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Progress in Haiti

Health Volunteers Overseas seeing successes, opportunities

February 23, 2016

By David Burger

Photo of Dr. Jacques Denis, Dr. Christina Lafontant Hyppolite, Dr. Gladys Lafontant,  Dr. Kevin Hardwick, Dr. Samuel Prophète and Dr. Jack Levine.
Togetherness: American dentists visited The Faculté d’Odontologie at the Université d’Etat d’Haiti for a site assessment in 2015 and met with members of the faculty. From left, Dr. Jacques Denis, vice dean for academic affairs; Dr. Christina Lafontant Hyppolite, secretary general; Dr. Gladys Lafontant, vice dean for research; Texas-based retired dentist Dr. Kevin Hardwick; Dr. Samuel Prophète, dean;  and Connecticut-based dentist Dr. Jack Levine.
The oral health workforce of Haiti has faced numerous challenges in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake, requiring support from the global oral health community.
One organization addressing this is Health Volunteers Overseas, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., which works closely with the ADA Foundation on international oral health programs.

HVO seeks to improve health care globally by educating the local health workforce in resource-scarce countries. In 2015, HVO fielded more than 500 volunteer assignments to 87 project sites in 26 countries in a variety of health specialties, including oral health. These volunteers work with students and colleagues in resource-scarce countries to bring knowledge, skills and professional opportunity that will improve the quality and availability of care.

The ADA Foundation sponsors HVO’s eight oral health projects and the Foundation’s International Programs Subcommittee oversees these efforts.

To address the challenges that Haiti’s oral health care community faced in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, HVO and ADA created the Haiti Adopt-a-Practice program, which has met with notable success.

In addition, HVO is currently seeking to raise $3,000 to buy textbooks for the Faculté d’Odontologie at the Université d’Etat d’Haiti library, the library for Haiti’s only dental school.


Haiti Adopt-a-Practice

Nearly six years after an earthquake destroyed much of Haiti’s largest city, Port-au-Prince, 10 dentists have rebuilt their practices through the Adopt-a-Practice: Rebuilding Dental Offices in Haiti program.  This fundraising campaign, launched in 2010 by the ADA and HVO to help Haitian dentists affected by the earthquake rebuild their practices, raised more than $129,000 in donations from dentists and contributors worldwide.

The rebuilding process is now complete, with Drs. Louis Mary Fene, Lanoue Marjorie, Rene Jean Ramses, Eugenie Bruneau, Edgard Douge, Lyron Yves Rouslin, Gayoul Louima, Michel Lebrun, Marcelle Cadet and Vadna Georges all having received funds and new equipment to erect their practices again.

Applications were received with the assistance of Dr. Samuel Prophète, who was president of the Haitian Dental Association at the time of the natural disaster. ADA staff contacted each applicant.

“We wanted to make sure it went to the right people,” said Connecticut-based dentist Dr. Jack Levine, member of the Foundation’s International Programs Subcommittee and a longtime volunteer with HVO.

The project management team worked with a local dental equipment distributor, which was key to the program’s success, said Briana Rowland, the Foundation’s manager of international development and outreach.

“This is a great example of a successful program which addressed specific needs at a time when the amount of aid to Haiti was overwhelming and other organizations did not know how or where to disburse funds,” said Rowland.


Haiti Dental School Library fundraiser

Although the “Adopt-a-Practice” initiative has been successful, there is still a great need for support in the Haitian dental community. HVO is currently raising funds to purchase new textbooks for the Faculté d’Odontologie library.

Dr. Prophète and the dental school faculty have developed a list of 21 reference books deemed essential for the education of the school’s 125 students. The books on this list range from “Early-Age Orthodontic Treatment” by Dr. Aliakar Bahreman to “The Oral-System Health Connection: A Guide to Patient Care,” edited by Dr. Michael Glick.

Photo of the library at The Faculté d’Odontologie at the Université d’Etat d’Haiti
‘Spartan’: The library at The Faculté d’Odontologie at the Université d’Etat d’Haiti is in need of books and supplies.
The faculty hopes these texts will help them provide students with a well-rounded education in the face of a system that offers no specialty training. Dr. Prophète’s goal is to graduate students who are able to diagnose and treat patients in rural Haiti, where access to dental care is even more limited than in Port-au-Prince.

“It’s a pretty spartan school,” says Dr. Kevin Hardwick, a Texas-based retired dentist, member of the Foundation’s International Programs Subcommittee and HVO volunteer, who along with Dr. Levine toured the school and its depleted library during a 2015 visit that was conducted under the auspices of HVO.

“We want them to have the most up-to-date, comprehensive education possible. I’m hoping that dentists understand how important this is,” says Dr. Hardwick.

HVO is seeking to raise $3,000 for the textbooks by spring, 2016. To donate to this cause visit: razoo.com/us/story/Haiti-Dental-School-Library.


With the help of Drs. Hardwick, Levine and Prophète, HVO is hoping to do even more to support the Faculté d’Odontologie staff and students. HVO is developing a new training project to be launched in 2016 that will send dentists on week-long volunteer assignments, during which they will provide clinical and didactic training to students and professional development opportunities for the faculty.

For more information about HVO’s oral health projects and how you can become a volunteer visit https://hvousa.org/.