UCU School of Dentistry



Medical outreach provides dental relief to rural Ugandan community

By Kefa Senoga
How can medical practitioners better serve a transportation and economically challenged community that travels close to 50 kilometers (31 miles) to seek dental services? 

That is one question that has been bothering the faculty at the Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Dentistry (SoD). To get the answers, the faculty partnered with the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA) of the United States, Reach Unreached Needs (RUN) Foundation and the Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) to extend a health camp to the community at Kasiso village in the central Uganda district of Luweero.

Dr. Bill Griffin interacts with some of the UCU dental students at the outreach.
Dr. Bill Griffin interacts with some of the UCU dental students at the outreach.

The camp, conducted on February 8, was composed of a team of dental specialists, as well as UCU Bachelor of Dental Surgery students who are currently conducting clinical practice as part of their degree course requirement. The specialists offered free dental services like fillings, teeth cleaning, restorations, extractions and surgeries.

“Today, they brought in a child who had undergone tooth extraction at the main hospital in Kasana,” said Joseph Lubowa Ddiba, the coordinator of Village Health Team (VHT) members in Luweero district. “Unfortunately, the child’s wound became septic. He is one of the people who have received treatment here.” 

VHTs is a group of laypeople hired by the Ugandan government to empower people in their communities to take part in making decisions that affect their health. 

Dr. Brian Rushaju, a dentist and the director of the RUN Foundation, said they found many cases of tooth decay among the people. Others had swellings and tumors, something he noted is an indication that many people in the community do not have access to dental services. 

The nearest health facility which provides dental services is Kasana Hospital. To visit the health facility, Ddiba said one needs sh30,000 (about $8) for transport for a return journey. And many of them cannot afford that. 

UCU School of Dentistry students and staff who participated in the outreach
UCU School of Dentistry students and staff who participated in the outreach

 “For someone who cannot even afford transport to the hospital, how can they pay for medical care?” Ddiba asked rhetorically, indicating that many community members treated the camp as a godsend opportunity.  

Juliet Seruyange, a resident of Kasiso village, said she received a comprehensive dental examination at the outreach. A thorough cleaning and washing of her teeth, she said, made a big difference between how she arrived for the camp and how she left. 

Dr. David Ciesla, the coordinator of HVO and a pediatric dentistry professor at the Oklahoma University in the United States, said many of the people he attended to had cavity issues. 

“What I see here is the need for providers and a combination of lack of health education,” Ciesla said, noting the need for extra training for not only the workforce, but also the patients.

Dr Arabat Kasangaki, a lecturer from the UCU SoD, said where they discovered that some of the teeth were irredeemable, they extracted them or proposed to the patients to go to the UCU School of Dentistry, where he runs a dental clinic for fourth year and fifth year SoD students. Kasangaki said at their clinic, they have dentures for those who don’t have teeth and that they can fabricate sets of teeth for people to improve their life. 

Dr. Bill Griffin, the dental director at CMDA, said at such outreach activities, he also takes the advantage to mentor UCU dental students. He noted that he has been conducting online monthly mentorship lectures for the SoD students. 

Esther Masaba, Mark Wesonga and Maria Kabogozza – some of the UCU fifth-year SoD students who were part of the people in the camp – said they completed pediatric fillings, cleanings and examinations, noting that the exercise gave them opportunity to obtain more hands-on experience. 

Griffin is currently collaborating with the faculty at the UCU SoD and specialists like Ciesla to develop a residency program that will include at least a year of learning about issues such as dental implants and sedation.


Eritrean emerged as the best performing student at UCU

By Kefa Senoga
Yohana Eyob Ghebrekristos always held the notion that her dream would not become a reality through magic, but rather, by sweat, determination and hard work. She has had dreams of a career in dental surgery. 

She is one of nine pioneer students of Bachelor of Dental Surgery at Uganda Christian University (UCU) where she emerged as the overall best student out of 1,006 students at the previous graduation. She had a CGPA of 4.71 of 5.0.

Yohana began university studies from her home country, Eritrea. However, due to some difficulties at her university in 2018, she traveled more than 1,000 miles to relocate to Uganda to cement her dream.

Yohana dressed in her medical attire.

“I studied at the Orotta School of Medicine and Dentistry for a couple of years, but due to some challenges that our school was going through, I decided to relocate to Uganda to continue with my studies,” Yohana said.

Since arriving in Uganda in 2018, Yohana considered herself fortunate to be admitted at UCU. She shared that she has enjoyed the privilege of being taught by highly trained professionals at UCU.

“I’m so excited and extremely honored to be the best performing student,” Yohana said. “UCU has been amazing, and I was very fortunate to join this esteemed institution. Its reputation of producing well-rounded professionals really attracted me to UCU.”

She appreciates the university for equipping her with both academic knowledge and spiritual values that she believes will guide her as she ventures into the working world. Yohana says UCU has also provided an opportunity for her to grow in her faith. 

As a dentist, Yohana notes that it is her role to identify a gap in relation to oral health literacy in the community and then use every opportunity to educate the community about oral hygiene, noting that scholars have affirmed that good oral health leads to good general health.

Looking ahead, Yohana aspires to specialize in orthodontics and dental surgery, with hope of opening up a dental clinic to serve underprivileged communities.

Yohana’s Advice to UCU Aspiring Medical Professionals

Yohana with her parents and siblings on the graduation day at UCU
Yohana with her parents and siblings on the graduation day at UCU

To her fellow students in the medical field, Yohana offered valuable advice, emphasizing that the medical profession requires unwavering hard work, determination, and sacrifice.

“Don’t underestimate the course; it’s a journey that demands your best effort. And in the end, the rewards will be worth it,” she urged.

As Yohana eagerly awaits her internship, her father, Eyob Ghebrekristos, expressed immeasurable joy and excitement upon her accomplishment.

“We are so excited and proud of Yohana, and we all came from the United States to be here and celebrate Yohana’s graduation,” he said.

He believes this was possible because of Yohana’s nature of hard work and discipline together with support from the family.


Ayikoru narrates arduous five years in dental school

By Pauline Luba
“Watching your peers graduate in their third year while you still have two more to go is hard,” Hilda Diana Ayikoru said. This is what Ayikoru had to contend with at Uganda Christian University (UCU) for two years as she completed her five-year course while those who were pursuing three-year courses walked out of the university with degrees.

But that was not the only challenge she faced while a student at UCU. The 24-year-old said she barely had any holiday time since medical students were constantly studying. As a result, she said she had to forgo many plans with her family and friends. 

“That’s what makes me more excited that this day has come,” the 24-year-old said during an interview with Uganda Partners a few hours to her graduation at UCU on July 28 as she repeatedly said “finally” she was done with the course. She is not just a graduate with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery, but also is part of the nine members of the pioneer class of the course at UCU. They were among the 1,006 students who graduated on July 28. On the day, the university also graduated 45 pioneer students in Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.

“It was a long and tough journey,” said Ayikoru, adding: “I have learned a lot, and I am a different person now from when I first joined university.”

“I always wanted to be a doctor because doctors bring so much change into the world,” said Ayikoru, who was once a class leader at the university. Her love for the career started in her childhood as she often visited the hospital where her parents worked.

Why UCU school of Dentistry fills her with Pride

When UCU announced it would be starting a course in dental surgery in 2018, Ayikoru says she was one of the people excited about the development because of the university’s good academic and Christian reputation.

“The kind of course units we study, such as Christian Ethics and World Views, helped paint a picture of how best my dental sensitization dream will work,” she said in an earlier interview in 2021, noting that some of her friends in other institutions envied her especially when it came to the student-lecturer relationship for my course. “UCU lecturers know their students individually.”

While in school, Ayikoru also started a crocheting business in order to get money for her upkeep. She would crochet balls, wool or yarn into clothes for sale. When she discovered that the business was a promising one, she convinced two other students – one in the UCU School of Medicine and the other at the UCU School of Business – to join her. Most of her crocheting work was done late in the night, when she completed reading. She hopes to continue with the business of crocheting even as she joins the world of dental work.

For now, Ayikoru will undergo a mandatory one-year internship in a Uganda government health facility before she is able to practice her profession in a country with slightly over 300 dentists for a population of over 45 million people. After gaining more work experience, Ayikoru plans to enroll for a master’s course in the same field, before plunging into private practice. 

The last born of four children attended Kirinya Parents School, St. Joseph’s Girls School Nsambya for O’level and Gayaza High School for A’level before joining UCU.


New dental school grad describes bitter-sweet, career journey

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 examining a patient.
Andinda examining a patient.

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.

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.

Andinda (extreme left) and his colleagues from the UCU SoD during their student days
Andinda (extreme left) and his colleagues from the UCU SoD during their student days

“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.