By Kefa Senoga
“Seeing people with admirable smiles makes me smile,” said Andinda Jordan, a fresh graduate from the Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Dentistry. That means for Andinda to keep smiling, he has to ensure people retain and obtain straight, white teeth that are evenly spaced and proportionate to the rest of the face.
Some of the things that now await Andinda as a practitioner is teaching people about the importance of teeth and oral hygiene, and re-aligning people’s maligned teeth so that they can get the “admirable smiles.”
Andinda was among the nine students who graduated with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery at UCU’s 24th graduation ceremony held at the main campus in Mukono on July 28, 2023. A total of 1,006 students graduated with degrees, diplomas and certificates at the ceremony.
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Andinda describes his journey through the UCU School of Dentistry (SoD) as bitter-sweet.
“The course has many units to cover in quite a short period of time,” he says, indicating the level of sacrifice that any student desirous of pursuing a course in dental surgery has to commit. Andinda and his eight colleague-fresh-graduates in dental surgery were the UCU pioneer class of Bachelor of Dental Surgery that enrolled in 2018.
UCU Students Triumph over Pandemic Challenges
Despite challenges of suspension of education in Uganda at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the students completed their course on schedule. The time during the Covid pandemic was primarily used to cover the theory and then post-covid, the practicality of the course commenced. Dentistry is a practical course which involves meeting people and touching them.
The nine graduates are now expected to join a workforce in Uganda where there are about 300 dental surgeons in active practice, covering only 21% of the country. One dentist in Uganda serves about 142,000 people, a ratio dangerously unbalanced, considering the World Health Organization requirement of dentist to patient ratio of 1:8,000.
Andinda said because of the low number of students for the course at UCU, they were able to get undivided attention from their lecturers and faculty mentors for the five-year duration of the course. It is for that reason, Andinda noted, that many students have been able to identify mentors among their lecturers. Also, at UCU, students have a well-equipped dental clinic, where they are able to practice under the supervision of a doctor.
“My current mentor, Dr. Catherine Kabenge, is from the UCU dental school; she has shared her career journey and taught me some of the important principles to live by as a dentist,” says Andinda, the first born of six children of Uganda’s High Court Judge Justice Jesse Byaruhanga and Mrs. Betty Byaruhanga.
The other faculty members are seasoned dentists who students would like to emulate. For instance, some of the members of the faculty, such as the Dean of the SoD, Dr. James Magara, practice in the profession. They are, therefore, the most appropriate human resource to impart knowledge since they offer it in the context of the real world of work. Dr. Magara was part of Makerere University’s pioneer class of dental surgery students that graduated in 1988.
During an interview that Dr. Magara granted Uganda Partners in 2020, he said UCU is committed to ensuring that students have good exposure to modern dentistry.
“The UCU Faculty of Dentistry’s teaching hospital has a very long history of teaching medical practitioners in Uganda,” he said. “The university has a partnership with Mengo Hospital, which has a dental unit that has been running for over 40 years now; this unit has trained dentists with internships throughout Uganda,”
Dr. Magara added that the hospital location is “recognized as the premium place to go for hands-on dental studies,” and the main reason any student wishing to pursue the course should look no further than UCU.