Smile says it all: UQ volunteers make a difference in Vanuatu
A recent visit by staff and students from UQ’s School of Dentistry brought smiles to the faces of many adults and children in Vanuatu.
The volunteers, consisting of two clinicians, a clinical assistant, administration officer and a fourth year student on a supervised work placement, visited Vanuatu to provide much-needed dental care and oral health education to various groups in the community.
The staff and students volunteered with Vanuatu Health, working with two dentists from Espiritu Santo who provide service for approximately 40,000 residents.
Head of School, Professor Lakshman Samaranayake, said the School was proud to link with Vanuatu Health and provide much needed dental care to this seriously under-resourced population.
“As well as providing our students with unparalleled practical experience in another culture, the work undertaken by our volunteers in Vanuatu delivers great benefit to the community,” Professor Samaranayake said.
“Oral health has a very limited budget in Vanuatu, the industry is under-staffed, and there is a great need for suitable training for healthcare and oral health workers.”
While the volunteers were based at the Northern District Hospital of Espiritu Santo Dental Clinic during their stay, they also undertook a number of outreach and education activities within the local communities.
This included screening and oral health education for approximately 1,500 school children at two junior high schools in Luganville and Port Orly, as well as providing dental care and oral health education at the hospital.
School of Dentistry Lecturer Gloria Silcock said the group also visited the children’s and maternity wards to speak with children and expectant mothers about the importance of good oral healthcare, and they provided training to the Dental clinic staff on the use of the newly donated equipment.
“During our stay we were invited to speak at the local Rotary Club meeting where we discussed our oral health education and dental care programs in Malekula and Espiritu Santo,” Mrs Silcock said. We were very warmly received by this group, who were very interested in assisting with our work in the future.
“We received a similar welcome each time we met with health professionals and members of the community, as they were so very appreciative of the support, education and guidance received about good oral healthcare.”
“From a personal perspective, it is also so very rewarding to know we are providing much-needed assistance and care to such a wonderful, appreciative community.”
The School of Dentistry would like to acknowledge the generous support of the following industry sponsors for their support of the Vanuatu outreach program – Colgate, GC Australia, Henry Schein Halas, Hu Friedy, One Dental and Oral B.
UQ staff and students with colleagues from Vanuatu Health pictured at the end of a busy week (L-R): Bride Hinge (Vanuatu Health Senior Dental Therapist), Gloria Silcock (UQ School of Dentistry Lecturer), Aleksandra Spooner (Oral Health Therapist), Tim Cobban (Senior Dental Assistant), James Chiu (UQ Dental Student), Dr Julie Tevi (Dentist), Lilon Konali(Dental Assistant) and support staff.
Team photo at Espiritu Santo Rotary Club (L-R): Tim Cobban, Aleksandra Spooner, Deidre Adams, Bruce Rex, Gloria Silcock and James Chiu.
Media: Helen Burdon, Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, +61 7 3365 7436, 0412 744 437, firstname.lastname@example.org