The University of Rwanda recently held commencement ceremonies for its first class of graduating dentists. The African nation of Rwanda has a population of more than 12 million. Yet there are only 40 registered dentists in the country.
Since 2011, the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and the University of Maryland have been working with the University of Rwanda to develop a quality dental surgery program. A team of faculty and alumni served in Rwanda to build the dental program from the ground up.
In 2013, the first cohort of student began study in the five-year program. Some of the new dental students had never been to a dentist.
Brian J. Swann, an assistant professor of oral health policy and epidemiology at Harvard was one of the first to travel to Rwanda to begin the process. “I wanted to be in the first wave of volunteers in order to better appreciate the culture of the people were to serve,” he said. “Cultural sensitivity is vital. Together both teams had to learn how to best communicate in a way that was accurate.”
Dr. Swann earned his dental degree at the University of California, San Francisco.