Ann Arbor, MI — November 25, 2014 — For the second consecutive year, a University of Michigan School of Dentistry educator has been recognized for her international outreach efforts by the university.
Dr. Yvonne Kapila, a professor in the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine and the director of the school’s Global Oral Health Initiative, was recognized by the U-M Council on Global Engagement for enhancing the education of dental students by offering international experiences in oral health care. Kapila received recognition for her work during the university-wide celebration of International Education Week.
Every summer for the past four years, Kapila, her faculty colleagues and a group of dental students have participated in a university-wide initiative, the Kenya Summer Research Program. An interprofessional collaboration among U-M dental, medical, nursing and pharmacy students and faculty, KSRP efforts are centered in the village of Meru, about 110 miles northeast of Nairobi and only about five miles north of the equator. The research program lasts two weeks. However, planning takes place the entire year.
Working with local leaders, adults and children in Meru and surrounding areas, the dental and other U-M students work on goals that include assessing oral health and other needs and then developing educational programs and providing oral health care services that are designed to reduce oral disease.
“Our Impact Continues to Grow”
Kapila said because of the four-year involvement in Meru, “we have cultivated friendships between our dental faculty and students, others in KSRP, and have also developed strong personal and professional connections with leaders and families in Kenya.” She said the first group that participated in the Kenya Summer Research Program four years ago planted trees at a local university in Meru. “We now feel that we have roots in Kenya,” Kapila said with a smile. “Our work, like those young trees, has steadily developed and its impact on the community continues to grow. I have seen how this project has led to life-changing experiences for many of our students.”
The school’s Global Oral Health Initiative complements the university’s Third Century Initiative that seeks to develop new opportunities for learning and immerse students in experiences outside the classroom. The university’s initiative was launched by former U-M President Mary Sue Coleman.
Students Praise Kapila Efforts
“The Kenya Summer Research Program has been the most rewarding and enriching experience in my dental school career,” Ovy Quintanal wrote. “It helped raise my awareness of oral disease in Meru, Kenya. I had not expected so much poverty and realized that, in comparison, I have been wealthy.”
He added, “Without Dr. Kapila, I would not have had such a well-rounded and fulfilling global experience. …She is a friendly, compassionate person who is always eager to immerse students in a global experience.”
Another dental student, Spencer Crouch, participated in the Kenya Summer Outreach Program and a student exchange program set up between U-M and the University of Sao Paulo Dental School in Bauru, Brazil.
About his participation in those two programs, Crouch wrote, “Dr. Kapila has been an inspiration and has furthered my educational experiences at the U-M School of Dentistry by instilling in me a compassion for global outreach.”
Noting Kapila’s “continuous support and always positive attitude,” he wrote that the two global experiences “have opened my eyes to what the world has to offer, and that could not have happened without the help and encouragement from Dr. Yvonne Kapila.”