Education for Health

: 2014  |  Volume : 27  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 71--72

Constructing hope and peace in Syrian dental education during the country's time of difficulty: Success in Syrian smiles

Easter Joury 
 Assistant Professor of Dental Public Health and Oral Epidemiology in Damascus University, Damascus, Syria; Founder of Syrian Smiles Project

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Easter Joury
Faculty of Dentistry, Damascus University, Mazzeh Highway, Damascus, Syria

How to cite this article:
Joury E. Constructing hope and peace in Syrian dental education during the country's time of difficulty: Success in Syrian smiles.Educ Health 2014;27:71-72

How to cite this URL:
Joury E. Constructing hope and peace in Syrian dental education during the country's time of difficulty: Success in Syrian smiles. Educ Health [serial online] 2014 [cited 2020 Apr 1 ];27:71-72
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Full Text

Dear Editor,

I was touched by Dr. Woolard's recent editorial entitled "Building a different future: Constructing hope and peace in Syrian dental education". [1] In his editorial responding to a paper appearing in the same issue by Dr. Dashash [2] in Damascus University, Dr. Woolard highlighted the need for creative and collaborative action in responding to people's health needs, especially in times of crisis and social disruption. Therefore, I would like to share with you a success story of a Syrian outreach community-based dental education project named "Syrian Smiles". This project is a model for meeting community health needs and modernizing health education. This model is relevant not only in dentistry but also in other health professions, and not only in Syria but also in other countries that face increasing society-wide health needs, barriers to health care access and the need to modernize health education.

Syrian Smiles aims to engage Damascus University with the service of its community and modernize its dental education through: (1) providing outreach oral care to children with special needs, the elderly and other groups in the community who have difficulty accessing oral care, (2) conducting community-based applied research to assess oral health needs and the effectiveness of health promotion interventions, (3) developing dental students' knowledge, professional skills and attitudes to broaden their understanding of dental public health concepts and the social aspects of dentistry. The project provides opportunities to practice community-based health promotion and deliver outreach oral care according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and promotes social responsibility, volunteerism, communication and teamwork.

Syrian Smiles was piloted in 2011 with an outreach preventive oral care activity involving 400 third year dental undergraduates and 215 children with special needs who attended special care centers in Damascus. This outreach care was part of students' required clinical work in dental public health and included giving nutrition advice, oral hygiene training and clinical interventions (specifically the application of varnish fluoride and sealant). No additional resources or mobile/portable clinics were used.

Syrian Smiles pilot's success was evaluated using quantitative and qualitative data from children, parents, students and staff. This success encouraged other disciplines to adopt outreach oral care. The Damascus University Dental School has since created Syrian Smiles for the elderly to provide outreach denture care, and Syrian Smiles for the residents of sheltering centers to provide oral screening. Syrian Smiles sustainability is achieved within the dental curriculum by incorporating outreach care within students' required clinical work and giving student recognitions in elective and voluntary activities. The University has also developed a new policy to count community-based activities in teaching staff promotion.

Syrian Smiles has been recognized by national and international groups and organizations. Its students have won honors and received certificates of appreciation. The Damascus University Headquarters has organized events to celebrate and share the Syrian Smiles experience and perspective of community-based education with the national governmental, and non-governmental and local communities' representatives.

In conclusion, Syrian Smiles is succeeding in building hope and peace in dental education within our country's current very difficult context. It provides a real-life model and a road map for how higher education generally, and health education in particular, can be modernized and engaged to meet a country's increasing health, social and economic needs.


1Woollard RF. Building a different future: Constructing hope and peace in Syrian dental education. Educ Health 2013;26:71-2.
2Dashash M. Community-Oriented medical education: Bringing perspectives to curriculum planners in Damascus University. Educ Health 2013;26:130-2.