Mission dentist studies in International Dentist Program
Willie Tabaranza, DMD, a missionary in Africa, is completing six months of study in the International Dentist Program.
Willie Tabaranza, DMD, was selected as one of two six-month mission dentists studying with faculty in the School of Dentistry International Dentist Program.Dr. Tabaranza comes from a family immersed in health care. One of his three brothers is a surgeon at Gimbie Hospital in Ethiopia, another is an optometrist, and the third is a nurse. Two of his sisters are nurses, and a third is a missionary in Nairobi.Dr. Tabaranza began his career as a high school teacher for 14 years, first in East Visayan Academy in Cebu, and then for six years in the Adventist English School in Thailand where he taught biology and science.He then completed the dental program at Southwestern University in Cebu, Philippines, in 1999, and practiced general dentistry, completing one year of training in orthodontics. After working as the school dentist at Mountain View College, he accepted an assignment from Zimbabwe Union Conference to work with Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to set up Gwerru Adventist Dental Clinic. He held this position from 1997 to 2001.Currently, Dr. Tabaranza works in the University of Eastern Africa (UEA), Baraton, dental clinic. “University of Eastern Africa,” he says, “has students from 16 African countries. Our patients are people from the community, and UEA students, faculty, and staff.”The clinic sees as many as eight patients a day, and currently is staffed with one assistant and a relief dentist who is working at the clinic while Dr. Tabaranza is in the United States.While at Loma Linda, Dr. Tabaranza updated his skills and learned new techniques. He also spent time observing orthodontics in two local private dental clinics.“One of the most interesting things I did,” he remembers, “was attending AIDS seminars at the SAC-Norton Clinic. I learned about oral manifestations of HIV from Dr. Rodney Turner’s lecture that will be helpful, as our clinic is in a country where 60 percent of the population has been diagnosed with AIDS. Dr. Turner stressed the importance of treating each patient with the same compassion.”Faculty including Quint Nicola, DDS, associate director, health ministries department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and Lloyd Baum, DDS, professor emeritus, have collected dental supplies that Dr. Tabaranza took back to Africa with him.“Dr. Nicola provided two dental chairs for a satellite clinic we hope to open in early 2005,” says Dr. Tabaranza. “The clinic is in Eldoret, a small city that is a one-hour drive from the university.”Eldoret currently has a population of 300,000, with ten dentists serving the population.Dr. Tabaranza completed the 6-month program on September 10, rejoining his wife, Rebecca Acot, MA, a music professor (vocal and piano performance, and music theory), who had remained in Africa, teaching at University of Eastern Africa, Baraton.