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Responding to COVID‑19 around the world
l to r: Abdul Alkahmees, Amanda Hill, Holly Johnson
The COVID-19 pandemic has united the world with one common experience and touched or changed virtually every aspect of our daily lives. For those who are unable to work from home, like dentists and dental hygienists, these changes are more pronounced.
We checked in with a few Dalhousie Faculty of Dentistry alumni living around the world to see how COVID-19 has affected their lives and were surprised to find some far-reaching common threads.
Dr. Abdul Alkahmees (MSc Perio’19) currently lives in his home country of Kuwait and practises in a large, government-run clinic with other specialists. The clinic where he works was closed during the pandemic, although it treated emergency cases and those requiring follow-up care after recent procedures.
Abdul and his colleagues alternated shifts to limit the number of patients in the clinic at one time, which meant for two weeks a month he was not practising.
It was not ideal, but Abdul felt well prepared to adjust to the changing circumstances and offer support his colleagues. He explains: “I credit all my instructors at Dalhousie who ensured that I was confident to enter this field, adapt as needed, and gain the respect of my colleagues so early.”
Dr. Amanda Hill (DDS’08) had to close her New Glasgow practice for several weeks when the Nova Scotia chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, suspended dental services at all dental offices across the province in March.
During her enforced stay at home, Amanda made the most of her time by diving into research on personal protective equipment and staying up to date on the new regulations.
Amanda shares Abdul’s sentiment that the dentistry community was well positioned to accommodate the new COVID-19 protocols. “Infection control was already a huge part of our day and comes naturally to us,” said Amanda. “We are used to wearing masks all day, so the transition to additional personal protective equipment isn’t too hard for us.”
One of the new challenges in Amanda’s practice since reopening concerns the patient experience. “Our office has a focus on being warm and welcoming,” she explains. “We are having to work harder now to convey those feelings in the new world of gowns, face shields, and masks.”
Holly Johnson (DDH’13) is a dental hygienist currently working in Queenstown, New Zealand. Since her return to work, she has noticed that patients have a renewed appreciation for preventive oral health care. “We have been fully booked as patients have realized the importance of getting dental treatment completed to prevent emergencies,” she says.
Holly also had to stop seeing patients when New Zealand went into lockdown and now is adapting to very similar infection control protocols as Abdul and Amanda. All three shared that they have been participating in online continuing education to enhance their skills in this area and others.
Holly says that she and her colleagues stayed in touch with weekly Zoom calls throughout the shutdown. Amanda also feels that the profession has stuck together and supported one another throughout this time.
From Canada to New Zealand and Kuwait, there seems to have been no lack of community and professional support for one another during the pandemic shutdowns in each country.
Now, as many oral health care professionals continue to adjust to new protocols and procedures and treat their patients safely, that sense of professional support remains. We all were – and continue to be – in this together.
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