May 1, 2012
by Gary Glassman, DDS, FRCD(C)
We are fortunate to live in a society that has access to a superior level of dental care that is considered amongst the best in the world. Unfortunately, this is not the case for millions of people in countless other areas. In fact, it can be considered tragic. For many years now I have been doing charitable work for the people of Jamaica, by providing dental care and by teaching the local dentists there how to provide proper endodontic care to their patients. Recently, a new dental school was constructed at the University of Technology (U Tech) in Kingston, Jamaica and I was appointed Adjunct Professor of Dentistry. I was asked to create an endodontic program for the very first 2015 graduating class. This is a non-paying position and I agreed without hesitation. I strongly believe in paying it forward and that doing hands-on volunteer work can often be more effective than just writing a cheque.
Established in September 2010, The School of Oral Health Sciences at U Tech is an institution that was constructed in response to the overwhelming burden of oral and dental disease in Jamaica. Currently the dental workforce is approximately one dentist to 17 thousand of the population. Despite their efforts, all previous scholarships to the USA and Canada have not yielded the expected results because many of the new graduates have preferred to not return to Jamaica. Through a collaborative effort with Dalhousie University, Health Canada and the Pan American Health Organization/WHO, The University of Technology, Jamaica, has worked together with human resources on a health module.
With the participation of an economist from the University of Toronto, a mathematical model was created. When this was populated with the appropriate data, the results were fascinating. It was proven that in the southeast region of Jamaica some 900 dentists were needed. Using the epidemiological profile of the country only 15% of Jamaicans have health insurance and about half as many have adequate dental insurance. Therefore the public system provides care for the majority of the nation. There are only 45 dental surgeons in the public health sector that provide dental care to a population of over 2.5 million people. Jamaica still has a high prevalence of oral and pharyngeal cancers with a five-year survival rate of less than 20%.
Periodontal disease, dental caries and edentulousness are all in the range of exceptional significance. Jamaica is experiencing severe challenges in terms of reducing the overall burden of diseases due to dental conditions.
Over the years my colleagues and I have been providing dental care to hundreds of people in various areas on the island where it is inaccessible. I have also been involved in capacity building and knowledge transferring activities to empower local dentists to administer more endodontics so they can help patients retain their natural dentition.
The University of Technology is a very young school with minimal resources. They have emulated the Canadian module and are working on conformance with the CDAC standards. U Tech has also written for help and has been in exploratory talks with the CDAC. It has been a long time coming to supply the Jamaican population with proper dental care, because oral health is directly related to general health.
In addition to my commitment to this cause, I have also created a blog (http://drgaryglassman.blog spot.com) so I can share my stories in hopes of making things better for the Jamaican people. I encourage you to also spread the word, to see how you can become involved and to help bring awareness to this situation. After all, the local people in one of the top vacation spots in the world are counting on us. We may not be able to do everything, but together we can do something.OH