For the past 15 years, students from Kuwait like Lamya Ismail have been coming to the WVU School of Dentistry to learn skills necessary to care for patients in their native country.
Every year, up to five qualified Kuwaiti students are admitted to the dental school. Now, this program is expanding to include the WVU School of Medicine and the WVU School of Pharmacy. Under these new agreements, up to five students may be accepted into the pharmacy program and up to three students in medicine, each year.
“Expansion is needed, and I think this is a great step,” Ismail said. “It’s usually really hard for international students to get accepted into medical schools in the United States, and this is a great opportunity for Kuwaiti students to come here to receive a quality education.”
Ismail decided to apply to the WVU School of Dentistry’s seven-year pipeline program right after graduating from high school. When she was accepted, she left everyone she knew to start school in a new country.
Now, seven years later, Ismail is finishing her final year in dental school.
“I’ve learned a lot of things by coming here. It has been a great experience. It’s not only what I’ve learned in books, it’s living here, getting to know more about the culture and getting to know people from all around the world,” she said.
In addition to preparing highly qualified dental graduates to meet the oral health needs in Kuwait, WVU has benefitted from the cultural infusion of Kuwaiti students in dental classes. The WVU School of Dentistry efforts to assist global communities in improving oral health date back many years. The Kuwait Dental Program, initiated in 1997, is one such effort that has provided reciprocal gains to the School and Kuwait community.
Chris Martin, MD, MSc, director of the Global Engagement Office for WVU Health Sciences, said this is a mutually beneficial partnership, one that furthers WVU’s goal of being a world-class university.
Dr. Martin said they intend to continue to grow the partnership with Kuwait. There is currently an agreement in place that will allow Kuwaiti medical students to complete residencies at Ruby Memorial Hospital. They are also in the process of discussing agreements for pharmacy and dentistry residencies.
“The government provides support for these students to come here. They cover the cost of their education, so these students will graduate without any debt. In return, they are obliged to go back to their country, and they are very committed to going back,” Martin said.
Ismail was accepted into the periodontal preceptorship program at the WVU School of Dentistry, so she’ll remain in Morgantown for an extra year. Once she completes the program, she’ll return to Kuwait and work in government clinics. But she hopes to return to Morgantown and apply for specialty training at WVU.
“While the number of healthcare professionals is increasing in Kuwait, there’s a difference in knowledge and bedside manner,” Ismail said. “The way we are educated here shows us how to approach a patient in a way that makes them more comfortable.”