Brazil 2016

An immersive experience at the Bauru School of Dentistry


Breaks during dental school are usually spent recuperating after final exams and maybe taking a quick vacation to get away. However, thanks to a generous donation from the International College of Dentists, students Neil Thomas (D2), Claire Cho (D2), and Cassandra Wieckhorst (D3) were able to take an eye-opening trip to the Bauru School of Dentistry in Brazil. This trip allowed these students to experience dentistry not only in a different school, but in a different hemisphere! It was an extremely busy 2 weeks, but in this time the students were able to absorb the culture while simultaneously attending lectures, learning about cleft lip/palate patients, and shadowing students in the dental clinics.


The dental program at the Bauru School of Dentistry has a similar format to the program at the University of Michigan, with a four-year program of two years heavily didactic and two years clinical. However, the students matriculate to dental school immediately after high school, they take individual tests to apply to each school, and there is no charge for tuition. During the students’ time there, in the student clinics, they observed a variety of different procedures. This was the first time Neil, Claire, and Cassandra saw veneers placed in the anterior maxilla in the restorative clinic, and a gingivectomy in periodontics clinic. There were many techniques that both the Bauru School of Dentistry and the University of Michigan dental students completed in the same way such as crown preps, prophylaxis, implant placements, extractions, alveoplasty and restorations.


During their stay in Bauru, Neil, Claire, and Casandra were able to attend a series of lectures given by faculty at the Bauru School of Dentistry. Due to the University’s interest in craniofacial anomalies, the lectures were all centered around cleft lip and cleft palate. These lectures taught the students the etiology, genetics, epidemiology, prognoses, and treatment of patients with this disorder. These were some very eye opening presentations, mainly due to the infrequency of Michigan dental students’ interaction with this patient group during clinical activities at school. The students also learned about some of the common issues, co-morbidities, and secondary disorders that are seen in these patients. These are cases students are unlikely to see in our routine dental clinics here at the University of Michigan, so it was a great opportunity to learn more about the treatment of complex cases that require an interdisciplinary team to manage.


Neil, Claire, and Cassandra were welcomed as guest students by the staff and faculty of Centrinho (the hospital associated with the Bauru School of Dentistry that treats patients with craniofacial anomalies). Centrinho specifically addresses cleft lip/cleft palate (CL/CP) patients and it is an interdisciplinary effort that started in the mid-60s by a group of professors from the dental school. As students who each have a unique interest in CL/CP patients, the Neil, Claire, and Cassandra were impressed by how every department of the hospital was focused on CL/CP patients. It is through this experience that the students were truly able to understand how complex the CL/CP condition is, which not only requires an interdisciplinary effort, but also longitudinal efforts and communication of all departments. The students also received a tour of Centrinho’s unique rehabilitation center, which provides an emotional sanctuary to patients and parents/guardians of the patients undergoing surgery. The comprehensive system that Centrinho boasts is undoubtedly very unique, and Neil, Claire, and Cassandra returned with a new understanding of the medical approach of CL/CP that is comparable to few other facilities.


One of the biggest learning experiences for Neil, Claire, and Cassandra was what they absorbed from the culture. Between drinking freshly squeezed sugar cane juice outside the University, eating numerous meals at various churrascarias (Brazilian-style steakhouse), trying the famous Brazilian drink Caipirinha, and walking the streets in Bauru, the students were able to thoroughly take in the unique sights, sounds, smells, and flavors of Brazil. Additionally, the students noted how uniquely diverse the student population was, with many different South American countries being represented in the modest class sizes. The students made great friends and were even able to learn a bit of Portuguese during their stay in Bauru, and they have made it very clear that they will surely be back to Brazil the next opportunity they get!