Dr. David Ciesla, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma's College of Dentistry and a proud Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry (ABPD), embodies the spirit of service and innovation in the field of pediatric dentistry. His journey from private practice in Arkansas to spearheading transformative initiatives in Uganda showcases a commitment to addressing oral healthcare disparities, not only within the United States, but globally.

From Private Practice to Global Impact 

Ciesla's path to Uganda began through his service as a public policy advocate for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). Through mutual colleagues, Ciesla was connected to an early career dentist in Uganda who was searching for an opportunity to be further educated abroad in pediatric dentistry, as there were no dental programs available for him in his country. This connection introduced Ciesla to a much deeper issue in Uganda that affected many people beyond this one individual.


Images sourced from Uganda Partners at ugandapartners.org

A New Path & Uncovering the Extent of Dental Disparity in Uganda

Driven to help those in need, Ciesla leveraged his expertise and connections. Ciesla pursued a master's in Global Health Planning and Management from Johns Hopkins University, honing his understanding of healthcare access and workforce development. 

His dedication to increasing access to quality dental care for all intensified as he delved deeper into Uganda's healthcare landscape, uncovering alarming statistics: among a population of over 45 million, there were only 300 dentists in the entire country of Uganda – and only one pediatric dentist. Additionally, he learned of the many immense challenges in Ugandan dentistry, including limited resources both financially and materially, a lack of specialists within the field of dentistry, and inadequate infrastructure.

His graduate research culminated in a thesis on oral health in Uganda, which would lay the groundwork for actionable solutions.

Building A Sustainable Solution

Ciesla was not interested in temporary fixes, he envisioned making a long-term impact. Drawing upon his experience in academia and advocacy, Ciesla collaborated with partners like the Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) and the Christian Medical Dentistry Association to launch several innovative initiatives. 

Together, they conducted a successful summer webinar series, laying the foundation for a comprehensive pediatric dental curriculum tailored to Ugandans’ needs. Ciesla’s approach blends synchronous and asynchronous learning, which helps to ensure accessibility and effectiveness in a resource-constrained environment.

Images sourced from Uganda Partners at ugandapartners.org

Beyond Uganda: A Model with a Global Impact

Through tenacity and dedication, Dr. Ciesla's efforts now extend beyond Uganda. His work has inspired dentists in other countries to develop similar programs. His vision is to create a replicable educational model that can be implemented wherever needed by deploying teams to demonstrate clinical practices and provide hands-on training. By nurturing local talent and fostering collaboration with governmental agencies, he paves the way for long-term transformation in the global dental healthcare landscape. 

The Role of Board Certification

Reflecting on his journey, Ciesla acknowledges the invaluable lessons gained from his board certification and volunteer work with The American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. The high standards and systematic approach instilled by ABPD serve as guiding principles, ensuring quality care and professionalism across continents. As Ciesla continues to lead initiatives in Uganda and beyond, he remains steadfast in his belief that education is the most potent tool for effecting meaningful change. 

Additionally, through Ciesla’s involvement with ABPD as a volunteer, he was able to make valuable connections with other experienced board certified pediatric dentists who would partner with him in his efforts in Uganda. Many ABPD examiners, such as Dr. Timothy Fagan, Dr. Autumn Hurd, Dr. Mark Boone, Dr. Jim Coll, Dr. Scott Nieman, Dr. Tad Mabry, and Dr. Paul Bahn collaborated with Dr. Ciesla in providing content for virtual lectures on a non-commissioned volunteer basis, putting in countless hours of preparation to provide further education for Ugandan dental students.

Dr. David Ciesla's journey underscores the transformative power of collaboration, innovation, and compassion in pediatric dentistry. His work exemplifies the ethos of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, emphasizing excellence, compassion, and a commitment to service. Through his tireless efforts, he not only improves the lives of countless children in Uganda but also inspires a new generation of dental professionals to embrace the spirit of service and excellence. 

Images sourced from Uganda Partners at ugandapartners.org

Learn more about Dr. Ciesla's work in Uganda here.