Asbarez: Bay Area-Conceived Oral Health Seminar held at AUA

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From l to r: Anahit Ghazarian, assistant to Arpie Balian at AUA Extension Programs, Prof. Francisco Ramos-Gomez, Prof. Jack Koumjian, François Antounian, and Dr. Arpie Balian the Director of AUA Extension Programs.

YEREVAN–On October 29th, 2014, the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted a daylong seminar whose guest speaker was a noted expert in children’s preventative oral and dental health. The seminar was part of a larger oral health program was conceived by Dr. Jack Koumjian, a Bay Area based dentist specializing in maxillofacial prosthodontics.

Dr. Koumjian recognized the dire condition of children’s oral health in Armenia and wanted to do something about it. A practicing dentist with academic appointments at UCSF, Stanford and Loma Linda University, he had the necessary expertise. In collaboration with Bay Area Friends of Armenia (BAFA) whose mission is to improve the health, education and welfare of the citizens of Armenia, the first phase was developed: to assess the dental health of Armenian children through providing basic preventative dental treatment. Working with Dr. Francois Antounian, an orthopedic surgeon and BAFA Board Member, they traveled to Armenia in April 2013. After examining approximately 300 children, primarily in rural areas, many with serious dental problems, it became clear that the majority were preventable with the practice of good oral healthcare. More importantly, it was possible to benefit many more children, immediately and at a lower cost by focusing efforts on education.

The next phase of the program was to teach health care providers at all levels and train them in preventative measures. This would have a multiplier effect reaching many more children, and their parents, than treatment could. The results would reduce the need for treatment and provide lifelong benefits.

The seminar concept was embraced by AUA which facilitated the organization and coordination in Armenia. The key was to find the right person– Dr. Koumjian identified Dr. Francisco Ramos-Gomez, D.D.S., M.S., M.P.H., of UCLA as the best candidate for an all-day seminar on “Oral Health for Inter-Professional Development.” The seminar was designed to train physicians and nurses, general dentists, dental providers, and other health professionals on successful preventive strategies for children’s oral health.

As stated in AUA’s press release: “Dr. Ramos-Gomez, who has traveled the world promoting preventive oral health care, was pleased to join this effort in Armenia. He stated, “It’s a combination of several things. First, a lack of knowledge from parents about good oral health. Second, people don’t usually seek oral care for maintenance, but rather only when something hurts. Also, oftentimes the providers lack information or they’re not skilled to promote preventive pediatric oral and dental care.”

The interest and enthusiasm expressed by those attending the seminar was indicative of the degree of commitment to improving the dental health of children.

AUA’s press release also quoted Dr. Antounian saying that, “The AUA Public Health Department can play a big role in the promotion and advocacy of preventative oral health care in Armenia. We hope to work interactively with various educational institutions, civil organizations, and the government of Armenia to produce long term change for the country.”

Dr. Koumjian added “The financial resources required for treatment benefits a few, but using those resources to educate health care providers has a multiplier effect: reaching more people, more quickly.