Bulletin of Dental Education

With the Support of HSDM, Rwanda’s First Dental School Reaches a Milestone

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Harvard LogoWith a population of more than 12 million people and fewer than 40 registered dentists, the recent graduation of 10 new dentists at the University of Rwanda was a historic milestone for the advancement of the nation’s oral health.

Since 2011, Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) has been a leading partner in the effort to launch the first dental school and B.D.S. program at the University of Rwanda.

Donna Hackley, D.M.D., M.A., HSDM Instructor in Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology, spent the past five years working with colleagues in Rwanda. “It is some of the most challenging, enjoyable and rewarding work I’ve ever done,” Dr. Hackley says.

The new school is the result of the Human Resources for Health program started by Partners In Health, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the Rwandan Ministries of Health and Education. The program was created to advance health education and improve health care delivery systems in the country.

“Given the connection of oral health to overall health, and the potential for preventive care to mitigate disease, it was critical that dentistry be included in the program,” says Jane Barrow, M.S., HSDM Associate Dean for Global and Community Health, who facilitated the partnership.

A team of Rwandan, HSDM and University of Maryland faculty collaborated to build the dental school’s educational infrastructure from the ground up. In August 2013, the new school welcomed its inaugural class into the five-year dental surgery degree program.

“Some of the students had never experienced a dental visit and did not know any dentists,” says Dr. Hackley. “This was not only a new school, but totally new territory for them.”

The students were steadfast in their desire to learn. The inaugural class adopted the nickname “The Pioneerz” and became close friends.

“Our team could not be more proud of them nor of how far they have come,” says John Michael Ray, D.D.S., HSDM Lecturer.

The graduation marked the culmination of many years of work for the various partners, faculty and students.

“We have done our best and worked together with team spirit, to reach farther than any one of us could reach alone,” says University of Rwanda School of Dentistry Dean Chrispinus Mumena, D.D.S., M.Dent. OMFS, PGCLTHE. “I am very proud of our graduating students and very pleased with the collaborations between our faculty and the HRH Rwanda program.”

“Through all our efforts, the education we are providing will plant the seed to improve many people’s lives now and in the future,” says Steffany Chamut, D.D.S., M.P.H., HSDM Instructor.

Human Resource for Health Program funding will provide support for the program for the next six years. HSDM faculty will continue to assist with curriculum delivery and provide technical and strategic support as the school shifts to a new campus.

“I’m very excited and happy for today’s graduation, it is the day I have waited for, for a long time,” says graduate Joseph Nshimiyimana. “We are going to do our best to achieve more for our country.”

For more information, see the article published in the June 2018 issue of the Journal of Dental Education: A Case Study Optimizing Human Resources in Rwanda’s First Dental School: Three Innovative Management Tools.

Courtesy of Heather Denny, M.L.A., Director of Communications, Harvard School of Dental Medicine

Published on January 9, 2019

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