2015 Rwanda


Developing a healthy lifestyle-centered oral health care curriculum for primary school-aged children and a rural community-based non-profit project

Led by Valli Meeks, DDS, MS, RDH, School of Dentistry; Marie Johnson, DDS, School of Dentistry; Kathryn Schaivone, MPA, BS, School of Nursing

Students (School affiliation): Rebecca Salzman (Dentistry), SeJeong Yoon (Pharmacy)

Project goal:

Drs. Valli Meeks and Marie Johnson led students from the Schools of Dentistry and Pharmacy in a project to improve awareness of oral health care in Rwandan communities.

Project description:

The project collaborated with two non-profit groups in Rwanda: Urkundu Learning Center and the Rwanda Village Concept Project (RVCP). The Urukundo Learning Center began as an orphanage for children displaced by the genocide of 1994 and now serves as an education program for children up to the age of 21 years. Urukundo Learning Center also provides the Baby and Mama Love House, where mothers can bond with their newborns after delivery. The students worked at Urkundo to assist in shaping an oral health care curriculum for primary school-aged children.The second group that UMB students worked with was a rural community-based non-profit project called the Rwanda Village Concept Project (RVCP). RVCP is a student-run organization by the students at the University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Sciences, comprised of around 150 students. RVCP works in rural villages to advance the health and well-being of Rwandans. UMB students conducted an oral health survey in the village of Huye where RVCP members were active. RVCP will use the survey results to inform the building of an oral health initiative to include as part of their work. The University of Maryland students formed an active partnership with the RVCP and have been able to continue their collaborative work since their return to the US.

Student quotes:

"The trip to Rwanda was incredible on many levels. On a professional level seeing the way health care and dentistry is done in Rwanda informed my understanding of dentistry in the United States. Going on the trip with a pharmacy student and working with pharmacy, medical, and dental students gave me a greater big-picture understanding of the health care field that I am part of. Continuing to work on the projects we started in Rwanda is very exciting and I am personally grateful for all the learning and experience this trip afforded me!" -Rebecca Salzman, School of Dentistry