With grateful thanks to the funding that had been agreed by Scottish Government in late 2017, Dr Mwapatsa Mipando (Principal), Prof Nyengo Mkandawire (Dean of the Faculty of Medicine) and Ms Lucia Msiska (PA to the Principal) from the College of Medicine, together with Dr Jessie Mlotha-Namarika and Dr Peter Chimimba from the Dental Association of Malawi, were able to visit Glasgow from 11 – 16 March 2018.
The first day was spent at Glasgow Dental School in meetings with staff and students:
This was an intensive day but ended with a very enjoyable and relaxing dinner generously hosted by the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow, a major partner in the MalDent Project. Very aptly, the dinner was held in the David Livingstone Room!
On Tuesday, Dr Andrew Crothers, Glasgow Dental School’s Lead for Pre-clinical Skills Teaching, explained how operative dentistry is taught in the ‘phantom head’ simulation facility and described his use of the ‘flipped classroom technique.
The second part of the day was spent at the University of Glasgow Main campus for a variety of meetings and events.
Niall Rogerson, Lecturer in Restorative Dentistry at Glasgow Dental School, has been assisting the new Dental School in Rwanda over the past four years and had been sharing his experiences with the Malawian team He accompanied us to a meeting with Professor John Briggs, University of Glasgow Clerk of Senate and Professor Jill Morrison, who would be taking over Professor Briggs’ role when he retired in the Summer.
In addition to his roles as Clerk of Senate and Vice-Principal, Professor Briggs had held the role of Dean for Global Engagement in Africa for many years. His knowledge of Africa is second to none and he has many well established contacts in the country. His support for Niall’s work in Rwanda and for the MalDent Project has been superb and we enjoyed an excellent meeting with him.
The remainder of the day was hosted by Professor Andy Waters, Professor Paul Garside and Alex Mackay at the Wellcome Centre for Molecular Parasitology. Andy, Paul and Alex, together with the Director of the Institute of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, Professor Iain McInnes, have been working for some time with Mwapatsa and the College of Medicine on a research programme in non-communicable diseases called the Blantyre – Blantyre Project, which is funded by Scottish Government to the tune of £2million. A huge advantage for the MalDent Project has been the massive support and encouragement we have received from these ‘pioneers’ – tremendous collaboration and we are indebted to them. In typical style, they rounded off the day by hosting a dinner at the ‘Ox and Finch‘ in Finnieston:
The next day was spent entirely on working up details of a full application to the Scottish Government Malawi Development Funding Round 2018, in anticipation that we may succeed in reaching Stage 2 following submission of our Concept Note. If you’ve read the previous blog post, you’ll know that this turned out to be time very well spent!
This was a very tough and intensive day but in the evening Professor Simon Guild, Head of the University of Glasgow School of Life Sciences, entertained our visitors to dinner. In his previous role at St Andrews University, Simon played a very significant part in revisions to the first two years of the University of Malawi College of Medicine MB BS programme, funded by Scottish Government. It is partly as a result of this work that so much of the early part of the MB BS curriculum will be suitable for the new BDS students.
On the Thursday, the delegation visited the University of Dundee and spent time at the Centre for Medical Education (CME). The CME is already closely involved in work with the College of Medicine Education and Training Office (COMETO) in Blantyre and had agreed to be a partner in our application to Scottish Government for the MalDent Project.
In addition to discussions on the joint working between the CME and COMETO, the delegates viewed a number of facilities including the excellent Clinical Skills Training Centre:
Nyengo is an orthopaedic surgeon and had been keen to visit the internationally renowned Institute of Motion Analysis & Research at Ninewells Hospital:
A fascinating mixture of projects was demonstrated from running shoe design, climbing shoe design and development of novel cycle saddles to a unilateral pillow for use during travel:
A ‘pregnancy simulator’ for studies on footwear and back pain was yet another twist on the work underway:
This was a very valuable day and reflective of the collaborative approach across Scotland in the MalDent Project.
The final day of the visit began with a demonstration on digital learning in the Glasgow BDS programme by Dr Ziad Al-Ani, Senior Lecturer in Oral Biology & E-Learning, and Wendy McAllan, the Dental School’s E-Learning Systems Developer. Both of these posts are funded by NHS Education for Scotland (NES), another of the partners in the MalDent Project. The packages that have been developed for the NES pan-Scotland ‘Scottish Dental Education Online’ programme would all be available to the College of Medicine for use in the new BDS programme.
Following the digital learning session, the delegation was joined by Ian Nicol from Scottish Government International Development, the organisation that had provided funding for the inward visit by Mwapatsa and his colleagues. We were able to update Ian on progress and on the tremendous value of the visit to our plans for the future.
The afternoon closed with what is going to be one of the most important elements of the MalDent Project – widespread introduction of a programme of preventive dentistry in Malawi. Scotland is now a world-leader in prevention of dental caries (decay) in children as a result of the extensive, evidence-based success of the national Childsmile programme (http://www.child-smile.org.uk/).
The Childsmile model for prevention of oral disease in children has delivered large financial savings for NHS Scotland through reduced treatment costs, as well as reducing childhood morbidity. Many countries (eg The Netherlands, Croatia, Chile, Thailand, New Zealand) are now adopting the same approaches to prevention of oral disease. However, the model has not been considered, to date, in any countries identified by the OECD as ‘the world’s least developed’. The model is highly cost-effective and will have significant influence on the work to establish an Oral Health Policy for Malawi.
This final session was led by Professors Lorna Macpherson and David Conway, both of whom are Professors of Dental Public Health at Glasgow Dental School. The Community Oral Health Research Group, which they lead, is responsible for overseeing the ongoing evaluation of the Childsmile programme in Scotland. Much of that existing methodology and infrastructure would be readily adaptable for use in Malawi, linking with academics in the Public Health Unit at the College of Medicine and with the Ministry of Health.
The week had come to an end – intensive, but a vast amount achieved as our Malawian friends returned home and we waited to hear whether we would soon be working hard again on a Full Application to the Scottish Government Malawi Development Programme 2018.
On 29 March we had the good news – pencils sharpened to crack on with the bid!