a student at University
of New England College of Dental Medicine (UNE-CDM), always wanted to travel internationally and spend time practicing
dentistry in low-income areas. She originally wanted to become a dental
assistant, but decided to further her education and work toward becoming a
When she learned about the University of New England’s Cambodia
exchange program, she jumped at the chance to take part.
“I knew that this was a potential opportunity,” Ms. Cunningham says.
“It’s one of the reasons I decided to come here. I wanted to see what it would
be like to do a foreign dental trip. It was everything I imagined and more.”
In 2017, Ms. Cunningham was part of the first UNE-CDM team to work with students and faculty at the
University of Puthisastra (UP) in Phnom Penh. She spent two weeks in Cambodia
with UNE-CDM faculty members Nicole Kimmes, D.D.S., Associate Dean of
Curriculum Integration and Analytics; Travis Erickson, M.Ed., Assistant Dean of
Student Affairs; and recent graduate Tara Prasad, D.M.D.
the University of Puthisastra has provided a unique experience for our students
to be immersed in the dental education and outreach environment in a developing
country,” says Dr. Kimmes, who organizes the trips with Callum Durward, B.Sc.,
B.D.S., M.D.Sc., M.P.H., D.Com.H., Dean of the UP Faculty of Health Sciences.
The goals of the trips are to increase cultural competency,
instill social responsibility and foster awareness of global oral health
“It made me richer and broadened my world perspective,” Ms. Cunningham
explains. “A trip like this takes you out of your comfort zone and gives you a
deeper understanding of people.”
Cambodia has an extremely high prevalence of tooth decay. More
than 90% of the country’s six-year-old children have tooth decay, most of which
is untreated. The Healthy Kids Cambodia
initiative places emphasis on using sustainable and culturally appropriate
approaches to increase oral health literacy and improve behaviors, such as
daily brushing and fluoride use.
“The resources to
address this problem with a conventional approach are just not available in
Cambodia,” explains Dr. Kimmes. “This partnership gives our students the
opportunity to work alongside Cambodian dental students and see firsthand how a
non-governmental organization is using an alternative strategy to engage
communities in long-term improvement of health.”
Jon Ryder, D.D.S.,
M.S., Dean of UNE-CDM, says the issues Cambodia is working to solve are not
unique to that country.
“In fact, Northern New England shares many of the same access to
care issues as Cambodia,” he states. “Exchange programs like this are also
about discovering diverse solutions to common access to health care problems.”
Barry Saltz, D.D.S., Assistant Clinical Professor at the UNE-CDM, says the Cambodia exchange program is an
important part of the learning experience for students. “Helping underserved
people who may not have the availability of the dental care that we have here
is part of giving back,” he says. “We can bring some techniques we have in
America that they may not have in other countries.”
Dr. Saltz, Deputy Regent for the International College of
Dentists, presented a check for $688 on behalf of the organization to UNE-CDM to offset some of the costs of the program
and to highlight the significance of the international partnership with
A second team comprised of students Siranjit Kaur and Yoojin Lim, and
Bernhard Bringewald, D.M.D., F.A.G.D., Assistant Clinical Professor at UNE-CDM, made the trip in November 2018.
UNE-CDM is currently working with the administration at UP to
arrange for the first two Cambodian students to come to Maine. Ms. Cunningham
hopes the experience is as rewarding for them as it was for her.
“It’s one of the best things I've ever done,” she says. “I know
that it will always be a part of my life.”
Courtesy of Chris Rose, Public Relations Strategist, University of New
Published on May 8, 2019