On Thursday and Friday this week I enjoyed two inspirational meetings linked to the MalDent Project.
The first of these was with Professor Wilson Mandala, Executive Dean of the Academy of Medical Sciences at the Malawi University of Science and Technology. Wilson and I knew each other through Twitter but had never met in person and I am grateful to Alex Mackay and Paul Garside from the University of Glasgow Institute of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation for identifying a slot in Wilson’s busy visit schedule to come along to the Dental School.
I mentioned in a previous blog post that four students studying for a BEng degree in Biomedical Engineering had joined us at the Kamuzu Central Hospital Dental Department in Lilongwe in May, when the replacement dental chairs and phantom head units were being fitted (https://wordpress.com/post/themaldentproject.com/688). These students were from the Malawi University of Science & Technology. What I had not realised was that this is a relatively new course and that the first ever cohort will graduate next Summer.
Maintenance and repair of medical equipment is an essential function in any healthcare environment. At present, there is a shortage of skilled engineers to undertake these functions in Malawi, and the new BEng degree in Biomedical Engineering is a crucial development as the country develops its healthcare system further. Wilson explained that he and his colleagues are looking at subsequent training routes for graduates in sub-specialisms such as medical imaging, and that the work we are planning in the MalDent Project with Dentaid and Henry Schein, to provided a training opportunity in dental equipment engineering for two young graduates, fits perfectly into this scheme.
In addition to discussing this particular aspect of joint interest, we enjoyed a true meeting of minds on many related issues. Wilson has very kindly arranged for me to visit the Malawi University of Science & Technology on 20th August when I am in Malawi for the BDS student induction week. I am really looking forward to picking up our conversation again and meeting Wilson’s colleagues.
The second meeting, held at Glasgow Dental School, brought together the two charities Smileawi (Nigel and Vicky Milne) and Bridge2Aid (Shaenna Loughnane and Paul Tasman). At lunchtime we were joined by Professors Lorna Macpherson and David Conway, who are increasingly involved in the dental public health aspects of the MalDent Project, and by Niall Rogerson my co-lead for the project in Scotland.
I had reported in a previous blog post that Bridge2Aid and the Dental Association of Malawi have been awarded a grant from the Tropical Health and Education Trust to establish a partnership that will facilitate a pilot of the model used successfully in Tanzania for the past 15 years to up-skill Clinical Officers in emergency dentistry (https://wordpress.com/post/themaldentproject.com/785). This project is progressing well and initial discussions with the Ministry of Health have been supportive in principle (https://wordpress.com/post/themaldentproject.com/834).
The plan is to work towards a pilot in the North of Malawi, where Smileawi already has an excellent network of contacts and is well known to the local dental therapists, who have independently established a group known as ‘Smile North’. Shaenna, together with Andrew Paterson, will visit Mzuzu in September when they will deliver presentations to the local therapists about the Bridge2Aid model. They will seek input and advice from the delegates who will have opportunity to become involved in the THET project and its continuation should the pilot prove a success.
The fantastic work that Smileawi and Bridge2Aid are doing in Tanzania and Malawi directly supports the aims and ambitions of the MalDent Project. The collaborative alignment of all our activities is allowing very significant progress to be made with our partners in Malawi. Partnership working and mutual learning – keys to success!