Dr. Stephanie Lambour, Clinical Director for the Municipality of Villa Nueva at the Peronia clinic in Guatemala and I attended the Special Care Dentistry Association (SCDA) annual meeting and International Association for Disability and Oral Health (iADH) congress recently. I wanted to share some of the exciting developments and outcomes.
• We gained valuable information and training at the many useful education seminars on Special Care topics.
• We met with representatives of several organizations to discuss collaboration in Guatemala.
Dr. Stephanie was a speaker at the congress. She shared information regarding the Open Wide Foundation “Special Care Dentistry Initiative” including: 2014 & 2015 specialty week outcomes, program specifics, and details on how to set up a special care dentistry program in a developing country.
She also shared how at the Peronia clinic they are now seeing special care patients throughout the year because of the training they have received on treating medically complex cases. The staff has also become involved in outreach to the local special care homes to visit patients on site.
All three of the Special Care Dentistry Residents who were part of the specialty week in September 2015 submitted an academic poster for SCDA academic review on patient cases and treatments including: Drs. Rebeka Andrade and James Dix (University of Texas) and Dr. Kyle Williamson (University of Tennessee).
The collaboration effort between U.S specialists coupled with the support of the local government to start the first patient care services program dedicated to special needs patients in a developing country has been very successful. And as with any paradigm shift, true and lasting change comes from within. Guatemalan Drs. Lambour and Davila embraced the opportunity to learned how to treat medically complex cases, and the Universities welcomed the addition of special needs into their curriculum. That most important element, being willing to embrace change, is making a big difference for an entire sector of patients who have had little access to care in the past.
We would like to thank all the volunteer Dental Specialists and Donors, Specialty Residents, County of Villa Nueva and First Lady of Villa Nueva’s office, and the Villa Nueva Department of Health for their commitment to making this beautiful dream a lasting reality.
History of the “Special Needs Initiative”
Three years ago, Dr. Rebecca Schaffer approached our table at the SPEAR Faculty Summit and she asked if we would be willing to treat special needs patients at the model clinic in Peronia. Yes was my immediate response, and we set out to start planning. Dr. Jeff Hicks got involved and over the last couple of years it has built into a very impactful program that is growing its reach to the most vulnerable populations in Guatemala.
Before the “Special Care Dentistry Initiative”, the ability of special care patients to receive dental care was so low that not one of the patients we saw in 2014 had ever seen a dentist. With a much higher cost of care, and no public clinics for this vulnerable population, other basic needs and medical care always came first.
Explore more details of this growing program: