CAF Story: Maj Mansour trained dentists in Afghanistan while under constant threat of attack

Video / January 6, 2017


At a young age, for whatever reason, I was drawn to dentistry. I went to U of T as a patient to have my braces done, and ever since then I was like, ‘I want to be like the guy who was treating me’. Yeah, isn’t that weird?

So when the opportunity came up, ‘hey we’re doing a mentoring mission in Kabul’, I put up my hand and said yeah, this should be really interesting.  A few months before we actually got there, they had actually had a dump truck that had run the gate and a bunch of Taliban had infiltrated inside of the base. So we had times when we were teaching and we would have to have other members of our team cover us. There’s always this fear, almost... you hear people talking about sleeping with one eye open.

We were there as educators to bring some kind of a course. So we had, you know, physician assistants and we had physicians, and we had all kinds of different specialties within health care that were there to make them able to provide care to their soldiers.

We actually had an Afghan National Security Force – or ANA at the time – Army dentist. He had the knowledge, they had the textbooks, but they didn’t know how to put them into practice. And he said to me, “well this is the first time I’ve ever seen a real x-ray”, and I said “what do you mean?” It was the first time he had seen an x-ray that wasn’t in a book.

We can’t train a dentist from scratch. The leadership decided that maybe we need to look at a mid-tier, that could do things like fillings, and start a root canal, take out an infected tooth; life-saving type of procedures that could be done. We had to have the Afghan dentists have a piece of this so we guided them and helped them and said ‘ok what do you think about this, how do you think about that?’. I noticed that they had a society that had individual dentists that were a little bit disgruntled. And so I just planted some seeds. And I decided, you know what, we have this continuing education forum, why don’t we talk about having this society. So I ended up hand-picking a female, which of course in Afghanistan is not something that is very normal.

What we started back in 2011 became recognized as a Fédération dental volunteer internationale, and they actually got status as the Afghan Dental Association. So it was a pretty nice moment to see that come to fruition.

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