August 7, 2017
A misplaced check mark brought Tanzania’s Dr. Karpal Singh Sohal to dentistry, and dentistry brought him to the College for several weeks in the spring through the College’s longstanding relationship with the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) and its hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The College and Muhimbili work together under the leadership of Dr. Caswell Evans, Associate Dean for Prevention and Public Health Sciences, and Khatija Noorullah, Clinical Community Academic Manager. The two schools’ relationship has seen College students perform service learning rotations in MUHAS, and Associate Dean of the MUHAS School of Dentistry Dr. Sira Stanislaus Owibingire visit the College in 2016.
“Again this year, the Department of Oral Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, in conjunction with Dr. Evans, had the pleasure of sponsoring a visiting faculty member of MUHAS,” said OMDS Department Head Dr. Richard Monahan. OMDS had sponsored the visit of Dr. Owibingire as well. And for the second year, Susan Lloyd, Business Administrative Associate, seamlessly arranged for all the details to help the visitor come here and to assure a nice visit.
Dr. Singh was particularly interested in 3D imaging and cone beam computed tomography in the Department of Oral Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, and Dr. Monahan was instrumental in bringing Dr. Singh to the College.
Tanzania is a country of 51 million in East Africa. Dr. Singh was born in the town of Iringa in the southern highlands, about 450 miles from Dar es Salaam. He has three siblings, all of whom were interested in higher education. A brother is currently in a postgrad program in obstetrics and gynecology at the MUHAS hospital, a sister is a teacher, and another sister is an attorney.
In the Tanzanian school system, grade school goes through grade seven; the “O” level, the equivalent of high school, is grades eight through 12; and the Advanced, or “A” level, is two years after—after which a student makes a decision about college.
“After finishing the A level, I had to wait for almost a year-and-a-half before joining a university, so I went to work for the Dabaga Vegetable and Fruit Processing Co. in Iringa,” Dr. Singh explained. “My mother was going to travel to Dar es Salaam, so I asked her to fill out my university forms there. I wanted to become a neurosurgeon.
“Instead, my mother put ‘dentist’ as the first choice,” Dr. Singh said, laughing. “That’s how I got into dentistry.”
For the first two years at MUHAS, the dental and medical students study together, “so there wasn’t much difference in what we were learning,” Dr. Singh said. In his third year, the lessons switched to dentistry, and Dr. Singh discovered that he “really got interested and into it.”
After earning a DDS in Tanzania, there is a year of compulsory internship, which Dr. Singh performed at Muhimbili National Hospital. He later worked at the TMJ Hospital in Dar es Salaam, but after only three months he obtained a government appointment to work in the Musoma Regional Referral Hospital in Mara, Tanzania, near the Kenyan border and 21 hours away from Dar es Salaam. He returned to Muhimbili National Hospital in 2014, and decided to join its postgrad program for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Currently, he is in the second year.
He was excited by the opportunity to come to UIC. “It’s an opportunity to learn how things are working here and how best we can use what we learn here, particularly in the fields of Oral Medicine and Oral Surgery,” Dr. Singh said.
Dr. Singh’s biggest surprise was the attitude of College personnel. “People are very friendly and welcoming,” he said. “It’s not the way I thought it would be, so it’s a very good thing. Dr. Monahan was particularly nice, and he went out of his way to take me around and introduce me to people at the College.”
He also was impressed by the College environment. “It’s very, very clean, things are organized very well, and there is advanced use of modern technology in all aspects—oral surgery, implantology, periodontics, and prosthodontics,” Dr. Singh said. “Wherever I’ve been at the College, it’s been amazing.”
While at the College, he worked on one pediatric dentistry case that lasted until midnight. “It wasn’t stressful,” he said. “It was a good learning experience.”
“Dr. Singh shared his experience and insight as a clinician and teacher in Africa while the College contributed to the depth of his professional development,” Dr. Monahan said. “Dr. Singh was enthusiastically welcomed by every member of our education, research, and outreach community.
“He left us with a better understanding of the healthcare issues challenging his country,” Dr. Monahan said. “We enriched his background with a world-class experience that will affect the colleagues he interacts with, the students he teaches, and the patients he treats.”
Dr. Singh also has enjoyed life in the UIC community and visiting North Michigan Avenue. “You name it, it’s there, and there are so many people,” he said.
His time at UIC will help him in his quest to become an oral surgeon, Dr. Singh believes. “It’s not as high paying a job as it is in the U.S., but the job satisfaction will be great,” he said. “At Muhimbili National Hospital we see a lot of poor people from all over the country, and it’s exciting to think about treating them and getting them back to a normal life. That’s more satisfying than high income.”
“Dr. Singh’s visit represents another step in the maturation of our collaboration with the School of Dentistry at Muhimbili University,” Dr. Evans said. “This year, during the time Dr. Singh visited with us for two weeks, two of our D-4s students had the opportunity to be on rotation at Muhimbili for a four week period. The student experience was part of their community-based service-learning course. We look forward to future visits by Muhimbili faculty. We learn as much from these visits as they do.”
Because of his interest in oral surgery, during his visit to the College Dr. Singh had an opportunity to visit with Dr. Michael Miloro and the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Dr. Miloro said, “It is interesting to note that Dr. Mulokozi Lugakingira, who graduated from UIC’s OMFS program in 2011, is originally from Tanzania. He now practices in Fort Wayne, IN, and continues to visit MUHAS each year to help with patient care activities so that the UIC-MUHAS connection continues.”
Photo caption: Dr. Karpal Singh Sohal, third from right, with College personnel with whom he worked closely. Left to right are Dr. Richard Monahan, Head, OMDS; Susan Lloyd, Business/Administrative Associate, OMDS; Carol Gonzalez, Dental X-Ray Coordinator, OMDS; Dr. Singh; Dr. Caswell Evans, Associate Dean for Prevention and Public Health Sciences; and Khatija Noorullah, Clinical Community Academic Manager.