The First Dental Care In Kigutu
Last week was a whirlwind. While this is common when I’m in Kigutu, a visit from a team of four Columbia University School of Dental Medicine faculty members added a whole new layer of excitement to the trip.
According to recent reports, fewer than five dentists work in Burundi, a country of approximately ten million people. There is little-to-no access to even substandard dental care outside the capital city, Bujumbura. Patients experiencing dental emergencies often turn to traditional “healers” for relief. Their typical treatment is to break off the crown of the tooth while leaving the root in the gums. That kind of treatment, combined with a lack of preventive care, makes Burundians susceptible to the worst kinds of dental problems and their complications.
The team of four Columbia doctors – Steven Syrop, Steven Chussid, David Koslovsky and Doran Ringer – treated hundreds of patients, spoke about dental health to an all-school assembly at the Kigutu primary school, taught community health workers, trained staff, lectured on advanced treatments, and brought thousands of dollars in donated dental equipment and supplies.
In addition to all the skill and knowledge they brought to Kigutu, it was also their commitment to VHW’s core belief – to provide the highest quality of care in a dignified environment – that made them genuine partners. Perhaps best of all, the work is set to continue. With a generously donated iPhone, they will be communicating with staff on the ground via FaceTime to help diagnose and treat patients.
The visit was part of our growing partnership with Columbia. This partnership aims to build world-class health care capacity in Burundi while providing direct, strategic support to the team in Kigutu as the facility expands its clinical and community development programs.
It isn’t often that we witness a huge advance in health care; but that’s what I saw every day as the VHW team and the Columbia team brought modern dental care to Burundi for the first time – and they will be back soon.
- David Cohen
Take a look at our image gallery for pictures from this visit here.