by Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS
This article will focus on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the Middle East, and Michele Darby, BSDH, MS, a Fulbright scholar in Jordan. Jordan has quite an advanced health-care system, although services remain concentrated in cities such as Amman, Irbid, Az Zarqa, and in the larger villages. The King Hussein Cancer Center is the only specialized cancer treatment facility in the Middle East, and is considered one of the best cancer treatment facilities in the world. In addition, the 683-bed King Abdullah Universiy Hospital on the campus of Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irbid is a principal teaching and health-care training facility, and a center for referral for advanced medical services. Jordan is ranked by the World Bank to be the number one health-care services provider in the region and among the top five in the world.
Tourism is a very important sector of the Jordanian economy. Jordan’s major tourist activities include numerous ancient places, its unique desert castles, and unspoiled natural locations for its cultural and religious sites.
For Michele, who is an eminent scholar and chair of the Gene W. Hirschfeld School of Dental Hygiene at Old Dominion University, being a “Fulbrighter” has been an opportunity to improve the oral health of the Jordanian population, learn about an important Arab culture, and, in a small way, improve relations between the United States and the Arab world.
She said, “I have been a dental hygiene educator for over 37 years so it was time to share my knowledge with colleagues in a country where dental hygiene is relatively unknown as a profession.”
Funded as a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, Darby is in Jordan for six months teaching in the baccalaureate dental hygiene program at Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) .
Michele Darby, BSDH, MS, instructs a Jordanian dental hygiene student.
Health-care professionals have a commitment to share their expertise. The United States has a major goal of helping the countries in the Middle East establish peace. The people of the Middle East cannot advance economically, socially, or educationally without total health. In fact, low socioeconomic status and poor health can lead to feelings of desperation, which feeds military conflict and impedes the advancement of democracy. Health care knows no cultural boundaries or allegiances, and all humans have similar health-care needs. As health-care providers, we must be able to educate, motivate, and treat patients from a variety of cultures. Together, we will gain cultural understanding to ultimately improve the oral health of the citizens of our respective nations.
“I selected Jordan for my Fulbright country because I wanted experience in an Arab culture,” Michele said. “Given the state of affairs in the Middle East, I wanted to develop my own perspectives based on what I saw and experienced. Because we only know what we see in the media, Americans have a limited view of life in the Middle East. The same can be said about people in the Middle East. We both have too little contact with each other. I want people here to know me too as an American and as a dental hygiene educator.”
Michele noted that during the past 10 years she has taught five students from the JUST baccalaureate program at Old Dominion’s master’s program in dental hygiene. Four of the former students from Jordan are now full-time faculty at JUST. The Jordan university’s Department of Applied Dental Sciences houses the dental technology program and the dental hygiene program. Michele also said a current Jordanian student studying abroad at the Virginia campus will graduate from the master’s degree program in 2010.
“So I already had a professional connection to Jordan,” she said. “Now I have the opportunity to work with them daily as colleagues as a faculty member at Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irbid, Jordan. Together, we are working to achieve educational standards like those in the USA.”
She spends three days a week at the JUST Dental Center teaching in preclinical and periodontics lectures. In addition, she participates in six clinic sessions working with students, faculty, and patients. Two days a week are spent on the JUST main campus for meetings, office hours, and a lecture in research methods.
“I am frequently asked to guest lecture, and I will soon be working with the English majors to help them with their pronunciations and subtleties of English language and American culture,” Michele said. “I am also struggling to learn conversational Arabic and socializing with Jordanians and their families to learn as much as I can about this very special culture.”
Jordan has one of the most educated populations in the Middle East. The Jordanian government is investing in education, science, technology, health care, and tourism. Faculty at Jordan universities teach in English, and many Jordanians seek advanced degrees in the United States.
“I have found the relationships between Jordanian people and persons from different cultures exceptionally positive. Just walking down the street, Jordanians will smile and say, ‘Welcome.’ I have experienced the generosity, hospitality, and good will of the people here,” she said.
We applaud Michele’s efforts to further the profession of dental hygiene, and congratulate her on being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. To follow Michele Darby’s experience in Jordan, you are invited to visit her blog at: http://darbyoralhealthjordan.blogspot.com. You can find information about the Fulbright program at: http://fulbright.state.gov/.
Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, BA, MS, is president of the International Federation of Dental Hygienists. She is also a 2003 winner of the Pfizer/ADHA Award for Excellence in Dental Hygiene. Maria is visiting faculty at the University of Rome for the Interdisciplinary Master’s Degree Program in Advanced Technologies in the Sciences of Oral Hygiene, and at the University of Pisa. She is also a member of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR).