Building student involvement, fostering civic engagement and enhancing community service to advance public health. 

Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM) is very proud of the Global Service Learning (GSL) program. The program in Zambia has been longstanding and has a scope and sophistication that reflects the many years of development by program director, Dr. John Morgan, Professor in the Department of Public Health and Community Service.

July 12–August 4, 2019, TUSDM students Amanjot K. Sarao and Se Ha Park (both D20) and Adwoa Baidoo, Joyce Forbes, and Chardai Lyde (D21) took part in a Global Service Learning trip to Zambia led by Dr. Morgan. Nancy Marks, Tisch/TUSDM Community Service Coordinator & Liaison for the Tisch/TUSDM initiative, assisted the team. The Global Service Learning team collaborated with the Zambian Ministry of Health. TUSDM also gratefully acknowledges the generous support from the Henry Schein Company.

This outreach focused on two rural and underserved communities: Muchila, within the District of Namwala in the Southern Province, and Mfuwe, within the Mawbwe District in the Eastern Province of Zambia. Tufts worked closely with the Ministry of Health in Zambia; faculty and dental students from the Dental Training School in the capital, Lusaka; local health district leaders; and local dentists and dental therapists, who provide more basic dental care. The Tufts-Zambian team reached 2,343 people in total: focusing on oral health education and prevention for 850 children at primary and secondary schools and providing education, prevention, oral screenings and selected scaling, restoration, and extraction services to 1,493 people.

Dr. Morgan worked with the Zambian Ministry of Health’s Director of Clinical Services and Diagnostic Sciences to establish a description of services and a Mission of Understanding (MOU) prior to the trip. Additionally, he worked with the administrative leaders of the Dental Training School to recruit dental therapists. Meetings with the Medical Director in the District of Namwala and collaboration with a dental therapist who traveled with the team to the village of Muchila, collected data, and reported it back to the Ministry of Health were critical. In the Mambwe District, Tufts had meetings with the Medical Director of the Komoto Hospital. In Mfuwe, the group worked directly with a local dentist and dental therapists.

Community engagement was key to the success of the project in Muchila. A local community liaison and translator enabled Tufts to develop strong relationships with the community. The Oral Health Volunteers, developed by Dr. Morgan and the Dental Training School in Lusaka, allowed for 10 Oral Health Volunteers to be selected in Muchila to collect data on people’s oral health and further educate their communities. Two of these Oral Health Volunteers will be selected to attend the Dental Training School in the capital Lusaka. The Oral Health Volunteers program is fundamental to the success of the project in Muchila.

In addition to seeking to provide dental care to the most people, the participants used the project as a model for analyzing communities’ needs at the local level and communicating this information to the Ministry of Health with the goal of improving conditions for the long term. The following data was reported to the Zambian Ministry of Health: 650 patients seen in Namwala, 650 patients seen in Muchila, and 200 patients seen in Mfuwe. Through a sophisticated screening protocol, the Tufts-Zambian team collected data on the presence of fluorosis; gingival/periodontal health; caries risk; severity of treatment needed; and the preventative and restorative surgery treatments provided. This information will help inform the Ministry of Health’s work in determining communities’ needs. For example, certain communities may need their water monitored for excessive fluoride content, some might have a dire need to see a dentist for the relief of pain and infection, or some communities may need protocols set to incorporate more oral health education. Dr. Morgan looks forward to further development of this important collaboration in the future.

The students who went on the Global Service Learning Trip to Zambia will be giving a presentation on Tuesday, October 22 from 12–1 p.m. in Rachel’s Auditorium. All members of the Tufts community are welcome to attend.

Categories: ReflectionsUpdates

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