UNAM produces first homegrown dentists

In another ground-breaking achievement, the University of Namibia’s School of Dentistry proudly graduated its inaugural cohort of 16 dentists this year. The pioneering dentists were conferred with a Bachelor’s degree in Dental Surgery Honours during the 2023 graduation ceremony.

What sets these newly minted dentists apart is their meticulously tailored education that suits Namibia’s unique context while addressing specific oral health needs. Over the years, these exceptional students have immersed themselves in tackling the disregarded treatment demands that persist in Namibia.

According to the School of Dentistry’s Associate Dean, Dr John Rutabanzibwa, these graduates are equipped with first-hand experience and are primed to hit the ground running and make a meaningful impact with oral health challenges from day one.

“Unlike their counterparts, trained abroad in foreign curricula and contexts, this homegrown advantage shines through as these dentists begin their professional journeys,” explained Dr Rutabanzibwa.

The graduates

Pioneering graduates have expressed that it is both an honour and a remarkable privilege to be the very first homegrown dentists in Namibia. Andreas, for example, explained that this has been an exciting journey, one that was filled with hardships but worthwhile in the end.

“We learned so much, and when the dental clinic finally opened, we were granted an opportunity to work with actual patients and tackle hardcore dental cases. Seeing our patients happy with the work that we do, and knowing that our skillful craftsmanship brought happiness, is an invaluable joy and it goes to show that there is great value in what we do,” explained Andreas.

Another dental graduate, Pena Nelumbu elatedly expressed gratitude for the lecturers and academic staff who have worked relentlessly towards their graduation day.

“This has been a very fulfilling journey and I believe this is only the beginning. While graduating as the first is very significant, our aspirations extend beyond that as there is so much more that we wish to achieve within the dentistry fraternity in the country,” said Pena.

Thank you, Dental School Advisory team

Dr Rutabanzibwa explained that embarking on a pioneering curriculum for a new programme, in a new school, was not easy.

As Dr Rehema Muro, a lecturer in the Department of Community Dentistry & Orthodontics, rightly described it as “building the ship while sailing,” the path was fraught with challenges. The dedicated faculty, though stretched thin with limited but quality resources and fewer staff members than required, demonstrated unwavering commitment.

Staff efforts, along with the invaluable contributions of the staff at Katutura State Hospital, including clinical instructors who selflessly volunteered their time, helped overcome the obstacles along the way as they exemplify the power of social capital – with individuals driven solely by their bonds and the desire to make this dream a reality.

The School of Dentistry acknowledges the contributions of the late Prof Norbert Gutknecht, Prof Risto Tuominen, and Dr Frank Schwardmann. Special thanks to Dr Juvenary Ruta and the team. This milestone achievement in Namibia’s dentistry field is attributed to the guidance of the Dental School Advisory team – Dr Kagiso Moloi, Dr Nelson Herunga, Dr Wessley Mouton, Dr Maren Thomson, Dr Nguundja Uamburu, and the support of the Health Professions Councils of Namibia (HPCN). Appreciation to all involved.

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