The beginning of a partnership in Guinea
In May 2018, the Gamal Abdul Nasser University in Conakry expressed the need for a dedicated space for student clinical training at its dental school – the only one in Guinea. Previous dental students graduated without proper clinical experience – a vital aspect for practical education and training, decreasing their ability to successfully enter the workforce. Gamal leadership had plans to renovate the dental school, but were unable to procure funding. After a proposal from the dental school, Mercy Ships agreed to renovate and equip the first floor of the dental school and use the school as Mercy Ships dental clinic for the 2018-19 field service in Guinea.
During their 10-month field service in Guinea 2018-2019, Mercy Ships carefully selected four students for mentoring and working alongside the Mercy Ships dental team, seeing patients for almost 6 months, and learning and improving their clinical skills daily. During their mentorship, these students performed 5,554 dental procedures on 1,270 patients.
Continuing the Partnership
The leadership at the Gamal Dental Clinic wanted to continue its partnership with Mercy Ships beyond the departure of the Africa Mercy in June 2019. They envisioned fully implementing clinical training into their dental school curriculum and asked for continued support. Mercy Ships agreed to continue with this partnership and help the clinical training become financially sustainable for the school. The collaboration materialized in several areas:
- Mercy Ships helped clinical training become financially self-sufficient.
- 121 students received clinical training / mentoring.
- 10 graduate students were selected to follow patients during a one-year clinical training program.
- Additional renovations were made to accommodate the clinic’s future needs, including a reception area, waiting room, locker rooms and office for Mercy Ships Guinea.
- The dental clinic was inaugurated on March 19, 2020 by Gamal University, where the students of the dental school began their first consultations with patients. Although COVID-19 led to its temporary closure of the clinic it is open again with modifications.
- In Guinea, graduate students in dental medicine who trained through the partnership with Gamal University now supervise the school’s next student classes.
Active amidst the current health crisis
Today, despite the challenges of COVID-19, Mercy Ships is still extremely active in Guinea and continuing a collaboration with Gamal University. In fact, Mercy Ships helped the dental school modify their student dental clinic in response to COVID-19 by creating separate cubicles to ensure a safer environment for patient care and student training.
In addition, Mercy Ships is actively contributing to distance education during this time. From a digital screen, dentists can provide hands-on training to their students. Soon they will be treating their own patients.
Mercy Ships also complements its clinical education with sessions for dental students through e-learning, on-site training and mentoring. Today, these students are starting to see patients in their dental clinic.
A laboratory specializing in dental prostheses for the patients of the clinic has finally emerged.
Dr. David Ugai, American dentist, has been working with Mercy Ships since 2012. He led the partnership project with the Dental Clinic-School of Gamal University in Conakry. He is now Country Director Guinea of Mercy Ships.