Following approval of the BDS curriculum by the University of Malawi College of Medicine in March 2019, I had a number of conversations with Malawian colleagues to identify ways in which we could provide support for the students who would be joining this fledgling programme. An obvious possibility which came to mind was the acquisition of relevant dental textbooks for the Blantyre campus library. However, I was advised that the combined costs of University fees, accommodation and food prove financially challenging for some of the students in higher education and that a more valuable route of support would be to establish a mechanism for funding a bursary scheme for those who were struggling to cover their costs.
It was then explained that for medical students there already existed a programme called ‘Medic to Medic‘, administered by the University, which provided means-tested financial support for those needing some additional money for daily living. Thus was born the concept of ‘Dentist to Dentist‘, to provide a similar bursary scheme for dental students.
We have established a new charity called ‘Maldent Student Aid’ (Registered Charity No.: SC050001) which will raise money here in the UK to provide a source of funds for the ‘Dentist to Dentist’ financial aid scheme, administered by the Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (formerly the University of Malawi College of Medicine). As I did for our MalDent Project visual identity, I turned again to my brother Simon to design the logo for our new charity:
Our first donation
I was a dental student in Edinburgh between 1975 and 1979, and at the end of 2019 we had our 40th Reunion at the Apex Hotel in Edinburgh. Big thanks are due to classmates Shirley Hopkins and Yvonne Millar who undertook all the organisation and ensured that we had a great time. The relevance of this event is that I had mentioned to another former classmate, Alastair Bryden, that I was going to be establishing a small charity to support Malawian dental students. Unknown to me, he had shared this information with Shirley and Yvonne who in turn gained agreement from all my classmates that the evening’s raffle proceeds should provide the first donation to the charity. I was really touched by their thoughtfulness and generosity.
After dinner, I was invited to speak for a few minutes about the MalDent Project:
Shortly afterwards the raffle was drawn and realised a total of £500 – all of which my generous class-mates have donated to MalDent Student Aid. This was truly ‘Dentist to Dentist‘ and I hope a good omen for the future success of the concept. So a massive ‘thank you’ to all my great friends and colleagues in the Edinburgh University BDS Class of ’79!
Keeping in touch and supporting our cause
We have established a web-site for our charity at http://www.maldentstudentaid.org, which explains our purpose and vision:
The web-site includes a link to this blog to ensure that supporters are kept up to date with the broader MalDent Project, but we will also update it with news and views as the charity develops. There is also a facility for making one-off or regular donations via CAF Donate for those who would like to support our cause.
Ultimately our ambition is to widen access to the new BDS programme in Malawi for those requiring some additional financial support with their studies, so that in due course they can join our MalDent Project mission of achieving ‘Oral health for all’.
Establishing a charity is not as straightforward as I had originally thought and there are a number of colleagues that I would like to thank:
Ewen Dyer and Jayne Clifford at Martin Aitken and Co. were extremely helpful with preparing and submitting the application for charitable status from the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. I am very grateful for their advice and support.
Petrina Sweeney, Alex Mackay and Niall Rogerson, three of my University of Glasgow colleagues, have joined me as Trustees of the charity and I look forward to working closely with them as we build a sustainable future for MalDent Student Aid.
Finally, a massive thanks to all my Malawian friends who have encouraged me to establish this partnership between MalDent Student Aid and the Kamuzu University of Health Sciences ‘Dentist to Dentist‘ programme. It’s taken a while but we got there in the end!