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Oral Health Seminar at AUA Sparks Ideas for Nationwide Changes

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On October 29th, 2014, the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted Dr. Francisco Ramos-Gomez, D.D.S., M.S., M.P.H., and professor in the Division of Pediatric Dentistry and the Director for the Pediatric Dentistry Preceptorship Program at the UCLA School of Dentistry, 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.

The seminar was part of a much larger oral health education project envisioned and initiated by Dr. Jack Koumjian, an AUA supporter. With the financial support of the Bay Area Friends of Armenia (BAFA), Dr. Koumjian visited and provided preventive oral care to a village in Armenia, where he recognized that prevention is the key to maintaining lifelong oral health. In order to accomplish this goal on a national scale, he decided that educating healthcare providers through seminars and other forms of advocacy was an essential first step.

Dr. Alisa Badalyan, Deputy Director at Karagyozyan Medical Center and an attendee of the seminar, stated, “It was one of the best seminars of my life. Lectures like this are very important for both pediatric dentists and students. I also think the future of pediatric dentistry is in prevention and minimal invasiveness. As a pediatric dentist, I would like to take a part in this project.”

Dr. Koumjian stated, “We were really pleased with the enthusiasm and interest we received from the seminar.”

Dr. Koumjian is working in partnership with Dr. Ramos-Gomez and Dr. Francois Antounian, another AUA supporter who is an orthopedic surgeon and Board Member of BAFA, to assess the situation in Armenia and create a plan of action.

Funded by BAFA, this program aims to bring awareness and information to the citizens of Armenia about the growing oral health problems that the country faces. The focus is on how to treat children and on using preventative measures to ensure that future generations of Armenians do not suffer from preventable oral health diseases.

Dr. Ramos-Gomez, who has traveled the world treating young children and promoting preventive oral health care, sees many problems, especially in the villages outside of Yerevan. He states, “It’s a combination of several things. First, a lack of knowledge from parents about good oral health. Second, people don’t usually don’t seek oral care for maintenance, but rather only when something hurts. Third, oftentimes the providers lack information or they’re not skilled to treat pediatric patients.”

He is still hopeful for a positive change, especially in a small country like Armenia. “My dream is to go to every single Ministry of Health and see how we can implement change in a country that is manageable,” he stated.

During their time in Armenia, the partners met with Dr. Varduhi Petrosyan, Associate Dean of the AUA School of Public Health, to discuss possibilities for collaboration and AUA’s future involvement in their plans for nationwide change and advocacy.

Dr. Antounian explained 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.”

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality, graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values.

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Dr. Francois Antounian
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Dr. Francisco Ramos-Gomez

 

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