This program is the best decision I ever made. The program mentors in Kenya helped me from the minute I got accepted to the moment I left. They were very approachable and friendly. I always felt safe during my stay in Kenya. The mentors go out of their way to ensure the safety of the interns. They provided us with tips that would further ensure out safety while they were not around. The accommodations were much better than I had anticipated. Our rooms were cleaned every day and we stayed in a very nice neighbourhood. The food never disappointed. All of the interns looked forwards to meals as it was always something yummy. This program had a huge impact on me. I have learned so much about Kenyan culture and was able to see and learn a lot. I was able strongly notice the differences between Kenya and North America. With the help of hygiene and medical clinics as well as other outreach activities, I hope I made some impact on the communities we visited, they certainly made an impact on me.
I believe the most valuable aspect was the interactions we had with the children at schools and within the communities. performing the hygiene clinics and medical clinics really opened up my eyes to what some of these kids are exposed to. Despite the exposure I faced at the hospital, being involved within a community was slightly more valuable for me.
The safari was a huge highlight on my trip. It was worth every penny that was spent. The lodge we stayed in was beautiful. The food was great and our safari driver was hilarious. No improvements here.
Going into this pre-dental internship with International Medical Aid, I didn’t know what to expect. Travelling to a foreign country alone and being completely submerged into their culture, I was very nervous. But, once it was all said and done, I am so happy I took on the challenges that this internship had to offer and I really did learn a lot. Everything that I learned over the month has further encouraged my interest in the dental field as well as opened my eyes to different cultures and newfound knowledge.
The dental field within Canada is very different than that of Kenya. I have shadowed multiple dentists within my hometown and have never experienced such things as I have within just one short month as Coast General Provincial Hospital. The Canadian dental field generally focuses on cosmetic issues. Many procedures that are done are not completely necessary. What I originally liked about the dental field, over the medical field, is that slight changes in your oral health can make a world of a difference for one’s self esteem. The dental field does not typically consist of life or death situations and immediate emergencies. I went into the internship thinking I would see the absolute worst things. I was pleasantly surprised to realize that even though the systems are very different, they do have more similarities than I expected. For some reason, I was expecting the largest difference to come with the equipment used. I thought that they would not have access to general anesthetic, which was wrong. They use anesthetic and are happy to administer more if the patient complains of pain. They have all of the same dental tools used in a general dentists office in Canada. They perform every single procedure, most times, the exact same. This all came as a shock to me. But, from conversations with my fellow interns in different sections of the hospital, I believe the dental unit within CGPH was blessed to have such amenities. Tools and equipment were not so plentiful in other areas of the hospital.
Obviously, the system was more similar than I thought, but it was also very different than what I am typically used to. Having a dental unit within a hospital is almost unheard of in Canada. Most dentists own private practices. It may have been interesting to visit a private dental office within Kenya, just to have more of a comparison to what I am typically use to. The dental unit being within a provincial hospital meant that most patients could only afford minimum treatments, if any at all. This was a major difference, as most patients that came in waited until the very last minute they could to see a dentist. This made what I seen a lot more extreme than if it was at a privately owned practice. If patients are waiting until the very last minute, most of them will end up getting an extraction. The dental unit was equipped with four extraction chairs. This can be compared to only three chairs where fillings, root canals, and cleanings were performed. While shadowing dentists here in Canada, I’ve only witnessed two extractions take place. While in Kenya, I could watch two extractions within 20 minutes. It seemed that the dentists in Canada, spend most of their days doing fillings and root canals, while the dentists in Kenya within that section, had empty chairs for the majority of the day.
Another difference I noticed between the two healthcare systems is how broadly trained the dentists are. I spent a lot of time in the minor oral surgery room where I was introduced to things I’ve never witnessed before, and that I probably never will witness in Canada. Often things they were required to treat would have been sent to a specialist or even a medical doctor in my country. But, this is what they’re dealing with and all dentists must be trained very broadly for whatever may be thrown at them. This was fascinating to me and what I loved most about my shadowing time. I was also able to scrub in twice on a couple different procedures within the main theatre. This was very intriguing to me as I would probably not witness most cases in Canada. It was awesome to see the equipment used, methods of scrubbing in and the actual surgery. The specialist that performed these surgeries was very willing to teach me anything and everything he could. It made me eager to learn and I hope to return when I am in dental school so I can actually help the dentists out and practice.
This internship made me realize that dentistry is so much more than cosmetic. Although, I do love the confidence booster dental work can cause, this experience made me fall in love with the emergency side of the dental field. It taught me that the dental field is just as important as the medical field. In Canada, although oral health is encouraged, a lot of the work done by dentists is deemed unnecessary. This experienced showed me exactly what will happen if oral health is not taken seriously and said “unnecessary” procedures are not performed. One of the dentists I shadowed during my time at CGPH emphasized the importance of even small procedures and the difference it can make to one’s health in the future. Oral infections and other complications can eventually lead to more serious illnesses. This is not something that is often seen in Canada, as oral infections and cavities are generally taken care of immediately.
Not only did this experience accelerate my interest for the dental field, it also came with some eye-opening experiences. These experiences have intrigued me in the area of global health and educated me on the issues that Kenyans face. The clinics that we conducted and the community outreach that we were exposed to was the absolute best part of the entire internship for me. These activities are life-changing opportunities that I will take with me for the rest of my life. The hospital was an obvious shock for me, but seeing the communities and living condition these people come from topped any exposure I would have received from the hospital. Being submerged into these kids schools and seeing what they do day-to-day is surreal. I was imagining very similar things before I had attended the internship, but being there is crazy. These experiences definitely changed my entire perspective on life. I will never take my life here in Canada for granted, along with the basic amenities we are blessed to have.
I have learned more than I can even imagine during my time in Kenya. I was able to gain knowledge within the hospital in the area of dental medicine. Since the dentists are so broadly trained, I learned a lot of medical techniques and was exposed to a lot more than you think a dentist would see. The amount I learned from conducting both hygiene and medical clinics was amazing. I have gained so much knowledge throughout this entire experience. I am so fortunate to have met such amazing people during my stay in Kenya, who all played a role in ensuring my internship was great and I learned everything I can in the short month I was there.