UTech, Jamaica Forges Ahead with Hands-on Oral Health Training in Spite of COVID-19 Pandemic

Ms. Antonette Cockburn (left), Clinical Instructor, College of Oral Health Sciences, demonstrates to Sidnei Laing, 1st year BSc. Dental Hygiene student, the proper technique to remove Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the University’s Arthur Wint Drive Campus on Monday, October 6, 2020.

Directives from the Government of Jamaica in mid-March, 2020 which placed restrictions on face-to face teaching and learning, has had far reaching impact on educational institutions across the country.  Given the emphasis on hands-on, practical learning for which the University of Technology, Jamaica holds a solid reputation, this new paradigm has posed challenges for both students and instructors.  Notwithstanding these hurdles, the University’s College of Oral Health Sciences which offers undergraduate courses in medical dentistry, dental nursing therapy and dental hygiene, has forged ahead by putting measures in place to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining its commitment to providing students with hands-on, practical experience.

In surmounting the challenges, Dean, Joint Colleges of Medicine, Oral Health and Veterinary Services, Dr. Mark Edwards, explained that among the mitigating strategies being employed by the College has been the utilization of several online platforms for didactic instruction, while dividing larger classes into smaller groups for face to face laboratory and preclinical lessons. Dr. Edwards also noted that some clinical requirements have been consolidated, while consideration is currently being given to students several patient-based procedures on models. 

Orville Johnson, BSc Dental Laboratory, year 4 student, examines a crown preparation during a lab session on Friday, October 2, 2020 at the College of Oral Health Sciences, UTech, Jamaica.

In facilitating practicals, the Dean advised that “we have also employed COVID-19 mitigation guidelines, which include the mandatory wearing of masks and face shields, temperature checks, hand sanitization, social distancing while on campus and reporting any health issues promptly,” adding that there has also been an increased emphasis on enhanced infection control guidelines.

The College of Oral Health Sciences is renowned as a significant contributor to oral health knowledge and practice in Jamaica. Students are exposed to the theoretical and practical application of dentistry and contribute to the provision of extensive voluntary, pro bono community dental services. The College of Oral Health Sciences at UTech, Jamaica offers the Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD), Master of Science in Dental Therapy, the Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene, the Bachelor of Science in Dental Laboratory Technology and the Diploma in Dental Assisting.

Community Outreach

Owing to a dramatic rise in positive COVID-19 cases in the Kingston Metropolitan area, and on the advice of the Chief Dental Officer and the Ministry of Health and Wellness, services at the clinic administered by the College at its Arthur Wint Drive campus have been suspended until further notice. However, in seeking to continue to serve the oral health needs of the hundreds of persons who seek care through the public clinic, Dr. Edwards has noted that there are plans to resume clinical services, following the successful implementation of air quality control and ventilation measures in the clinical space as mandated by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

With respect to the eventual resumption of other community service outreach activities, Dr. Edwards notes that “as we plan our re-opening of clinical activities and learning to live with COVID-19 safely, there is consideration to resume outreach activities,” adding that physical distancing will be maintained while allowing students to achieve their targets and clinical requirements in a timely manner.


Mr. Cleve Clarke (left), Clinical Instructor, College of Oral Health Sciences, oversees a class of 1st year BSc. Dental Hygiene students as they watch Akheel Baker demonstrate the proper handwashing technique during a lab session on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.

Academic Ceremonies

Annually during the months of October and November, students of the College of Oral Health Sciences are celebrated in academic ceremonies marking their respective achievements.   This year’s customary hosting of the White Coat Ceremony which celebrates the transition of dental students from preclinical to clinical years and the Hooding Ceremony which recognizes final year Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD) students, have also been impacted by the pandemic. Dean Edwards notes that the White Coat Ceremony will his year be hosted virtually, while the Hooding Ceremony will be delayed to allow students to complete requirements which were extended resulting from the loss of clinical time in the past few months.


Michelle Beckford (Mrs.)
Corporate Communications Manager
University of Technology, Jamaica
Telephone: 876 970-5299 
Email: mbeckford@utech.edu.jm