Imagine having a toothache so severe it becomes life-threatening, simply because the dentists in your country have not been properly trained. For those living in countries with little or no access to proper dental care, easily curable dental diseases can deteriorate into serious conditions. Many of the facial tumours that our volunteer surgeons remove are caused by preventable dental problems.
For many people in Guinea, simple dental procedures are almost impossible to find. However, the Mercy Ships Dental Clinic is working to change that, by training local dental students in a hands-on learning environment.
Until now, trainee Guinean dentists studied for seven years before qualifying, but it was all theory: they never actually operated on a patient during that time. Also, the lecturers at Gamal Abdel Nasser University (the only dental school in Guinea) needed to work as dentists themselves to earn a living, but their practices were on the other side of Conakry. This often meant that lecturers would miss their own classes because they were stuck in traffic or delayed with a patient at their clinics.
``Working with the dentists and dental students has been a mutually beneficial learning project,” Dr Ugai said.
Mercy Ships created a brand new, state of the art dental clinic inside the university so that lecturers could run their own private practices from the university and their students would be able to attend and get practical experience at the same time. In addition, Dr David Ugai and 13 Mercy Ships volunteers partnered with the Guinean Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene to provide mentoring and courses to staff and students during the Africa Mercy’s stay in Conakry. This training contained practical and relevant projects that demonstrated and imparted knowledge, skills, and a compassionate, professional attitude to each participant.
Dr Ugai is our lead dentist and heads up the Mercy Ships medical capacity building programme for dentistry, which aims to enhance the standards of care within African partner healthcare institutions.
“Working with the dentists and dental students has been a mutually beneficial learning project,” Dr Ugai said. “The dentists and students are very equipped and motivated to provide excellent care for their patients… It has been a privilege and honour to work alongside these very skilled professionals.”
Through medical capacity building programmes like this Mercy Ships works with our Africa partners to strengthening our host nation’s healthcare system through training, infrastructure and mentoring.
The Africa Mercy left Guinea after its 10-month field service in June 2019. In its wake are stronger healthcare systems, transformed lives and new friends.
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