Smileawi – ‘Helping Malawi one tooth at a time’

Smileawi is a charity which works to improve the dental services in northern Malawi. It was set up in 2012 by two University of Glasgow dental graduates, Nigel and Vicky Milne, who run a dental practice in Dunoon, on Scotland’s west coast. You can read the full story of Smileawi and the tremendous work they do on their website (

Smileawi approached Glasgow Dental School several months ago to see whether any of the current undergraduate students would be interested in working with them on some epidemiological work in the Malawian villages where the charity is active. After meetings with Profs Lorna Macpherson and David Conway from the Community Oral Health Research Group at Glasgow Dental School, it was agreed that such an activity could provide an excellent opportunity for a group of BDS 4 students to undertake their elective period study in Malawi.

On 21st August, Nigel Milne attended the Electives Evening at the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow, during which he gave a fantastic presentation about the work of Smileawi and invited expressions of interest from students who may be interested in joining them in Malawi in June 2019.

Nigel Milne Electives presentation
Nigel Milne at the podium in the Maurice Bloch Lecture Theatre of the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow, describing Smileawi’s activities to BDS 4 students

The presentations were followed by refreshments in the College Hall, during which a significant number of students spoke at length with Nigel.

Nigel with Greg and Al
(L to R) Greg Wilkie (BDS 5 student), Nigel Milne and Al Ross (Lead for Glasgow Dental School Electives Programme) in discussion in the RCPSG College Hall

Subsequently, seven students registered interest formally. A second, concurrent elective opportunity will be offered at the College of Medicine in Blantyre with an attachment to the existing Dental Therapy course at the College of Health Sciences in Lilongwe.

Establishment of this Glasgow dental student elective opportunity will provide a valuable route for networking with BDS students in Malawi, once the new course commences in Autumn 2019, and for fostering interactions between BDS students and those studying dental therapy. In time, it is hoped that a two-way exchange programme can be established.

In addition to the teams of Smileawi volunteers who run clinics during in-country visits, the charity has also been involved in re-equipping surgeries, running an annual Smileawi Conference in Mzuzu and, since March 2017, funding a young Malawian man, Lusekero Kyumba, to study dental therapy at the College of Health Sciences in Lilongwe.

Lusekero Kymba Nigel and Vicky
Nigel and Vicky Milne sharing some time with Lusekero Kyumba, the dental therapy student who is being supported through his course by Smileawi 

The work of Smileawi and the MalDent Project complement one another perfectly and we look forward to ever closer collaboration. 


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