Walk into the stomatology (dental) faculty of the Moscow Medical Academy (MMA) and youd think youve got the wrong place. Instead of cold clinical rooms that are stark, youd be welcomed by a warm reception area and rooms that have got their own colour scheme.
The sweet pastel walls are to quieten the nerves of patients and to make it a pleasant environment for lecturers and students to spend time in. With the weather cold most of the time in Russia, every bit of warmth helps.
There are specific rooms for different types of surgeries and the faculty also houses a small museum with exhibits that show the development of dental equipment and treatment. One interesting item is an old machine with a pedal that resembles a sewing machine.
Dentistry is the most sought after course in Russia while medicine is second choice. It is extremely competitive to get into dentistry and only the creme de la creme get in.
In Russia and Europe, dentistry is the most popular and is harder to get in than medicine, says Prof Irina M. Makeyeva, head of stomatology department at MMA in Moscow.
The university enrols an average of 60 to 80 students for dentistry each year, with about 10% to 15% comprising foreign students, mainly from China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Although MMAs dentistry programme is only a few years old compared to the Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry with 370 students, says Prof Makeyeva: Our faculty is the best because our dean gives us money to have excellent facilities; we are among the few with the phantom system.
The phantom system allows students to practise on dummies, which she calls John. Students from the second year onwards get to practise surgery, anaesthesia and other procedures on John which has very real tissues.
The department is also proud of its state-of-the-art sterilisation instrument that resembles a washing machine in shape and size. It has also just introduced teaching via video-conferencing. MMA also boasts of having on its staff one of the best orthodontic surgeons in Russia.
Not just confined to teaching, the faculty also provides dental treatment to the public, including lots of foreigners, at very low charges. For example, a root canal costs only US$30 (RM114).
There are 10 rooms for students to learn under the department of operative dentistry. They can treat their family, relatives and the public for free.
Phantom classes are for second year students where they do practical work on dummy patients. Prof Natalya Zhokhova says the same system is used in the United States.
Nizhny Novgorod State Medical Academy
The Nizhny Novgorod State Medical Academy offers a much sought after dentistry programme. The 10-year-old faculty was set up to offer teaching, training and a privately-run clinic.
Explains Dr Evgenia Durnovo, head of the department of surgical stomatology and maxillo-facial surgery: The curriculum of Russian universities is dictated by hospitals. So our Rector decided to set up our own clinic, decided on what to do, what to build based on the experience and input of our lecturers.
Promotion of the faculty is done mainly by word of mouth, with some help from recruitment agents. Thanks to the Internet, Nizhny Novgorod is a first choice institution in Russia, she adds.
At any rate, the faculty can enrol only 100 students at most, including 15 to 20 foreign students possibly next year. We are physically constrained by the hostel. Its not good just to think of getting more fees.
Teaching is aided by the use of CCTV in all four clinics (each cost US$30,000 or RM114,042) so students can watch what is being done to a patient.
We also have the software to show recorded treatments of real patients and complicated procedures.
The public can seek treatment via referrals in the private clinic which Dr Durnov claims offers better facilities than the public dental clinics. Fees collected from the private patients go towards the material cost.
With the clinic, students can do all their practical work there and the faculty decides on what material they should use for teaching instead of having the Health Ministry dictate, she adds.
Our head of department has written many books which are used as standard textbooks all over Russia.
Those who sign up for the five-year dentistry course will start working the practical aspects in the phantom classrooms in their second year.
Students are taught to treat diseases as well and not just handle teeth. For example, we look at the root cause and treat it too, says Dr Durnov who has been to Malaysia and visited some universities with dental faculties.
Currently, dental degrees from Russia are not recognised in Malaysia. However, says honorary consul of the Russian Federation Teoh Seng Lee, efforts are being made for consideration of recognition for these qualifications.
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