Interview: “We are growing larger each year”

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Interview: “We are growing larger each year”

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Dr Renato Gullà is involved with many projects including IDEA. (Photograph: Nathalie Schüller, DTI)
Nathalie Schüller

Nathalie Schüller

Wed. 27. December 2017

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: With the third International Dental Exhibition Africa (IDEA) having come to an end in mid-December 2017, organisers and representative bodies are reviewing the event. Dr Renato Gullà, President of the Scientific Committee of IDEA, met with Dental Tribune Online in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to discuss how he first became involved in dentistry and the event’s success so far.

What is your background in dentistry and with IDEA?
I previously studied at the Lycée Guébré-Mariam of Addis Ababa and earned a scholarship to study in Reims in France. After finishing my studies in Reims, I moved to Rome in Italy and specialised in endodontics. It is my second year in Addis Ababa since my return. I moved here from Rome two years ago. I am an active member of the Italian Society of Endodontics and the European Society of Endodontology, a member of the cultural committee of the Italian Society of Endodontics and the Editor-in-Chief of the Ethiopian Dental Professionals Association.

It seems that you are very passionate about dentistry, since you are involved in so many different projects. Would you agree?
I am very much involved in my profession and love what I do. I am here today (at IDEA) because I had observed a lack of endodontists in Addis Ababa, and it is one of the reasons I moved back here. Endodontics was not really a specialty I had considered at first. Here dentists first provide care, treat cavities and even perform root canal treatments, but they use very old techniques. I believe the reason is the lack of many materials and products that are not readily available in Ethiopia. For example, endodontic treatment is now performed mechanically with rotary instruments, while the dentists here treat root canals with hand instruments.

Therefore, I am trying to share my knowledge of advancements in the specialty with my younger peers. I can say that I was initially apprehensive when I arrived here and faced the reality of how things are done in Addis Ababa. Now I am content. Despite the numerous difficulties, I find a lot of satisfaction in working with my colleagues here.

In Ethiopia, there are about 700 dentists for a total population of 102 million (2016). From what I have heard, it seems that there are many students wanting to study dentistry, but the main specialty mentioned seems to be orthodontics. Is that because of the income potential in the specialty?
That is true and it is something students have to overcome in their minds. There is definitely a need for dentists specialised in orthodontics, but I think the most difficult specialty and most fascinating in dentistry is endo. It is always a challenge. It is true that an endodontist cannot expect the same salary as an orthodontist or implantologist. In my opinion though, it challenges one a lot more and it is the basic treatment in dentistry. If one cannot perform endodontics, one cannot perform dentistry.

What is your relationship to Dr Arnaldo Castellucci, who was on the panel for the last day of IDEA?
Arnaldo is a friend of mine. I have known him since 1983, when I started following his lectures at the time. From the first lecture I heard, I was amazed by his presentations and the beautiful endodontics he was performing at the time. I have continued to follow him to this day. To me, he is one of the most valuable experts in endodontics in the world. I was honoured to hear that he had accepted the invitation to Ethiopia.

You will, I am quite sure, agree that any form of education in the field can only be an advantage and is requisite, if nothing else, in any medical field. Are dentists in Ethiopia required to take part in continuing education courses?
Continuing education is a requirement in Ethiopia, and education is indeed vital to keep up with the changes, progress and new developments in our profession. We should always strive to learn more and this applies to all areas of life, not just dentistry.

Did you seek to invite representatives from all sub-Saharan countries to IDEA?
We invited various African countries, such as Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and various representatives of dental associations in Africa and the main universities in Ethiopia. Next year, we intend to invite more African dental communities. We are still a young congress, and as we are growing larger each year, it will become easier and easier to get countries to want to be part of our event. The more visibility we have, the easier it will become. This is the first English-speaking African dental event, and this is definitely an advantage to make it a very important congress.

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