The MalDent Project presents on partnerships in health education at Bridge2Aid Conference: ‘Global Remote and Rural Healthcare’

One of the distinguishing features of the Maldent Project is its close interaction with a number of charity partners. These include Dentaid, Smileawi, the Borrow Foundation and the organisation which is centre-stage in this post – Bridge2Aid.

I was introduced to Shaenna Loughnane, the Chief Executive Officer of Bridge2Aid (B2A), by Andy Evans, Chief Executive Officer of Dentaid, at the Scottish Dental Show in 2018. By then, the MalDent Project was already working closely with Dentaid on collection and refurbishment of dental equipment bound for the Dental Department at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe.

Shaenna explained the task-shifting model that B2A had developed which delivers training in emergency dentistry for Clinical Officers based in rural Tanzania. It immediately became clear that a model of this type could prove valuable in Malawi, which faces similar dental workforce challenges. Subsequently, Shaenna invited me to visit a B2A training programme in Tanzania, which was a real eye-opener as to the amazing results that could be achieved with their methods of training. Since then, Shaenna and her team have been working with the Malawi Government Ministry of Health & Population and the Dental Association of Malawi around introducing B2A’s task-shifting model to rural Malawi. A pilot programme, planned for June 2020, had to be postponed because of COVID-19 but is being re-scheduled for 2021.

In addition to our partnerships with charities, the MalDent Project has also received great encouragement and support from the company Henry Schein Dental, thanks to the interest shown by Patrick Allen, their Managing Director for the UK and Ireland. For example, the re-equipping activities at KCH were aided significantly by involvement of Jonathan Langley, a UK Henry Schein engineer, whose expert services were provided completely free of charge.

The following video is a very interesting discussion between Patrick and Shaenna, which gives a flavour of the enthusiasm and energy of these two colleagues for the partnership work we are all doing to improve oral health in low- and middle-income countries.

Patrick Allen and Shaenna Loughnane in conversation in 2019

For an organization led by someone with Shaenna’s energy and enthusiasm, it has not been surprising that despite the impact of COVID-19 on the training programmes run by B2A, other avenues for meaningful activity have been identified. One of these was the concept of an international e-conference which would bring together participants from across the globe to discuss a variety of issues relating to remote and rural healthcare. Those of us who have been involved in conference organization know what a huge amount of work is entailed, and for this type of on-line meeting there are additional complications such as consideration of delegates’ time zones. However, the conference was duly announced – a partnership between B2A and a well-known and respected on-line educational platform called ProDentalCPD:

This was an intense conference, delivered as six sessions over two days, as outlined below:

The programme for day 1
The programme for Day 2

Mwapatsa and I were delighted to have been invited to participate in the session ‘Partnerships in Health Education’, chaired by Bridge2Aid volunteer Kiaran Weil. We presented along with Dr Meredith Giuliani, a radiation oncologist and Education Director at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto who described a health education partnership with the King Hussain Cancer Centre in Jordan. The content of that session is available to view in the following video:

It was uncanny that so many of the principles of partnership working that we described from our experiences of the MalDent Project were mirrored in Meredith’s excellent presentation. There is definitely scope here for some joint working in 2021.

This conference was a tremendous success. Many congratulations must go to Shaenna and her team at B2A and also to Rob Dyas at ProDental CPD, whose technical wizardry kept things running smoothly. In due course, much of the conference content will be uploaded to YouTube and relevant links will be added to this post when they become available.

Let’s hope this COVID-19-induced innovation from B2A and ProDental CPD is not a one-off event – the MalDent team is already looking forward to the next one!

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