Hi, I’m Jenipher Ober-Oluoch, a pediatric dentist who is passionate about dental public health. I would love to see a world where quality oral health services are within reach to all those who need it in a timely fashion, especially for the children with special health care needs.
Safari is the Swahili word for voyage. My time in dentistry has been a voyage. The journey towards providing service, not necessarily healthcare, to children started way back as a child when I would accompany my mother, who was a teacher, to various community activities. I was drawn towards helping the children who were struggling with tasks. Later, during my training as a dentist, I was able to see the burden of disease among the children during the community outreach activities and in the clinical teaching sessions. Upon qualifying from the dental school, I was deployed to work at one of the government hospitals where the oral health disease burden was huge! The clinic had limited resources and offered basic curative oral health care with minimum preventive programs. To improve the situation through advocacy and research, I actively participated in the Kenya National Dental Association, the Kenya Association of Paediatric Dentists, the East and Southern Division of IADR and Paediatric Oral health research group of IADR. I was motivated to study public health, pediatric dentistry and later specialized in Epidemiology with a goal to better understand general disease distribution, the oral health needs of the child patient and how to make it better. I needed to make sense of the numbers and inform policy. To date, my country Kenya has made tremendous steps towards oral health advocacy and there is increased efforts and opportunity towards this end.
I joined the University of Washington’s TABASAMU grant team when I was pursuing my Epidemiology career at the Georgia State University in Atlanta, Ga. I have since moved from Georgia to Rwanda where I teach Paediatric Dentistry at the School of Dentistry, University of Rwanda. I am excited to be part of the TABASAMU program in Kenya that seeks to understand the interactions between oral health and HIV infection. The Research training and mentorship program will greatly impact the research capacity in Kenya, the Eastern Africa region, and beyond. We recently concluded focus groups with 44 potential mentees drawn from various regions within Kenya. Through these future oral health researchers, it’s my hope that we will continue to crunch the numbers to inform the interventions that would improve the clinical picture within the Kenyan population.
Dr Jenipher Ober-Oluoch BDS, MPH, MDS (Paed dent), Epid, FADI, FPFA, FICD
Senior Lecturer & Departmental Lead, Dept. of Paediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics
School of Dentistry, College of Medicine & Health Science
University of Rwanda, Rwanda