Life On The Move: Dental Team Uses Virtual Reality To Revolutionize Humanitarian Aid

Life On The Move: Dental Team Uses Virtual Reality To Revolutionize Humanitarian Aid

Many people generously perform medical procedures in underprivileged communities, but one Utah team is revolutionizing medical humanitarianism by teaching these people to perform the procedures themselves — using virtual reality.

Changing the way we view medical humanitarianism

The Adams, Gladwell, Durham Foundation is determined to increase the effectiveness of foreign relief. Mark Durham, a prosthodontist who is part of the Foundation, believes a lot of medical humanitarianism ignores the true issue. He said, “The challenge on the planet today is there’s progress in some areas and a lack of progress in others which leads to problems for people —  humans, just like you and I.”

But how do you promote progress in areas of low opportunity? Durham said, “Largely what we’ve found is education is that solution.”This means simply traveling to underprivileged communities to perform medical procedures in their behalf isn’t enough. Fixing one person’s teeth helps that one person, but it’s better to teach that person to fix other people’s teeth. Not only will that person’s life will be improved by learning a marketable skill, but he will also have the ability to bless lives of others in his community through procedures and teaching.

Innovating access to education

However, a limited amount of people have the opportunity to receive the kind of education that would allow them to perform procedures themselves. Scholarships and education abroad can only reach so many people.


So the Adams, Gladwell, Durham Foundation created an innovative solution. Using virtual reality, they designed a program that gives students 

the opportunity to receive a lecture from a top doctor and then practice the procedure in virtual reality as if on a real patient. This program administers a top-level education at a fraction of the cost. Teachers in these communities can continue to use the technology to educate high quantities of students. The goal is to spark progress through education. “It’s an effort to teach them how to fish per say,” said oral surgeon Nathan Adams. “We want to teach them how to better care for their patients rather than just coming in and doing the procedure for them.”

This Fall, the team travelled to with NOMATIC to the National Dental College and Hospital in India to test their program. It was received with great enthusiasm.

Dr. Rohini Dua of the Department of Pediatric and Preventive Dentistry said, “Listening to a lecture, and then applying it the way virtual reality augments it, is really a different ball game altogether.” The team, as well as the students, have high hopes in this new way of administering aid. Adams stated, “We hope that this is a stepping stone into something much more robust, much more prolonged — to not only bless the people in India, but eventually all over the world as we attempt to change the way medical humanitarianism is delivered around the world.”

Why they do what they do

When asked why they would put so much effort in this project, Adams responded, “The reason we do a lot of the things we do especially in a humanitarian realm is because we believe we’re all a part of the same class, we’re all a part of humanity, we’re all in it together.”

But frankly, even though every human has the same value, everyone isn’t part of the same socioeconomic class. That’s why the work of the Adams, Gladwell, Durham Foundation is so important. Maybe, if every person is given the same education opportunities, someday we can all literally belong to the same class.