jae-Kook is currently working as a full-time professor on the tenured-track at Yonsei University’s college of dentistry, where his job involves patient care, research and education. He graduated from the same university in 2008 and completed specialist training in Periodontics at Yonsei dental hospital in 2012. He heard about the Osteology Foundation for the first time in the summer of 2015. He was doing the last of three years’ military service as an oral surgeon. During that time, Ui-Won Jung, who is currently Jae-Kook’s mentor and an Osteology Expert Council Member, returned from a sabbatical year at Complutense University in Madrid. Ui-Won Jung introduced and recommended the Osteology Foundation and its programmes to Jae-Kook.

Let us accompany Jae-Kook on his way up the career ladder and find out at which of these levels the Osteology Foundation supported him.

“That was a turning point in my life”

In 2016 Jae-Kook received a PhD while he was working as a research fellow at Yonsei University. He did not yet know that his first personal success with the Osteology Foundation was just around the corner. After Ui-Won Jung drew Jae-Kook’s attention to the Osteology Foundation back in 2015, the Foundation stayed at the forefront of his mind. Jae-Kook had always wanted to gain experience abroad. With an Osteology Research Scholarship this opportunity was within reach. Jae-Kook applied for a position as an Osteology Research Scholar, hoping to go to the centre at Complutense University in Madrid to work with Mariano Sanz. The periodontology departments at Complutense University and Yonsei University had been conducting collaborative research since 2015, and because of that Jae-Kook already knew the centre well. A few months after sending his application, his dream came true. “I will never forget the joy I felt when I received the email from Dr Kristian Tersar in February 2016. He said I had been selected as an Osteology Research Scholar at the Complutense University in Madrid with Mariano Sanz. That was a turning point in my life,” Jae-Kook remembers with a smile on his face. “I loved that the centre was conducting in vitro, in vivo and clinical studies. For researchers like me at the time, the broad research spectrum was a big adventure. The Complutense University of Madrid had strengths in pre-clinical and clinical studies worldwide. Furthermore, they had excellent in vitro models for artificial biofilm.” 

Jae Kook with his two mentors Mariano Sanz (middle) and Ui-Won Jung (left)
Jae Kook (right) with Fabio Vignoletti and the research team in Caceres


“I always tried to follow his example”

Jae-Kook is still very happy when he reflects on this experience. He thanks Mariano Sanz for giving him the opportunity to experience various types of research, and believes Mariano was the perfect mentor for him. The main research topic at that time was the immunohistochemical analysis of biomaterials. In addition to this, clinical research on guided bone regeneration and in-vitro studies on peri-implantitis was also being conducted. Jae-Kook was able to gain inspiration for future research topics in clinical practice. He also met many good friends, “And the icing on the cake for football fans like me was that I was able to watch Spanish football matches every week. It could not have been better!” he adds with a loud laugh.

1st day at the Complutense University of Madrid with Mariano Sanz (left)

Mariano Sanz was one of the most impressive encounters for Jae-Kook. “The way Mariano Sanz ran the course, the way he treated people, his time management, social skills and so much more were so impressive to me. To be honest, I always tried to follow his example,” Jae-Kook honestly and proudly admits. Since returning to Korea, Jae-Kook has been working on several pre-clinical and clinical research projects with Mariano Sanz, as well as continuing various collaborative projects with the Complutense University. For example, Jae-Kook is working on a project related to peri-implantitis with Ignacio Sanz-Martin, a member of the Osteology Expert Council. Ignacio Sanz-Martin visited Seoul for three months in 2018. Since then he has visited Jae-Kook every year for research. “I think the significant personal relationships that I gained through the Osteology Research Scholarship are the biggest assets I have taken away from it.”

Group picture with Ignacio Sanz-Martin and the research team
Jae Kook (left) with Ignacio Sanz-Martin (right) in Seoul


“I was particularly impressed”

In November 2016 – shortly before beginning his scholarship in Madrid – Jae-Kook’s positive opinion of the Osteology Foundation was further strengthened. So without further ado, he also registered for the Osteology Research Academy in Vienna in 2016. At that time, he was conducting several pre-clinical experiments on bone biology and biomaterials and was determined to attend the workshop because of that. In those days, workshops on research methodology in the field of oral tissue regeneration were rare worldwide, and especially in Asian countries. Of course, several research teams in Korea and other Asian countries were reporting great results. Nevertheless, there were very few opportunities to learn systematically. “I was particularly impressed by the intensive workshops that only had ten to twelve people, involved interactive discussions, and were hands-on. It was great to receive advice from Professor Reinhard Gruber and Professor Dieter Bosshardt about my histological findings and on other queries I had about my experiment. I was also able to create a research network,” he says. 

Discussion with Dieter Bosshardt (left) and Stefan Tangl (right)
Group picture at the Osteology Research Academy Vienna with Reinhard Gruber (second from right)


“This is the best team”

Since 2017 Jae-Kook has been a member of THE BOX team. This project team consists of six to eight members representing each region of the world, all of them with the aim of developing THE BOX platform. There are online meetings every two months and offline meetings twice a year. “When I first joined this team, Daniel Thoma, who was already a member at that time, told me that this is the best team he has ever worked with. I totally agree with that! I am especially grateful to interact with them on personal levels. Through this, we are creating a unique platform splendidly,” he says with a twinkle in his eye.

THE BOX team during the meeting in Madrid 2018
THE BOX team during the meeting in Madrid 2018
Jae Kook introducing THE BOX at KAOMI 2018


Meeting the ‘Rock Stars’ of Oral Regeneration

The International Osteology Symposium in Barcelona in 2019 had the busiest schedule of any event Jae-Kook has attended. He was excited to actively participate in one of the biggest events hosted by the Osteology Foundation for the first time. “I gave an oral presentation at the research forum and participated as a moderator and panellist at the Next ReGeneration Corner. Furthermore, I moderated THE BOX app launching ceremony,” he remembers from this busy but very enriching programme. Two things he really wanted to emphasise about his time at the symposium were the science meeting on the Thursday and his role as the moderator of the conversation session with the Honorary Board Members at the Next ReGeneration Corner. During the science meeting, the Osteology Foundation’s grantees, research scholars and academy alumni all gathered together. Most of them became good friends with Jae-Kook. It was a great academic meeting in a casual atmosphere.

At the opening dinner of the International Osteology Symposium Barcelona, Mariano Sanz, President of the Osteology Foundation at that time, introduced the Honorary Board Members as the ‘Rolling Stones’ of oral regeneration. Jae-Kook explained how enriching it was to talk with them and to moderate their discussion at the Next ReGeneration Corner. The opportunity to hear from ‘Rock Stars’ about their research and lives does not come around every day.

Jae Kook with the Honorary Board Members at Next Regeneration Corner during the International Osteology Symposium 2019
Jae Kook during his oral presentation at the International Osteology Symposium with Atsushi Saito (left) and Frank Schwarz (right)
Jae Kook during his oral presentation at the International Osteology Symposium


Courage, ambition and enthusiasm pay off

In the same year, 2019, Jae-Kook was invited to become an Osteology Foundation Expert Council member. “I was really thrilled,” Jae-Kook remembers. It showed him that all his work, courage, ambition and enthusiasm over the years paid off in the end. Even a dropped application for a research grant did not change this. Jae-Kook applied for an Osteology Research Grant three times. The first time it was dropped, the second received a research fund as a co-applicant, and the third one is currently under review. These experiences showed him that he should not allow himself to be defeated by setbacks but see them as an incentive to carry on and an opportunity to improve himself. The grant process is very simple and reasonable for researchers; the two-step process involving abstract review and final review saves researchers time and effort. “Best of all,” Jae-Kook says, “is the Osteology Research Wizard on THE BOX, which reduces errors and the stress that comes from this process.”

“The most memorable experience as a member of the Osteology Expert Council was…

…when I moderated a webinar by Professor Lisa Heitz-Mayfield. It was on the Oral Regeneration Topic ‘Peri-Implantitis’. In fact, I have been a big fan of Professor Lisa Heitz-Mayfield's work for a long time and I consider her one of the pioneers in the field of peri-implantitis. I am also doing research on that topic.” The webinar was a great success, with over 430 live attendees and dozens of live questions. There were so many questions that Lisa wrote separate answers to them after the webinar ended. The answers can be found on the Osteology Foundation website. For Jae-Kook, being able to participate in this process was a really rewarding experience. 

Jae Kook moderating Lisa Heitz-Mayfield’s webinar about peri-implantitis in April 2020

The most recent success with the Osteology Foundation

“I just won the Andre-Schroeder research prize 2020,” he says with a big grin on his face. The prize was awarded to the study conducted in collaboration with Ronald Jung and Daniel Thoma from the University of Zurich in 2016 and financially supported by the Osteology Foundation. The study is about the prevention of maxillary sinus pneumatisation followed by posterior ridge preservation.

“The Osteology Foundation has made my life special”

“It is no exaggeration to say that my career has grown with the Osteology Foundation. It is my dream to become a representative researcher in Asia at the Osteology Foundation. Through this I want to help the Foundation to develop further. Jae-Kook recommends the Foundation and its programme to all young researchers who are interested in oral tissue regeneration. He has received a lot of enquiries about research scholars and research academies from many students across Asia, including Korea. To all of them he recommends the Osteology Foundation and THE BOX without hesitation. The Foundation is a young, lively organisation, “They respond to feedback immediately and are in contact with people through many different and novel ways. For this reason, someone can benefit a lot from the Osteology Foundation,” he says, finishing off his Osteology Foundation Story.

Jae Kook (left) with Kristian Tersar (right), Executive Director of the Osteology Foundation, at Yonsei University in March 2018