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IN BRIEF Marquette Research IN BRIEF

Tanzanian refugees receive dental education from a camp health care worker.

ON A MISSION TO IMPROVE REFUGEE DENTAL CARE When Dr. Toni Roucka first arrived at

“The biggest concern we had was that

clinics at the refugee camps and to provide

many patients might return to the dental

a 1920s dental chair in the corner of a

a two-week training course in emergency

clinic with post-operative complications

dark room. There was no running water,

dental care and health promotion to 12

after treatment,” she says. “What we found

no dental X-ray equipment and very little

refugee health care workers.

was the students followed our instructions

space to set up instruments. The floor was a muddy mess.

Through lectures and clinical training, the dentists taught refugee workers how

to the T.” In fact, of the nearly 2,000 patient visits

More than 50,000 refugees living in the

to do basic exams and triage procedures,

recorded at the clinics from November 2007

Mtabila and Nyarugusu camps in the Kigoma

administer anesthesia, manage infections,

to August 2009, fewer than one percent

region of Tanzania receive dental treatment

and prioritize treatments while also stress-

returned with pain, swelling or bleeding —

— primarily tooth extractions — in these

ing the importance of patient management

proving to Roucka that the model works.

conditions, typically delivered by health care

and oral health education.

providers with no formal dental training. “When you look at the big picture — food, safety, shelter — dental care is a low priority, but it is a quality of life issue,” says

This model for providing access to

Next, she hopes to return to Tanzania to monitor the long-term progress of the pro-

dental care in refugee camps is the first of

gram and then introduce it with a camp

its kind, according to Roucka.

population in another cultural environment.

The focus of the trip was training.

She will also continue to provide care

Roucka, an assistant professor of general

Roucka’s research looked at whether this

in the Dominican Republic and other

dentistry in Marquette’s School of Dentistry

kind of training was self-sustaining, portable

nations through Compassionate Dental

whose research on refugee dental care was

and repeatable. She returned to the camps

Care International, a nonprofit agency she

published last year in the International

in 2008 to evaluate the progress of the

founded in 2005 to deliver dental care to

Dental Journal.

health care workers since the first training

those in need. — ALB

Improving dental care for underserved

22

dentists in 2007 to establish small dental

the Tanzanian refugee camp, she found

and to provide a two-week refresher

populations is a passion for Roucka. She

course. In 2009, she returned once more to

first traveled to Tanzania with three other

evaluate the program’s success.

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Discover 2012