Daraja Academy was pleased to welcome Dr. Yvonne Buischi and Dr. Peter Loomer from New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry this September. Their visit has been in the making since 2013, and is part of a project to give the Daraja girls access to regular dental care. A partnership was established between NYU and Kenya Methodist University (KMU) in order to organize this international collaboration in dentistry. Dr. Kimathi Mwongera from KMU collaborated with Dr. Buischi and Dr. Loomer to assist in navigating Kenyan regulations, and to participate in the hands-on assessment of Daraja Academy students. For many of our students, this was the first time they were seen by a dentist.
Dr. Buischi, Dr. Loomer and Dr. Mwongera assessed each girl’s oral health over the course of their six-day visit, and conducted individualized oral hygiene training sessions on how to care for teeth and gums. The girls and school staff received a seminar on the prevention of oral disease, as well as information on general health and well-being, such as the importance of eating well. The project also focused on providing leadership training to the students, to empower them to act as oral health advocates in their communities. Many Kenyan communities do not have good access to oral health services, or routine health care. In addition to this, there are only two dental schools in the entire country, which accept fifteen dental students per year.
During the clinical examinations, the doctors observed cases of severe fluorosis, inflammation of the gums, and cavities. One potential health policy change that they identified relates to the excess amount of fluoride in Kenyan water, which occurs naturally in very high concentrations and contributes to many cases of fluorosis.
Dr. Buischi discovered Daraja Academy in 2013, when she was invited to an event in New York City by her friend Deborah Santana, a devoted Daraja Education Fund supporter. Immediately touched by the mission of the Daraja Education Fund, Dr. Buischi began to plan a project with the students. When Dr. Loomer was recruited to NYU as Director of Global Health for Oral Health Sciences in early 2013, their collaborative effort to bring the Kenyan project to life began. Both doctors visited Kenya for the first time in February 2014 for an initial assessment.
This dental project is funded by Dr. Loomer’s research funding at NYU, the Do A Little Foundation, the Henry Schein Cares Foundation and Colgate Palmolive.
“At Daraja Academy, everyone is invested in improving the lives of the girls, and the girls themselves are well behaved and interested in learning new things and participating. It is a great honour to be here for us. A very special human experience.” – Dr. Yvonne Buischi.
Dr. Buischi and Dr. Loomer have additional visits to Daraja Academy planned in January, March and September of 2018. They are working on creating a long-term preventive/educational program in order to improve oral and general health among the girls at Daraja. Ideally, more funding would allow for regular dental care for Daraja students, as well as an expansion of this oral health project to other schools in Kenya, in order to assess and assist other Kenyan schoolchildren.
“We hope that this heightened awareness in oral health and systemic health will have an impact on Daraja Academy, the girls and their communities. Our vision is that this leadership training will positively impact their family, friends and neighbours.” – Dr. Peter Loomer