The R3-million mobile dental clinic is said to be the biggest such clinic in South Africa and will significantly increase treatment and care of the impoverished communities in the Western Cape. In addition, dentistry students joining the mobile clinic will receive clinical training.
The new clinic replaces the old one - which has been used for 44 years - and is the result of a joint partnership between UWC (which raised R1-million towards the clinic) and a long list of partners, including Colgate-Palmolive, Rotary Club of the Waterfront and the Dental Wellness Foundation. It boasts three chairs compared to the two that were in the old truck, and is fitted with a high-tech intra-oral camera that will be linked to the Faculty of Dentistry so that images may be sent from the mobile clinic for help and advice from colleagues at the faculty.
Delivering his welcome address at the clinic handover, UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, thanked the donors and said their generous gift will not only serve students and the academic staff but will also impact thousands of lives across the province. “The reason I feel so passionate about this is because your gift will make an immeasurable difference to the lower- and middle-income communities in the Western Cape for whom dental care and treatments are too expensive”.
“To be able to work with these communities has been a fundamental pillar of our existence as a university. We pride ourselves on all three of our missions: teaching and learning, research and community engagement. But community engagement is very close to our hearts”.
According to Prof Pretorius, having three dental chairs will make dental students’ supervision much more cost effective and it will enable a more significant impact to be made in communities
“This project is symbolic of what can happen when different organizations come together and work towards a shared positive and empowering goal. We need more of this for UWC, but especially now for our country and for our world”.
Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, Professor Veersamy Yengopal, echoed the Rector’s sentiments and said all the top schools in the world have ensured that their students get community outreach-based learning. UWC’s dentistry faculty is no different, and in fact does more.
“We serve the poorest of the poor, those who will never access care. We develop young minds and expose them to communities, and in doing so, we teach them the responsibility they have in terms of giving back in one of the most unequal countries in the world”.
“And we transform lives. We are targeting quantile one and two schools, and those first-generation learners. And it shows if you take a child from a family that has never been to university and give them an opportunity, if they succeed, everyone who comes after them will also go to university.”
Professor Rob Barrie, former head of community outreach at the Dentistry Faculty, added that their outreach work is a wonderful opportunity to serve the community and is most fulfilling.
“We have students who need patients to practice on and we have a community that needs someone to provide them with a service. It’s a win-win situation. Wherever we go our students are learning and our patients are benefiting. One such patient comes to mind - she didn’t know what a filling was, but agreed that we could fill her badly decayed front teeth. When we gave her a mirror to see what we had done, tears of joy ran down her cheeks! This is what makes it worthwhile spending my Saturdays working.”
The donors were equally excited to have been on board and committed their continued support for UWC.
Stephanus Crous of Colgate Palmolive South Africa said oral health plays an integral role in general health and wellbeing. “More research shows strong links between poor oral health and various systemic diseases and conditions. It’s really so critical that projects like these come off the ground to support communities to improve oral health because it does improve their general health and wellbeing”.
Janet Kriseman of Rotary Club Waterfront said fighting diseases and improving lives is one of their core areas of focus and described their partnership with the Dentistry Faculty as a story of “cooperation, mutual benefit and friendship”.
The Dental Wellness Foundation was also instrumental in raising funds for the mobile clinic, and we look forward to further partnering with them in an ongoing project in the Mfuleni community, as well as other projects.
The visitors were all very impressed with the design and layout of the mobile clinic, and wished us well as we put it to good use.
See gallery of the launch below. All images byRuvan Boshoff - UWC Media.