2016 Rwanda - Meeks

Expanding and assessing an oral health education work plan utilizing a non-dental professional workforce in resource-challenged communities in Rwanda

Students: Rebecca Salzman and Michael Klausner

Two UMB students from the school of dentistry, under the mentorship of UMB dental faculty member, Dr. Valli Meeks went to Rwanda to continue work that was started during an interprofessional project in the summer of 2015. They collaborated with a Rwandan student-led organization called Rwanda Village Concept Project (RVCP) that works in rural villages to improve health literacy skills, primarily through school classrooms. Their project focused on strengthening the oral health curriculum that was initiated in 2015, provide extended training to RVCP volunteers to further increase their knowledge of oral health, and distribute donated oral hygiene supplies like toothbrushes and toothpaste. Another important aspect of their project was to promote and experience interprofessional partnerships and cross training. The RVCP members are primarily non-dental health professionals but enthusiastically embraced the oral health training and in turn, were able to expand their students' knowledge of overall health well being.

"I was able to learn so much from the RVCP leadership about how to effectively teach and lead a classroom. This experience further enforced how important empowering local leadership is to sustainable and powerful change... This experience has reinforced the importance of interprofessional learning, cross-cultural learning, and working with local leaders in-country to better health outcomes. I think that this experience also makes me a better health care provider in the United States than I otherwise would have been. For one, the songs and presence the RVCP leaders brought to teaching oral health really inspired me in my teaching of oral hygiene. The whole time I watched the RVCP leaders teach in the classroom I kept thinking how valuable it would be for American teachers to adopt some of their teaching techniques. Just one example of how engaged the students were was how they want to stay and continue learning even when it was time to go home for lunch! I have never seen this in an American school and I think a big part of this was how fun the RVCP leaders made learning." 

- Rebecca Salzman