The dean of a dental school in León, Nicaragua, is in Virginia this week for an international exchange centered on curriculum development and best practices in dental care. During his visit, Dr. Humberto Altamirano, of the Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN), will draw on the experience of Physicians for Peace and Old Dominion University’s College of Health Sciences, as the groups work together to improve dental care in Nicaragua.
“We are excited that Dr. Altamirano is coming to ODU to observe and immerse himself in our dental hygiene educational system,” said Gayle McCombs, RDH, the director of ODU’s Dental Hygiene Research Center and a Physicians for Peace volunteer educator. “We will continue to work with Dr. Altamirano to support his efforts to expand dental care in Nicaragua with the establishment of the first dental hygiene program in Central America.”
From May 13 to 23, Dr. Altamirano, will shadow ODU faculty members, visit the school's dental hygiene care facility, sit in on classes, and observe the local dental practices of Physicians for Peace volunteers Drs. Abbey Horwitz, of Abbey Horwitz DDS in Virginia Beach, and Warren Sachs and Lee Weinstein, of Lefcoe, Weinstein, Sachs and Schif in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk and Virginia Beach. McCombs is working with Physicians for Peace staff members and fellow volunteers Tara Newcomb, an assistant professor at ODU, and Carmelo Padrino Barrios, a graduate student, to coordinate Dr. Altamirano’s historic visit.
The need for better dental care in Nicaragua, and in underserved regions around the world, is significant. Dental hygienists and assistants are new roles within the healthcare systems in Nicaragua. The development of educational tracks to support both professions will lead to enhanced patient care and a stronger overall health system with improved career opportunities for young professionals.
“In many of the regions we serve, dental care becomes a lesser priority, behind more immediate health needs,” said Brig. Gen. Ron Sconyers (USAF, Ret.), president and CEO of Physicians for Peace. “We know that oral health has a dramatic effect on overall health, and we’re very committed to working with Dr. Altamirano and ODU to create programs in Nicaragua that will elevate and improve the dental care in-country for generations to come.”
A partnership between Physicians for Peace and the Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) in León led to the opening of a first-of-its-kind dental assistant program in March of 2011. Since that time, Physicians for Peace has continued working with UNAN officials and ODU to exchange information and ideas, develop curriculum and assess Nicaragua’s ongoing oral care needs, including dental hygiene. Altamirano’s visit builds directly on these efforts.
For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Mary Westbrook.