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UTSD Helps Launch Nigeria’s First Endodontics Department

Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 2:57pm

From left: Dr. M. Collins Okwen, Dean John Valenza, DDS; Dr. Alice Umweni, dean of the University of Benin School of Dentistry; and Dr. Sam Dorn, chair of the Department of Endodontics at UTSD.

A collaboration between UT School of Dentistry and the University of Benin School of Dentistry in Nigeria will advance endodontic care in central Africa. From left are Dr. M. Collins Okwen; UTSD Dean John Valenza, DDS; Dr. Alice Umweni, dean of the University of Benin School of Dentistry; and Dr. Sam Dorn, chair of the Department of Endodontics at UTSD. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

Dental patients in Nigeria getting root canals can thank The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston and the International Federation of Endodontic Associations for helping to launch central Africa’s very first clinical Department of Endodontics at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital in Benin City.

The collaboration between UT School of Dentistry and the University of Benin, a major university in southern Nigeria, started in 2010 when UTSD Department of Endodontics Chair Samuel Dorn, DDS, was also chair of the federation’s International Education Committee. Dorn is currently president-elect of the IFEA.

As part of the federation’s mission to start endodontics programs in developing countries that lack them, Dorn identified a need in Nigeria and the surrounding region. Although central Africa has several dental schools, none has a department of endodontics.

An academic associate of the University of Benin was invited to become a preceptor at UTSD with financial support from IFEA. M. Collins Okwen, DDS, came to Houston in 2011 to train in endodontics and design an endodontics curriculum that could be taught in Nigeria.

Dr. M. Collins Okwen (left) and Dr. Sam Dorn work with an endodontic microscope at UT School of Dentistry.

Dr. M. Collins Okwen (left) and Dr. Sam Dorn work with an endodontic microscope at UT School of Dentistry. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

Okwen returned to Nigeria in 2012 to instruct faculty and residents at Benin’s dental school in modern endodontic procedures. Instruction began with preclinical lectures and then shifted to hands-on training, as trainees watched, assisted and then performed endodontic procedures, he said.
 
With a core group of faculty and residents now trained in endodontics to ensure a self-sustaining program, the University of Benin’s Department of Endodontics and Regenerative Dentistry officially opened in August 2012 as a unit of the teaching hospital.

Although the Nigerian school cannot award certificates or degrees, dental faculty and residents can practice endodontics at the teaching hospital, and dental students can take coursework in endodontics similar to the curriculum used for to predoctoral students at UTSD.

In addition to providing training, curriculum development and lecture material, Dorn also arranged for the donation of a surgical microscope -- an expensive device essential to the practice of endodontics. A new microscope can cost more than $20,000, and while UTSD has 22 of them, Dorn said they’re harder to come by in Africa and not available at any other school in the region.

In March, UTSD hosted the dean of the University of Benin’s School of Dentistry, Professor Alice Umweni, BDS, MSc, D.Orth., who gave a presentation on improvements in dental education and treatment made possible by the partnership, also discussing how the two schools can collaborate in the future.

The introduction of modern endodontic procedures is a major advancement for oral health in the region, she said.  

“Before, someone with an abscessed tooth might be sent to oral surgery for extraction,” she said. “Now, more people are able to retain their teeth.”

During her visit, Umweni met with Dorn and UT School of Dentistry Dean John A. Valenza, DDS. The two schools have agreed on a letter of intent and are hammering out the details of a memorandum of understanding that will pave the way for future collaborative efforts, such as faculty and student exchanges and even Web-streamed lectures. 

“UTSD seeks to be leader in dental education and care – both nationally and internationally – and that’s why we were pleased to play a role in this milestone for endodontics in central Africa. We look forward to future collaborations with the University of Benin,” Valenza said. 

The new department still needs supplies and money for equipment, and anyone interested in helping should contact Dorn or another IFEA office through www.ifeaendo.org.