Monday, April 21, 2014

Spreading Smiles Around the World

by Gillian Parker, Tamalpais HS
Dr. Maureen Valley

Maureen Valley is an orthodontic care provider at Valley Orthodontics in San Rafael, and she is Associate Professor and Director of the Postgraduate Orthodontic Clinic at the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry in San Francisco. You can read more about her career in orthodontics in the U.S. here.

She received her Doctorate in Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) and her Masters of Public Health from Harvard University, and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology at University of California, Santa Barbara. In the Summer of 2013, Dr. Valley traveled to Kenya with her husband to take part in a Rotary International project to improve oral health in Kenya. Click here for more information about the Kenya Smiles Project.

She primarily worked with a tribe called the Maasai. One member of the Maasai tribe, Mr. Samson Saigilu, a public health official in Kenya, worked alongside Dr. Valley on the Kenya Smiles Project, and he will be presenting with Dr. Valley at the upcoming Marin Science Seminar.

Samson Saigilu

Read the following interview with Maureen Valley to find out more about her work in Kenya.

Why did you decide to go to Kenya?
In 2012, I went to Kenya for the first time with my family for safari.  I fell in love with the country and the Maasai people.  I wanted to return, but this time to help the people.

What exactly were you your activities in Kenya?
The most important impact we made was education.  We introduced the people to tooth brushing, as most all of them have never done this in their whole life.  Also, education on nutrition as modern foods have now entered their communities.  This in combination with no tooth brushing or dental care has been disastrous.

What are your favorite/least favorite parts of your job/working in Kenya?
My most favorite parts of working in Kenya: working with the beautiful Maasai people.  My least favorite parts of working in Kenya: being labeled by the color of my skin.  As it symbolized certain things.  It was a strange experience for me.

What would you have to say to aspiring dentists and orthodontists?
Some advice for aspiring dentists and orthodontist:  It is a great profession if you have the passion and willingness to help others, not only in your community, but also anywhere in the world.  Here is a quote from Samson, "The passion for a community free from preventable diseases can always drive someone anywhere in the world."

To learn more, go to the Marin Science Seminar, "Spreading Smiles Worldwide: Oral Healthcare Outreach and Research among the Maasai in Kenya" and hear Dr. Valley and Mr. Saigilu talk about their work in Kenya on Wednesday, April 23, 7:30-8:30 pm at Terra Linda High School, San Rafael, Room 207.

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