IV Year dental students on annual humanitarian visit in Albania

   Smile For Albania, a student society of the University of Malta, has been providing humanitarian dental care for students at Preca College and children from state schools in Korce, Albania since 1994.  Our visit between the 1st and 15th September this year was the Society's eighth annual visit.
    The dental team, as in previous years, was made up of staff and students from the University's Department of Dental Surgery under the direction of Dr Charles Galea, President of Smile for Albania and Professor J.M Portelli the Dean.
    The student intake at Preca College has increased this scholastic year after the completion of an extension to the College. Preca is run by Maltese teachers from the MUSEUM seconded by the Department of Education.  The school has an international reputation with students admitted to Universities in the U.S., Italy, Greece and Malta on the strength of their school-leaving certificate, equivalent to International Baccalaureate.
    Our young patients ranged in age between 5 and 19 years and included an unusual number of new patients, not previously attended to by us.  This was as a result of the increase intake at Preca and an increase in the number of patients making the journey from villages around Korce, some from quite far afield. The recent improvement in roads and transport has made this possible.
    Our four unit dental clinic operates for 10 hours a day with staff and students working in shifts.  We were thus able to see over 250 youngsters and provide a total of 327 dental restorations, 27 fissure sealants and preventive resins, 3 surgical interventions and unfortunately 23 extractions.  The workload and timeframe allowed for only 2 cases of root canal therapy and 22 scalings and polishing.  Oral hygiene instruction on a one-to-one basis was given to a large number of children and their appreciative parents.  IV Year dental students are clinically competent to undertake routine dental treatment under supervision.
    An epidemiological survey on oral disease conducted in 1994 was followed up with a similar more limited survey this year for purposes of establishing trends.  The level of oral disease in children is still way above the European average and is in part due to the high consumption of sugar.  A survey on dietary habits was also made during our stay and a detailed oral hygiene questionnaire will be completed shortly as part of the Social Sciences programme at Preca.
    We have witnessed great changes in Korce over the past 9 years.  The economy is still dependent largely on income from Albanians living abroad who either choose to return for short spells between long working periods or who continue to support their families by providing a regular monthly income.  The large number of emigrants to the U.S. Italy and Greece has increased this income and many of the improvements we see are thus necessarily superficial.  The quality of life, after such a traumatic immediate past, is much improved.
    Albania is ranked 92 in the UN Human Development Index, a barometer of the quality of life with the economy being only one of the factors.  This is far below all other European countries; Malta, by comparison, is ranked 30th.
    Smile For Albania meets expenses for the purchase of dental equipment from donations and an annual Jumble Sale organised with the full participation of dental students in all the five years of the course.  Preca College is also dependent on donations, the college receives no state financial aid.  For a very small donation made to the MUSEUM you could help educate a young Albanian.
    We are grateful to all those who made donations to the Society this year, in particular the University's Student Affairs Committee for a LM150 grant, Colgate (Von Brockdorff Imports) for continuing to supply us with oral health products for distribution to our patients and Virtu Ferries for free passages to Sicily.  A very big thank you to Members of MUSEUM in Korce for sharing their home with us and for all their kindness during our stay.

Photos above in order:
Breakfast in the Greek mountains on the way to Albania

Dental treatment at the University's clinic at Preca College

IV Year Dental students, Natasha Azzopardi, Lara Cassar, Simon Muscat, James Portelli and Ethel Zara with Dr Charles Galea, Dr Alexandra Betts and Professor J. M. Portelli with Mr Charles Camilleri of Preca College.

Plaque reads Dental Department, University of Malta