A group of dental students and faculty from the University of Michigan (UM) School of Dentistry recently traveled to Kenya to participate in an interprofessional research program. A team of dentists, physicians, engineers, educators, and students traveled to the rural Meru region as part of the UM Kenya Summer Research Program (KSRP). Faculty, students, and staff from the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, and Public Health and Colleges of Pharmacy, Engineering, Library Services, and Language, Art, and Science participated in the program.
Drs. Sunil Kapila, Yvonne Kapila, and Robert Eber acted as the dental faculty advisors, and six second-year dental students (Ms. Jami Ballantine, Ms. Ashley Green, Mr. Jesse Plummer, Mr. Nathan Poel, Mr. Aaron Ruhlig, and Mr. Mark Shallal-Ayzin) were part of the research group. The dental students prepared a dental health survey prior to departing for Kenya and refined the survey on site. The surveys will be used in the future to gather data on general health and access to care issues of the Meru community. The students and staff also visited primary and secondary schools to provide oral hygiene instruction and general oral health education.
One major accomplishment of the trip was establishing a relationship between UM and two local universities, Kenya Methodist University (KeMU) and Meru University College of Science and Technology (MUCST). UM’s Provost provided letters to be delivered to the heads of each university by Dr. Dan Clauw, the primary organizer of the KSRP trip. The head of MUCST invited the KSRP faculty and students to plant tree seedlings on campus to reaffirm that the UM community has roots in Kenya.
Future Kenya initiatives will focus on advising the MUCST and KeMU academic leaders on curriculum development and following up on projects in the Meru community. All of the participants in the KSRP trip agreed that it was a life-changing experience and look forward to returning to Kenya in the future.