Our learning here will help us serve our patients better, and there's nothing better than the appreciation of a patient.
Eroni Nalukanga, public health dental officer

Dental school hosts eight dentists from Uganda

Visiting dentists get a chance to share ideas and learn new dental techniques at UAlberta’s School of Dentistry.


(Edmonton) A donation of 30 dentistry chairs from the University of Alberta’s School of Dentistry to the Kigali Health Institute in Rwanda helped open its doors to a new curriculum in 2013. As a result, the U of A school hosted eight visitors from Rwanda’s bordering state Uganda, who took part in dental simulation activities and lecture presentations, and learned new dental techniques.

“The facilities here are amazing,” said Isaac Okullo, dean of the School of Health Sciences at Makerere University, where dentistry is housed. “Coming here is helping us gain hands-on experience. We hope to take this experience back home and translate it into our community. Hopefully, we can train others who didn’t have the opportunity to come.”

The exchange is sponsored by a vocational grant by the Rotary Club of Edmonton and the Rotary Club of Kamapala North. The guests were hosted by Steve Patterson, associate chair (academic) in the School of Dentistry, and alumnus Drew Cahoon, ’76 DDS.

Okullo noted that although they are steps away from achieving the same level of equipment and space as the U of A, the fundamentals of practising dentistry are the same.


“We’re pushing to raise awareness around oral health and oral disease prevention. We have limited resources available to us, so learning and improving our restorative treatment techniques here can encourage others to work differently,” he said. “We were doing a lot of extractions before but our training here has focused on amalgam fillings.”

Juliet Nabbanja, chief dental surgeon for the health ministry in Uganda, is responsible for supervising all regional hospital dental units in Uganda. Her role includes developing guidelines, policies and strategies for oral disease prevention and health promotion.

Nabbanja says the donation of dental chairs meant she could work with dental units on an implementation strategy.

“It’s a good start,” she said, adding that she will continue working with Cahoon on projects to reduce oral disease in poor and marginalized populations. “But our goal is to make the units as functional as they can—and this means more equipment is needed.” 

Patterson says being socially responsible is something the School of Dentistry instils in students as well.

“Giving back to our communities through shared learning like this is a perfect example of how we model the behaviour we wish to see.”