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Professors McCombs and Laroussi Present at Plasma Science Conference in Scotland

The 39th Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Plasma Science (ICOPS) attracted over 600 participants worldwideto Edinburgh from 8-12 July, 2012. ICOPS offered a forum to learn about some of the greatest advances in plasma science and technology, with a special 2-day program dedicated to plasma healthcare. Professor Gayle McCombs from the Old Dominion University School of Dental Hygiene presented onPlasma Dentistry; Dr. Mounir Laroussi, Professor Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Applied Plasma Technology Laboratory at Old Dominion University presented onIndustrial, Commercial and Medical Plasma Applications and served on the conference organizing committee. Dialogue among colleagues during the conference fostered new academic and industry collaborations, interest and ideas.

Physicians for Peace, University of Nicaragua-Leon, and Old Dominion University School of Dental Hygiene Collaboration

Gayle McCombs, Professor and Graduate Program Director and MSDH graduate student, Kendra Kleppe, both from the Gene W. Hirschfeld School of Dental Hygiene at Old Dominion University, were part of a Physicians for Peace dental team to Nicaragua, March 6-14, 2010. Their mission consisted of oral health assessments, dental treatment, and the education of multiple age groups in the community. Old Dominion University School of Dental Hygiene is partnering with Physicians for Peace and the University of Nicaragua-León Dental School to establish the first dental hygiene education program in Central America.

Professor McCombs and the graduate student conducted a needs assessment, explored the dental school campus, and met with the dean and faculty to discuss their common vision for bringing dental hygiene education and the benefits of dental hygienists to the health and life of Nicaraguans. Moreover, ODU will collaborate on a program which would train the faculty for the long term sustainability of the program. This endeavor will improve access to preventive and nonsurgical periodontal care, and expand career opportunities and oral health for the people of Nicaragua. While much of the work is going on from afar, Professor Mccombs and Kendra will be returning to Nicaragua in 2011 to present the dental hygiene curriculum to the dean and faculty at the Dental School.



Gayle McCombs One of Ten Invited Keynote Speakers at International Plasma Conference in Germany

The 3rd International Society for Plasma Medicine was held September 19-24, 2010 at the Leibniz Institute for Plasma Science and Technology, Greifswald, Germany. Professor Gayle McCombs was one of the ten invited speakers who spoke on Low Temperature Atmospheric Pressure Plasma and Advances in Dental Applications. The conference featured oral and poster presentations relative to the newly emerging field of low temperature atmospheric pressure plasma research for applications that can be used in medicine and dentistry.

Old Dominion University's Professor Gayle McCombs, Director of the Dental Hygiene Research Center, School of Dental Hygiene and Professor Mounir Laroussi, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Applied Plasma Technology Laboratory. Photo taken by the Carved Wooden Tooth, University of Greifswald, Dental School, Germany.

ODU Dental Hygiene Student Exchange Partnership with Regionales Berufsbildungszentrum Soziales, Ernahrung und Bau in Kiel, Univeristy of Kiel Dental School and the Elly-Heuss-Knapp Schule in Neumunster

Under the leadership of Sharon Stull, Community Outreach Coordinator, the ODU-Germany Study Abroad Partnership is a two phase program that occurs each summer with either ODU dental hygiene students studying in Germany, or German dental assisting and dental hygiene students studying at ODU. Phase 1, ODU Dental Hygiene Students in Germany, occurring in the summer of odd years, provides an on-location, international experience for both undergraduate and graduate dental hygiene students and licensed oral healthcare professionals with the Regionales Berufsbildungszentrum Soziales, Ernahrung und Bau in Kiel, Univeristy of Kiel Dental School and the Elly-Heuss-Knapp Schule in Neumunster. This two-week study abroad program with pre and post course requirements gives students a cross-cultural experience with German healthcare beliefs, values and practices; the German healthcare system, the career paths to becoming an oral health professional in Germany; and engagement in the dental hygiene process of care paradigm. Phase 2, German Dental Assistant/Dental Hygiene Students at ODU is referred to as the German Summer Institute. Occurring in the summer of even years, this is a three-week experience at the ODU School of Dental Hygiene for recent graduates and faculty of our German partner affiliates. Participants focus on the US healthcare system, have classes on dental topics, engage in a comparative scope of practice dialogue, and practice various skills prior to their internships in dental practices. The program offers German students a cross-cultural experience with American citizens (each student stays with a host family), with time for visiting our Nation's Capitol, learning US history, and relaxing at the oceanfront.

ODU-German Institute Students Teaching Head Start Children on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, summer 2010

Dental Hygiene's Michele Darby Reflects on Fulbright Experience in Jordan

Another school year is well under way at Old Dominion University's Gene W. Hirschfeld School of Dental Hygiene.

Chair Michele Darby, professor and eminent scholar, is back working at her usual breakneck pace, supervising undergraduate and graduate students, teaching a course, overseeing research projects, writing a book, delivering professional presentations, and running a full department.

Earlier this year, the faculty member with close to 40 years of experience at ODU did something completely different, spending six months as a Fulbright Scholar at the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) in the Middle Eastern country.

Darby said the experience was transformational. And she's eager to continue to forge links between Norfolk and Jordan, so that graduate students and other faculty members can benefit from similar experiences.

"It was the fastest six months of my life. It was an opportunity for me to be part of a culture and a university that was, before January, totally foreign to me," Darby said.

"You think you know a culture or a people from working with international students, but you don't know that culture until you live and work in that culture. Even then, I am sure I missed some of the nuances."

Darby said she developed a far deeper understanding of the Arab world and how Islam is practiced there in Jordan. I came away respecting how the people incorporate their religious beliefs into daily living. "I never realized that the Arab culture is known for its unbelievable hospitality. When you are there and you're invited to someone's home, they cannot do enough for you. They treat you better than family" she said.

She also grew to appreciate the "live in the moment" way of experiencing life. "Being in such a different culture required me to pay very close attention to what was going on."

"Just seeing how Jordanians value time with each other, enjoy coffee or tea together, or just share a conversation was an epiphany for me," Darby said.

"I learned from Jordanians that this approach to life is balanced and satisfying...I absorbed each day as new experiences continued to unfold" Before she left for the Middle East, many friends and colleagues asked Darby if she was worried about being a Westerner, and a woman, in a society often portrayed as hostile to each. Her experience was the opposite.

Most of the people that I worked with - in fact 99 per cent of the people I worked with - were Muslim. But they allowed me to be who I was, and to be a Westerner in their culture without any criticisms," Darby said. "I never felt afraid."

"I found that the people in the Middle East, because they're such a homogenous society, are so interested in being connected to people who are different from themselves. I found that in the faculty, and I really found that in the students."

Darby had a number of goals for her six months in Jordan, including:

  • Collaborating with the faculty to develop their curriculum, making it more in line with accredited dental hygiene curricula;
  • Working on acceptance of dental hygienists by Jordanian dentists;
  • Working with Jordanian dental hygienists and faculty to establish a dental hygienists' association (a proposal has been submitted to the Ministry of Health in Jordan);
  • Using association status to apply to the International Federation of Dental Hygienists, so that Jordan can become a member country ("That really opens up a significant window of opportunity for dental hygienists there," Darby said.); and
  • Making teaching methodology there a little less lecture based, and more case study oriented, community based, and evidence- based.

A service learning project that took both faculty and students to one of the Palestinian refugee camps where over 1500 girls were given dental examinations and referred for care was one of the many transformative experiences of the Fulbright. Darby spoke last month at a dental hygiene conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, about her Fulbright experience. She's also continuing the connections she formed with JUST to enable other faculty members and motivated students to follow in her footsteps.

"I would like to mentor some of our best, globally-minded students to apply for student Fulbrights," Darby said. Also, JUST is the perfect sister school for our College of Health Sciences since all of our disciplines are offered there.

"I think our students here at the university have had limited exposure to Middle Easterners. They frequently haven't traveled. But once they do travel, they get hooked and realize that the media too often portrays the extremes in a culture. I think that our collaboration with JUST is a real opportunity, not only in dental hygiene, but in all the health sciences."

Now that she's back in the United States, Darby was reminded of the things about living here that she missed - most of all, her husband of 38 years, Dennis, a professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences at ODU. "When I do another Fulbright, I'd like for him to be able to come with me," Darby said. Dennis was able to lecture on climate change in the JUST College of Arts and Sciences when he came to visit, and he too was very well received.

Other things Darby missed about living at home were simple things, like seafood, which is rare in the middle of the desert. Rain was scarce as well, naturally.

"Being in a desert, everything is so dry and so hot. Even though the desert is beautiful, I did miss a good thunder and lightning storm as well." Now that she's been back, Darby said she really misses the people she met in Jordan, particularly her students. She said a couple of her best ones are applying for the master's program at ODU. And for Darby, that's one of the best parts of doing something like a Fulbright - the chance for global connections.

"When else would you get an opportunity like that?" More information about Professor Darby's experience as a Fulbright Scholar in Jordan can be found on her blog at:




Physicians for Peace Volunteer Dental Team Supports Nicaraguan University

Experts from Old Dominion University lecture and assist with university-level curriculum

Norfolk, Va. - June 29, 2011 - A Norfolk-based team of dental professionals will be in Nicaragua in July to support an initiative to create the country's first dental hygiene program, at the Universidad Autónoma (UNAN) in Leon.

During the two-week mission, Gayle McCombs and Tara Newcomb, faculty members in Old Dominion University's School of Dental Hygiene, and Kendra Kleppe, a graduate student, will present lectures, develop curriculum and assess the country's dental hygiene needs, on behalf of Physicians for Peace, an international nonprofit headquartered in Norfolk.

"The more help and expertise we can lend to the project, the more successful it will be in the long run," said McCombs, director of ODU's Dental Hygiene Research Center and Dental Hygiene Graduate Program. "The main objective of the next mission is to present the curriculum to the dental school faculty and work with health officials as we move toward the implementation of the first dental hygiene program. A few years from now, I hope to be present as the first class of dental hygienists graduate."

The mission represents an important step forward in the program development at UNAN-Leon. Physicians for Peace also helped create a dental assistant program at the university; that program launched in the 2011 academic year. On the July mission, the team will help UNAN-Leon faculty, local dentists and Nicaraguan healthcare officials gain perspective on the long-term role a dental hygiene program might have in improving oral health in Nicaragua.

To schedule an interview with a team member, or to learn more about Physicians for Peace, please contact Mary Westbrook.


Physicians for Peace transforms lives by training, supporting and empowering healthcare professionals working with the world's underserved populations. Since 1989, volunteers have conducted medical missions in more than 60 countries. Find us online at http://www.physiciansforpeace.org and http://www.facebook.com/physiciansforpeace . Follow us on Twitter, Physician4Peace.