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Teaching in Tanzania offered through Health Volunteers Overseas

March 12, 2019

By David Burger

Group photo of Dr. Czarnecki and faculty
Donation: Dr. Gregory Czarnecki smiles alongside faculty of the department of restorative dentistry at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Tanzania, where he worked with staff and faculty to set up and provide instruction on the use of 3D CAD-CAM technology during his fall 2017 assignment. Photo courtesy of Dr. Gregory Czarnecki.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania — Dr. Gregory Czarnecki is committed to improving global oral health care through education, training and professional collaboration with local providers — and he wants others to join him.

"To say that these assignments were worth it is a great understatement," said Dr. Czarnecki. "The feeling you experience from the bonds you form with the students and colleagues are really feelings you must experience to understand. To see the gratitude and the results of your efforts in regions of the world that are in great need, from those you help and come to know, will change your perspective of your profession and life in general."

Dr. Czarnecki volunteers with Health Volunteers Overseas, a nonprofit that improves the availability and quality of health care through the education, training and professional development of the health workforce in resource-scarce countries. The ADA Foundation sponsors HVO's oral health education program.

Dr. Czarnecki, a general dentist and adjunct clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, is the director of HVO's project at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, an African country he has visited every year since 2015. He has also completed HVO volunteer assignments in Nepal and Nicaragua.

He first joined HVO in 2012. "Being in private practice, I wanted to see if I wanted to teach," he said. "This was a great way to see if I wanted to teach."

Dr. Czarnecki's first trip was to Nicaragua, and said his experience was terrific. "It was different from what I was doing every day." Since then, the only year he hasn't embarked on an HVO mission was 2014. "It gets into your system."

With an undergraduate major in anthropology, he said he also enjoys being able to travel and see places he only had read about in books. Dr. Czarnecki likes to schedule additional trips after or before his educational missions. Among the highlights are visiting Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean, going on safaris and traveling in the Serengeti.

The benefits of volunteering and sharing knowledge with others are immeasurable, Dr. Czarnecki said. "Not only do I teach them, they teach me," he said. "It makes you a better dentist."

This year, Dr. Czarnecki plans a second trip to Nepal as well as a fifth trip to Tanzania. In the latter, he focuses on training and teaching faculty and students at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam. He hopes more volunteers will accept assignments in those countries, as well as others.  "You will not regret it," he said.

With support from the Henry Schein Cares Foundation and the ADA Foundation, HVO has funding opportunities for qualifying volunteers. Those eligible for funding include either a dentist who is a first-time HVO volunteer or a dentist who graduated from dental school within the last five years. Grants will cover up to $1,500 of assignment-related expenses.

Opportunities for oral health providers to volunteer with HVO include:
  • Dar es Salaam, Tanzania — Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences: Volunteers provide chairside instruction and lectures to undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as providing continuing education to the faculty at Muhimbili University and assisting them with revising the current curriculum. Areas of focus are oral surgery, orthodontics, pediatrics, and preventative and restorative dentistry. The minimum length of assignment is two weeks.
  • Port-au-Prince, Haiti — Faculté d'Odontologie: Volunteers provide training to dental students at the Faculté d'Odontologie. General dentists, specialists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons are needed for this site. Volunteers must have prior relevant international health experience. Assignments are one week, scheduled between mid-October and mid-April.
  • Vientiane, Laos — National University of Laos: Volunteers provide clinical training to dental students and faculty at the university as well as to local dentists in Vientiane. Areas of training include restorative dentistry, oral surgery and pain management, oral pathology, periodontics and preventive dentistry (especially pediatric), as well as dental radiology and dental clinic management. Assignments are one to two weeks long.
  • Chiclayo, Peru — Craniofacial Center of Hospital Regional Docente Las Mercedes: Volunteers provide clinical and didactic instruction to dental students, clinicians and faculty, as well as provide teaching and ongoing mentorship to the faculty and staff. Oral surgeons with clinical experience in implants, trauma or benign pathology are needed. Assignments are for up to two weeks.
  • Dhulikhel, Nepal — Kathmandu University School of Medicine: This project focuses on improving the education for dental students, dental assistants and dental hygienists by providing clinical and didactic training in all aspects of clinical dentistry. General dentists, specialists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons are needed. Assignments are a minimum of two weeks.

For more information on Health Volunteers Overseas, visit hvousa.org.

To explore other international oral health volunteer opportunities, visit ADAFoundation.org/internationalvolunteer.