Conceptually based on working partnerships with communities and health services, the UNI Program represents a new approach in the shaping of health professionals. This initiative is strengthened by experiences collected via three main courses of action:
1. Teaching/care integration (IDA) or teaching/services integration (IDS);
2. University work in communities; and
3. The Primary Health Care Strategy, which promotes community participation in the services. Acknowledging the contribution of each of these strategies, the UNI Program encourages the articulation and equal representation of three essential components - communities, services, and universities - in the planning and implementation of its projects.
Previously, most efforts to increase community exposure in the training of health professionals were developed unilaterally by the professions of medicine, nursing and dentistry, with activities generally limited to only one level of care. Consequently, student learning was performance oriented and principally achieved in only a single level of care - occasionally primary but generally tertiary. The UNI Program recommends extending the training process to permit students to work as members of multiprofessional teams, focusing on interdisciplinary aspects of care on at least two levels - primary and secondary - in multiple work settings. The inclusion of appropriate referral networks at both levels is also encouraged.
For over fifty years, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has worked in Latin America, primarily granting scholarships and financial support to public and private institutional projects in the areas of education, health and agriculture. Emphasis has been placed on project financing as opposed to implementation. However, with the UNI Program, the Foundation has created new approaches for increasing its level of active involvement. Through this program, the Foundation invites interested institutions to participate in a group of projects defined by a common set of operational guidelines, while respecting each institution's autonomy in planning and executing their individual proposals. The Foundation provides consultation in various problematic areas identified by participating institutions, such as in matters involving project formulation and/or execution.
In early 1990, the UNI Program sent nine hundred letters of invitation containing the first version of UNI's Conceptual and Operational Guidelines to Latin American universities potentially interested in this group of co-related projects. More than one hundred and fifty universities responded with letters of intention and preliminary proposals. From these, fifteen were selected to meet with the Foundation's officers and consultants in three seminars, to discuss the Conceptual and Operational Guidelines, project needs and objectives, and various intervention strategies as well as technical aspects of implementation. After a period of on-site visits and ensuing refinements in the proposals, the fifteen projects were approved and readied for initiation beginning October, 1992.
As part of the strategy for follow-up in the UNI Projects, the Foundation scheduled several work meetings to discuss common problems affecting the group of projects. Most of these meetings were designed to be a of a multiprofessional character. However, the development of individual professional components was considered necessary as well. To this end, the first meeting of the dental component of the UNI Projects was organized in early 1993 as part of the Foundation's overall strategy to support implementation of the projects.
The seven day event took place in Argentina and was composed of two parts. The first, held May 2-4, was organized by the Tucuman National University (UNT). It was planned as a seminar and designed for discussion of critical subjects faced by the dental schools in the UNI Projects, especially regarding multiprofessional concerns and the UNI academic component. The most important themes were: the integration of basic sciences among themselves and with related clinical sciences and community work, integration of dental education with health services in community settings, and some of the related technological implications for dentistry. The second part, which took place in Buenos Aires on May 5-8, was developed in conjunction with the 7th Conference of the Organization of Dental Departments and Schools, of the Latin American Universities Union (OFEDO-UDUAL). The minutes of this OFEDO-UDUAL conference will be published in the future.
Two participants from each UNI Project including a dental component were invited to the seminar. As the host institution, Tucuman National University was granted a larger number of participants: four teachers, plus one representative each from the health services, the communities, and the students. Two additional representatives were invited from the UNI Project at University of the Frontier, in Temuco, Chile, which only recently created a School of Dentistry. Special guests were: Dr. Rafael Aponte, Director of the North-South Project in Oral Education; Dr. Carlos Martini, Director of the School of Dentistry at Puerto Rico University; and Dr. Thomaz Chianca, Executive Secretary of CEDROS Network from Rio de Janeiro Federal University. Drs. Mario Chaves, Jorge Izquierdo, Juan Bernal, Carlos Gigoux and Sergio Pereira attended as support consultants from the Kellogg Foundation. The complete list of participants, by institution, is shown in Table 1.
The meeting was cordial but disciplined, as reflected by the intensity and quality of work generated. The consultants provided introductory remarks which prompted informative group discussions and lively debates on participants' experiences in the development of their projects to date. Local arrangements for the meeting were excellent, thereby facilitating several experiences in addition to the main meeting. These included visits to the dental school, social service organizations, and selected communities.
We hope that interactions generated through this meeting will encourage ongoing communications and mutual support among the dental leadership of the UNI Projects. However, it is desirable that this process not be restricted only to meeting attendees, but that other teachers be included over time as well.
Furthermore, it is necessary to emphasize the multi- professional nature of the UNI Program, so that networking efforts among projects will be collectively directed toward building institutional relationships which meet the needs of all participating professions. In this way, it will be possible to address the expectations and needs of the three components included in each project: communities, services, and universities.
Finally, the kind invitation from CEDROS Network to publish a special issue of their Bulletin about this meeting received an immediate welcome from the participants and organizers of the event. This publication is the result of that offer. Accordingly, on behalf of the organizers of the first meeting of the Dental Professional Component of UNI Projects, we wish to express our sincere thanks to CEDROS Network and to all those who contributed in the preparation of the papers.