The Greece initiative started in 2016 and has since provided a platform for dental students to interact with their Greek counterparts, spark dialogue about access to care for patients with disabilities, and learn about the culture and history of Greece.
Dental students and faculty members travel to the picturesque island of Corfu, just off the Northwest coast of Greece, and Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, for about 10 days in spring. Activities in Corfu include educating Corfu parents, caregivers, and educators on oral hygiene issues specific to children with disabilities, visiting the MELISSA organization (where students help with screenings), visiting the 1st Elementary School for special education, attending and presenting at healthcare symposia, engaging with the local Special Olympics community, discussing access to care with local dental leaders and local municipal officers, and visiting important cultural and historical landmarks.
Always in collaboration with Corfu Dental Association and the “Aristotle” University of Thessaloniki School of Dentistry and School of Health Professions the program has expanded since 2016 to an Interprofessional collaboration with providers in Corfu and Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki is a sprawling historical metropolis on the northern part of Greece. In addition to Byzantine cathedrals, Roman arches, Ancient Greek battlements, and an ancient agora, Thessaloniki is home to one of only two dental schools in Greece. Faculty and students from the University of Thessaloniki Dental School provide a tour of the facilities, including a state of the art teaching clinic and a full complement of specialty clinics. Students and faculty participate and present at an interdisciplinary conference and help with oral health screenings for patients at Thessaloniki “Hippokration” Pediatric Hospital Clinic. While a significant amount of time is spent on dental-related activities, time is allotted to gain an appreciation for the beauty and history of the city. As an outcome of the program, we have sponsored visiting dental students and faculty at the UMSoD from the University of Thessaloniki since 2018. We are expecting 4 more visiting students from Greece in 2020. Additionally this year the program will include more UMSoD students (6) and faculty members.
Students and faculty meet regularly to plan and prepare for an effective trip and build lines of communication with our Greek counterparts. Students also register for the GIOCH elective (winter semester) where they share their experience with students participating in other Global Initiatives. This experience has enriched the students in global health, advocacy for patients with disabilities, and Greek culture. More information about past trips can be found in the student presentations.