A day in the life...Bwaila Hospital Dental Clinic

Walking up to the entrance of the Bwaila Hospital dental clinic, I was greeted by a line of over 60 patients eagerly waiting to receive dental treatment. Some had severe tooth pain, holding onto their faces tightly and fighting off tears. Others had large swollen masses, most likely severe dental infections, protruding from their cheeks. Once the doors opened at 8:30am, the patients were first sent to the diagnosis room where they were screened and examined by a dental therapist. Next, they went to the injection room and were anesthetized for their upcoming procedure. Lastly, they were sent to us in the treatment room, also known as the “extraction room.” In the treatment room were 4 cracked and severely worn dental chairs and a small table covered in old and broken dental instruments. These limited resources made it difficult for us to treat patients, but we were up for the challenge! With the help of 4 dental students from UNC we were able to treat 75 patient in just 3 hours! As soon as one patient’s treatment was completed, the next was seated seconds later. Despite the limited resources, it was a well-oiled machine designed to efficiently treat as many patients as possible. This experience highlighted the need for dental instruments and materials at many clinics throughout Malawi. With proper instruments, the patients would be able to receive a higher quality of care and the dentists and dental therapists would be able to work more efficiently. 


Our planning paid off. We eagerly pulled up to our first medical outreach location at Kabudula Hospital. Upon our arrival, we were gratefully greeted by the staff at KH and quickly saw the vast array of patients waiting, hoping to schedule for surgical procedures this week. Foremost, this will be there only opportunity for surgery or to be evaluated and treated by a surgeon. In Malawi there are only approx. 40 surgeons for 16 million people. After evaluating over 30 patients with surgical concerns, Drs. Newell and Henson quickly got to work in the operating room. Despite a late start, they were able to complete 6 successful surgical cases. The appreciation was evident as many of these patients have been waiting several years for treatment.

Dr. Mullarkey spent the day at Kamuzu Central Hospital working with a small group of dental students from UNC – Chapel Hill. At the hospital they performed fillings, extractions and assisted on larger trauma cases. One patient came to the dental clinic after getting into an altercation in which his friend bit half of his upper lip off. Needless to say they are no longer friends. There is no dental school in Malawi and there is great need for dentists and dental treatment throughout the country. In the absence of a dental school in Malawi there is a three year training program for “dental therapists.”  These dental therapist make up the majority of dental providers throughout Malawi. At Kamuzu Central Hospital there are only 2 full time dentists and the remainder of providers are dental therapists, volunteer dentists and students. The need for dentists throughout Malawi is evident and Dr. Mullarkey is excited about growing the dental outreach project with Access Health Africa. 


Social Entrepreneurship in Africa

Access Health Africa co-founderJesse Pipes, director of the Holland Fellows Program in the Walker College of Business and entrepreneurship lecturer in the Department of Management, recently presented on Social Entrepreneurship­­ and Seeing Opportunity: the Unity between Needs and Solutions.

The participants are members of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, comprised of 25 individuals who were competitively selected from an applicant pool of more than 40,000. Each fellow has an established record of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities and countries. The fellowship, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of President Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. In 2016, the program will provide 1,000 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. higher education institution with support for professional development after they return home.

During the workshop, Pipes shared how social entrepreneurship is about applying practical, innovative and sustainable approaches to benefit society in general, with an emphasis on those who are marginalized and poor. The concept of social entrepreneurship captures a unique approach to economic and social problems, an approach that cuts across sectors and disciplines grounded in certain values and processes that are common to each social entrepreneur, independent of whether his/her area of focus is education, health, welfare reform, human rights, children's rights, workers' rights, environment, economic development, agriculture or whether the organizations they set up are non­-profit or for profit entities.

"Developing a workshop for the Mandela Washington Institute supports my own vision of creating Malawi's first center for collaborative learning and impact making," said Pipes. "The spirit of the Mandela Washington Fellowship mirrors this vision. With Access Health Africa we want to contribute to the growth of a new type of philanthropy by developing a community solutions hub that responds to specific needs on the ground in Malawi by placing a special emphasis on the spirit and ambition of Malawi’s youthful population who are creative and adventurous.”

Pipes explained why Malawi's first technology and collaboration center could facilitate access to vital information and resources, and strengthen engagement between local communities, global citizens and government.

"It will include and elevate local change makers, and underpins modern education for advancements in quality of life," said Pipes. "The Access Health Africa Collaboration Hub in Malawi will build upon human capital, focus on strengthening existing interventions, and allow the global community to participate in a community solutions program connecting the best and brightest in an effort to empower youth, cultivate leaders, strengthen healthcare institutions, and extend access to quality health services, education and information."

"With more than 15 years of experience designing public health impact curriculums, Access Health Africa is uniquely positioned to become a mission-driven organization at the intersection of health, education, and social sectors," added Pipes.

About Appalachian's MWF Institute

Appalachian's Office of International Education and Development are responsible for implementing the program in collaboration with the university's Academic Civic-Engagement Program. Dr. Jesse Lutabingwa, associate vice chancellor for international education and development directs the program, and Dr. Brian MacHarg, director of academic civic-engagement at Appalachian serves as co-director. While at Appalachian, program fellows will participate in seminars and workshops conducted by with faculty and staff as well as leaders from local nonprofits. They will be mentored by several young leaders in the Boone/Watauga area to learn from each other. They will also volunteer with local organizations to experience volunteerism first hand. Appalachian was selected to participate in the program following a rigorous national competition. The University is one of 40 public and private institutions countrywide that have been selected to host the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship Institute and the only one in North Carolina. 

About the Mandela Washington Fellowship program

Each Mandela Washington Fellow takes part in a six-week academic and leadership Institute at a U.S. university or college in one of three tracks: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, or Public Management. This year, there will be a pilot Institute on Energy. Following the academic component of the fellowship, the fellows visit Washington, D.C., for a Presidential Summit featuring a town hall with President Obama. During the three-day event, fellows will take part in networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private and non-profit sectors. For more information, visit the Young African Leaders Initiative site.s



Today, at Access Health Africa, we dedicated the majority of our day organizing our detailed outreach plan for the upcoming week.  This week, we will be providing medical outreach care in four very diverse locations.  On one end of the spectrum, we will be working at the large public hospital, KCH.  In addition, we will venture out to the rural hospital in Kabudula. Here, we will perform much needed operative procedures, many of which have been prolonged due to lack of available surgeons as well as lack of available hospital resources.  Our ability to provide health care in these forgotten communities exists, in large part, as a result of the generous donations of a vast number of private donors, health care providers and hospital systems. Their contributions have helped transform our dream of expanding access to health care throughout Malawi into a reality. In addition to traveling to KH, we will also visit both Dzalaka refugee camp and the village of Mchezi. In these locations, we will switch gears, focusing largely on patient education and preventative medicine in hopes of empowering a community to flourish in the future. 

Malawi Dispatch_1

Malawi Dispatch_1

Dr. Amber Newell, Dr. Baker Henson, and Dr. Jenn Mullarkey arrive at the Access Health Africa Hub in Malawi.

After stepping off the plane in Malawi we were quickly reminded of the disparity between the living conditions in United States and those in Malawi. With such limited resources and very few health care providers, the tremendous need for medical volunteers in Malawi became apparent.

Drs. Amber Newell, Jennifer Mullarkey and Baker Henson are traveling to Lilongwe Malawi, East Africa, for the first official outreach trip as Access Health Africa. For the next 2 weeks we look forward to getting the new World Camp, now called Access Health Africa off the ground.

Dr. Amber Newell will dedicate her efforts to providing much needed medical care in the emergency room/casualty area. In addition to volunteering in the clinical setting, she will also provide trauma education and focused hands on training to medical residents, interns, nursing staff and students of Kamuzu Central Hospital. She will also be assisting Dr. Baker Henson in operative procedures performed in a rural village with our surgical team.

Dr. Jennifer Mullarkey will also provide a multifaceted approach in her involvement with AHA. Not only will she care for patients in desperate need of emergent dental care, she will also focus her efforts on the establishment of a dental outreach program which will provide ongoing treatment of Malawi residents. Dr. Mullarkey will mentor dental students from UNC-Chapel Hill to serve patients at KCH. Lastly, she will visit a rural refugee camp to provide much needed oral health education and preventative measures.

Dr. Baker Henson will be providing surgical care at both a rural village hospital as well as the operating room at KCH. He plans to perform much needed operative interventions on patients whose surgeries have been postponed due to lack of available local recourses and staff. He will also provide training focusing on minimally invasive operative techniques to the surgical residents and staff of KCH.

We look forward to providing you with periodic updates regarding our progress for the duration of our medical outreach trip. Thank you in advance as we understand that it is your continued support and generous contributions which make projects like these possible.