Dentistry & Oral Health
Experience the rich culture and history of Ecuador's vibrant capital, Quito, located in the Andes Mountain Range, surrounded by volcanoes and impressive peaks. Here, oral health services are mostly offered in urban hospitals, and little priority is given to preventative care due to the shortages in both personnel and funding. Furthermore, lack of education on proper dental hygiene and the importance of regular check-ups results in patients going to the dentist only to seek pain relief or emergency care. Adding to the problem, most Ecuadorians grow up without adequate exposure to fluoride, increasing the rate of cavities.
Join Ecuadorian dental health professionals and learn about realities of providing dental care in both public and private facilities, including high incidence of cavities and tooth loss. Gain exposure to specialties such as oral surgery, pediatric dentistry and orthodontics. Witness firsthand how a lack of education on oral health issues and personnel shortages have resulted in Ecuadorean adolescents displaying the highest incidence of severe tooth decay in Latin America.
Take part in local efforts to improve oral health through health education. Help Ecuadorean dentists spread awareness about preventative dental care by engaging in educational workshops at kindergartens and primary schools. Screen for oral cancers in senior citizens and visit community centers and primary care clinics to advise expectant mothers on oral hygiene during pregnancy.
Become immersed in Ecuadorian culture and language through conversational and medical Spanish classes while living with a local family in Quito. CFHI participants may also organize weekend trips to destinations such as Tena in the Amazon region, known for its waterfalls and adventure sports like kayaking and zip lining, the town of Mindo and its subtropical forest, and Otovalo, an indigenous community with a bustling weekly market.
Clinical Rotations & Public Health Placements
Social Security Hospital- Located in the historic old town of Quito, this public hospital provides dental care to patients who are registered with the Ecuadorean Social Security program. Services offered include general dentistry, maxillofacial surgery, and dental prosthesis. The dental clinic counts with 9 professionals. Each preceptor will only oversee one participant. Assist local dentists with x-rays and oral exams and patient histories. Help provide prophylaxis treatment to patients in a variety of situations such as teeth cleaning, gum massage, and periodontal scaling. Assist local dentists with the removal of plaque, tartar and bacteria above and below the gum line.
Participants will have the chance to learn how to screen each patient for oral cancer and also act as an oral health educator, educating patients on proper tooth brushing techniques, flossing and rinsing.
Private Dental Office North Quito- Located in the northern part of Quito, this private dental office consists of 6 dental professionals . Services offered include orthondotics, endodoncy, and periodoncy and general odontology. Assist local professionals with oral cavity, take impressions and apply protective agents such as fluoride and sealants.
Primary Healthcare Center Dental Clinic- This dental clinic is part of an underserved public primary healthcare clinic and offers basic dental services such as oral exams and other services.
Oral Health Presentations- Participants may be asked to present at a local school or at the primary health care center dental clinic on topics such as proper tooth brushing techniques, flossing and rinsing. Activities may also include screening for early diagnosis of oral cancer for senior citizens or oral hygiene care during pregnancy. The local language school will assist participants in drafting a script for any of the educational sessions/presentations.
CFHI is considered a global health ethics leader therefore CFHI programs uphold strict standards and comply with all local laws regarding student involvement in health settings. Your experience on the program depends on your previous clinical training (if applicable), Spanish level, and the relationship you build with your supervising preceptor. Above all, YOU are the most important factor in making the CFHI experience as fulfilling as possible by being respectful, inquisitive, and open to the wide variety of learning experiences which you will encounter.
Quito is the capital of Ecuador, one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. It was founded in the 16th century atop the ruins of an Incan city. Today, this modern metropolis boasts a diverse population of about two million people. As the capital and economic hub of the country it attracts migrants from rural areas - mostly indigenous groups, as well as immigrants from neighboring countries.
Quito is nestled in a valley within the Andes mountain range, surrounded by volcanoes and impressive peaks. At an elevation of 9,000 feet above sea level, it is considered one of the highest capitals in the world. Due to its close proximity to the equator, the climate is spring-like all year long, with warm days and cool nights. Quito’s historic center is one of the largest and least altered in the Americas and one of the first world cultural heritage sites declared by UNESCO in the 1970’s. As the nation’s capital, it is a lively urban center with dancing, dining, historical sites, shopping and museums.
Things to Do
CFHI participants have free time during most evenings and weekends and may choose to organize weekend trips to nearby destinations and take part in cultural activities offered within Quito itself.
Within Quito, popular activities include visiting the “middle of the world” or the equatorial line, the famous Guayasamin art museum and home, and the historic city center. Quito is also served by various bus lines thus is an ideal jumping off point to see the rest of the country. Travel to the Amazon to hike, nature watch, and visit jungle communities. Closer to Quito and ideal for a day or weekend trip is Otavalo, a primarily indigenous town that has maintained its traditional way of life and is renown for its weekly market.
Accommodations & Homestays
Participants stay with homestay families, chosen and screened by the CFHI Local Coordinator and language school. Homestays are located in a middle class residential neighborhood in the northern part of Quito. They are located in close proximity to one another and the language school, allowing participants to walk to language classes and meetings with ease. In some cases CFHI participants may be housed with others in the same homestay, but will always have their own room.
Homestays provide a unique opportunity to learn about local culture and practice Spanish skills on a daily basis in an informal setting. Accommodation includes two meals a day and laundry once a week. At the welcome orientation participants will be instructed on recommended transportation from homestays to clinical rotations and getting around the city.
Eligibility: Who Can Apply?
This CFHI program is ideal for students who have a foundation in Spanish and have an interest in health and medicine in small town and rural settings. Non-students are also eligible. The program offers an overview of primary and secondary level care through visits within a hospital and primary care clinics, as well as Spanish language classes with an emphasis on medical Spanish. To confirm whether you're eligible to apply, please read CFHI's general eligibility requirements.
Minimum Language Required: Beginner 1 Spanish or Above
Beginner 1 Spanish: “I can speak a little and understand at times if people speak slowly and clearly.”
- I can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and simple phrases to get across basic needs.
- I can introduce others and myself. I can ask and answer questions for example where I live, people I know and things I have.
Leading this program on-site are our on-site partners (see Local Team tab), all of whom share Spanish as their native language, but may speak English as well. To provide authentic learning experiences translators are not provided. Daily interactions will be in Spanish, but CFHI’s local team is able to support and help you through your experience.
All CFHI participants applying to programs in Latin America will evaluate their Spanish language skills as part of their application. This information will then be shared with the on-site partners. Most important is your general ability to communicate verbally with those around you and to be proactive in speaking Spanish, versus accuracy with grammatical tenses. All CFHI Latin America programs include Spanish language instruction on-site.
Not sure about your Spanish level? View a full list of CFHI’s language levels for all Latin America programs on our Spanish Level Guidelines page.
Participants should arrive in Quito, Ecuador on the program start date and will be picked up from the airport by a CFHI representative and taken to their homestay. A welcome orientation will take place the Sunday or Monday after arrival.
Visas are not required for U.S. citizens staying less than 3 months in Ecuador. More information on travel and logistics will be provided by CFHI after acceptance into the program.
- Guidance from CFHI staff in San Francisco before departure
- Program-specific materials with information on making travel arrangements, visa requirements, recommended immunizations, etc.
- Pre-Departure training including historical, geopolitical, cultural, ethical and other need-to-know preparatory info
- Airport pick-up upon arrival and transportation to program site with local CFHI representative
- Welcome gathering and orientation with other participants covering safety, transportation, and other logistics
- CFHI Local Team: providing instruction, logistical support, and 24/7 emergency response
- Weekly lectures on global health topics related to oral health
- Placement and coordination of clinical/public health activities
- Accommodation, two meals a day, and laundry services once a week
- Spanish Classes: 35 hours/month of Spanish classes with a focus on oral health
- Local cell phone
- International emergency medical and evacuation insurance
- CFHI Alumni status- including ongoing global health educational offerings, news about global health educational/leadership opportunities and fellowships
- Post-Return program evaluation
- Access to CFHI alumni-only LinkedIn group featuring news and career opportunities related to Global Health
Uniquely CFHI, 50% or more of student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large and specifically underserved health systems. Read more.
Meet the Local Team
Dr. Carlos Ortiz- CFHI Medical Director in Quito. The role of the Medical Director is to arrange clinical and public health placements, supervise the participant experience at these sites, and provide instruction on healthcare topics during weekly meetings. Dr. Ortiz is the expert on socioeconomic determinants of health in the region and healthcare delivery strategies in low-resource settings.
Dr. Ortiz obtained his DDS/DMD degree from the Universidad Central del Ecuador. He also specialized in Endodoncy and Public Health Administration. He is the President of many local and national odontological societies (Colegio de Odonotologos de Pichincha y Chimborazo, Federacion Odontologica Ecuatoriano, Instituto Nacional de Capacitacion y Perfeccionamiento de los Odontologos del Ecuador). Dr. Ortiz, along with Ms. Rosa Tamayo, will help coordinate the clinical part of the program.
Rosita Tamayo - CFHI Local Coordinator in Quito: The role of the local coordinator is to organize housing, transportation, orientation and weekly meetings. Rosita is a great resource for any questions related to navigating the program locale, cultural norms and tips on planning weekend travel.
Rosita has served CFHI since 1998. Rosita is co-founder and owner of the language school that CFHI participants attend and also regularly hosts CFHI students from in her home. She participated in an intercultural exchange as a young student, and lived the United States for a year. Rosita graduated from the Universidad Central del Ecuador with a degree in International Relations. Rosita has a passion for volunteerism and supporting underserved communities.
"CFHI’s dental program provided me with an eye-opening experience that not surprisingly has impacted my future health education plans by inspiring me to shift focus and help underserved communities when I become a dentist. Volunteering at the clinics in Quito gave me better insight on the importance of global health issues. It was enough to make me eager to come back each day, excited at the prospect of learning and helping..." Read more.
-- Amanda Brijlall blog- , (CFHI Oral Health and Dentistry in Quito Program, January 2013)