The program that exists between the University of North Carolina Dental School and the Dental School in the Republic of Moldova was established in March of 2000 by ICD Fellows Robert Kriegsman and Stephen Mackler. It involves an exchange of faculty and students usually numbering between four and six participants. Most commonly it comprises a two-week visit during October for the Moldovans and a one-week trip during the spring break for the UNC students. Others who became involved in the program over the years are Dr. Burton Horwitz, Pediatric Dentist; Dr. Cheryl Siegel, Generalist; Dr. Nazir Ahmad, Oral Surgeon; and Dr. Diana Uncutsa, both a Professor at the Moldovan dental school and a private practitioner. All are essential to the success of the Moldova program and all of them are ICD Fellows.
The program was initially supported by a three thousand dollar grant from the ICD to help the Moldovan students. It is now self-funded by UNC students. The number of foreign exchange programs for UNC students has grown from two programs in 2000 to eleven programs in 2017. ICD funds are distributed across all programs but the dollar amount is limited to the original $3000 per year or less.
There are five ICD preceptors who accompany the UNC students and there is now an ICD Moldovan faculty member who coordinates the visit of UNC students to Moldova. The mission provides limited care for children from a local orphanage, indigent children from the communities of Chisinau and Beltsy, and children from the Christian Medical and Dental Center, Pacea Familia. The UNC students applied for and have received a grant through the ICD’s Global Visionary Fund to acquire a thousand dollars of supplies from the Henry Schein Cares Foundation.
The dental care is provided in the private office of ICD Fellow, Dr. Diana Uncutsa, Clinics at the Moldovan dental school and the clinic at Pacea Familia. Until recently, care was also provided at the Medical and Dental Clinic of the Strseni Orphanage which was built as a joint effort of the United States Military and the Moldovan National Army. As the number of orphans has been greatly decreased there is no longer a need for the orphanage.
The team usually examines and treats a hundred patients in a week. The UNC and Moldovan students work as teams of two with one treating and the other assisting. A North Carolina student always works with a Moldovan student. The Moldovan translates as the two work together. And, of course, during this experience students discuss not only didactic information but discover much about each other’s culture.
At each one of the missions to Moldova, a half-day continuing education course is offered at no cost to the dental community. The auditorium is always packed.
In addition to these activities included most often are one-hour presentations after work each day by such luminaries as the United States Ambassador, the USAID Embassy representative, a member of the Moldovan Ministry of Health, a Moldovan politician, and a US citizen or businessman living in Moldova.
The students are exposed to so much more than any differences in the practice of dentistry or dental education in our two countries. They learn about geopolitics, global health issues, local politics, the arts, religious heritage, local cuisine and other cultural interests. It is a life experience that the students will never forget. The ICD is proud to be a part of this program.
Featured Image: Dr. Stephen Mackler treating a beautiful little girl from the orphanage in Moldova.