Dental medical group Ardentis and Mercy Ships are teaming up to support the practical training of young dental students and dentists in Guinea.
In spring 2020, Mercy Ships was able to introduce Ardentis, a motivated and committed corporate partner. The pandemic then put an end to original plans to periodically send Swiss dental teams to West Africa to perform dental procedures for indigent patients as part of the international Mercy Ships crew.
The corona-related travel closures have led to new, virtual forms of hands-on engagement: online mentoring directly applied during dental treatments. Today, advanced telemedicine technology and the use of microcameras make it possible for dentists in Switzerland to join their young African colleagues in looking into the mouths of our patients in Conakry, Guinea for a professional exchange while the latter treats a cavity or operates on an abscess.
Dual partnership with Ardentis and Gamal University
In May 2018, the Gamal Abdul Nasser University of Conakry expressed a wish for an area of clinical training for students in its dental school, the only one that exists in Guinea. Professor Diallo made every effort to ensure that a collaboration was established. Mercy Ships renovated the building and also equipped the second floor of the training rooms.
During the ten-months assignment in Guinea, Mercy Ships used the school as a dental clinic and carefully selected four students for a six-month mentorship program to develop their clinical and leadership skills. During their mentorship, Mercy Ships performed 5,554 dental procedures on 1,270 patients with these students.
But the support doesn’t end with the ship’s departure! Former Mercy Ships chief dentist, Dr. David Ugai, has remained in Guinea and is working with Gamal University faculty on training. In collaboration with the World Telehealth Initiative, they are setting up an online system with three different intraoral cameras. With these special cameras, dental experts from around the world can see directly into the mouth of the patient the dental student is treating.
Ardentis, a Swiss partnership
Video conference courses are also organized for university students. Among the speakers are employees of our partner, Ardentis dental clinics.
12 dentists will dedicate part of their time to share their knowledge. Between May 1, 2020 and June 2021, more than 20 distance learning sessions were held. More sessions are planned.
This program will build local capacity and have a lasting impact. This will ensure that the country’s needs are met in the long term.
Field report from a student: Amadou
In the past, dental students graduated without any practical experience. Amadou is one of the first participants in the hands-on clinical training offered by Mercy Ships and Gamal University.
“I decided to become a dentist because I saw the immense need here in Guinea. I come from a remote village, far from any town. There are no dentists in the area.
When I started training to become a dentist at Gamal University, there were only theoretical courses. The teachers themselves had often never practiced the methods they were supposed to teach us.
When the university department told us that Mercy Ships would renovate the training building and install orthodontic equipment for practical training, we were all very encouraged!
I was able to be one of the first participants in these courses, and now we can not only participate in the simulation, but also put theory into practice by caring for patients! And, of course, the public benefits from quality care here, too!”
Field report from a trainer: Dr. med. dent. Rodrigo Martin Cabezas
Dr. Martin Cabezas practices at the Ardentis clinics in Vevey (VD) and Collombey (VS).
“I am a dentist specializing in periodontics, and that is what I taught these students from Guinea. We offered a videoconference training based on concrete clinical cases: Using photos and radiographs, we discussed the examination, diagnosis and treatment of various gum diseases. The students were very engaged.
Of course, we had to adapt the training to the medical environment of these students, who do not have the same resources as we do in Switzerland. This encouraged us to keep the basic concepts and simplify them as much as possible.
The nature of this training project immediately appealed to me when I was asked if I would like to participate. In my opinion, training local dentists is the best way to support a country in the long term.”