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Dental Brazil- An Opportunity of a Lifetime!

September 8, 2011

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With the support of the International College of Dentists and the Global Initiatives Program at the School of Dentistry, my classmate, An Nguyen, and I were able to participate in an international exchange program with the Universidade de São Paulo School of Dentistry in Brazil. The purpose of this exchange was to observe different models of oral health care delivery. Our school has developed a close relationship with the Universidade de São Paulo and has hosted their students in Ann Arbor in the past. However this was the first time students from Michigan have made the trip to Brazil. This was an amazing experience and I can only share briefly all that I was able to encounter. The people were friendly, the school was amazing, and the nightlife was festive.

At the Universidade de São Paulo students enter directly from high school after completing an entrance exam.  Fortunately the students do not have to pay tuition nor do the patients have to pay for their care! What a great system! This system allowed for dental students to gain expertise in endodontics and complicated prosthodontics. At each clinic session I was able to observe several implant placements and complicated periodontal surgeries. The procedures and standard of care in the clinics were very similar to our own. The Universidade de São Paulo has been regarded as the best dental school in Latin America.

The Universidade de São Paulo works closely with the Centrinho Hospital de Reabilitacao de Anomalias Craniofacials. At this hospital any resident of Brazil born with a craniofacial anomaly such as cleft lip and/or palate can receive free comprehensive treatment from a multidisciplinary professional team including physicians, oral surgeons, orthodontists, periodontists, pediatric dentists, general dentists, speech pathologists, audiologists, and psychiatrists. I was able to do a rotation through the orthodontic department and observe as they worked though complicated cases with other professionals. Patients travel from all over Brazil to receive treatment and often have multiple appointments with different professionals during the day. The hospital had a unique positive atmosphere and the waiting room was always full of patients.

My favorite part of the exchange was meeting and becoming friends with other dental students. I followed and observed fourth years in the clinics but I lived with first and second year students in the student dorm. This provided for a diverse experience as I listened to the fourth years talk about upcoming graduation parties and complaints about studying for entrance exams for specialties while the first and second years would grumble about going to microbiology lecture. One thing we have in common with students in Brazil is we both find microbiology lectures at 8am in the morning very boring!

The exchange also provided for an opportunity to experience life in Brazil. I would meet up with other dental students for a typical Brazilian dinner and a few cervejas to end the night. We would discuss Brazilian culture and how expensive it was to buy a pair of Nike tennis shoes in Brazil. With the weekends I was able to travel Rio de Janeirio to see the Cristo de Redentor, one of the seven man made wonders of the world. The students were also kind enough to invite me to their hometowns to meet their families. The families were very loving and generous.

I was able to experience the value of our Michigan education. In my short time in Brazil I was able to see the work of several of our professors being cited in their lectures. As a first year was showing me a couple of articles related to dentistry and autism, he showed me an article written by our own Taryn Weil and Dr. Inglehart. Our own students and professors are contributing to the dental education of students around the world.

An and I would like to thank Dr. Ronald Palor and Dr. Yvonne Kapila for this amazing experience. I hope that younger students will seize the opportunity next year. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask An or I at school. After a few weeks in Brazil, I am excited to continue with my own education and get back to patient care!

Saroj Kumar Saha is a D3 who has his hands full taking advantage of all his opportunities.

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