UBC Dental Hygiene Degree Program Welcomes New Director

Salima Alibhai, DHDP Director

The UBC Faculty of Dentistry is pleased to welcome Salima Alibhai as the new Dental Hygiene Degree Program Director.

Salima has always had a passion for preventative dentistry, education and finding ways to support underserved communities. After completing her undergraduate degree, she moved to Washington state and held various academic and teaching positions for 20 years. She received her Master in Public Health from the University of Washington in 2013, where she explored the barriers caregivers face in providing oral healthcare to vulnerable patients.

In 2015 the Aga Khan University (AKU) in Karachi, Pakistan, reached out to say they were creating their first-ever dental hygiene program and needed volunteers. For two years Salima travelled back and forth between Seattle and Karachi, helping Pakistan develop its first dental hygiene program.

In 2018 she accepted the challenge of directing AKU’s new preventative dentistry program, helping build it from the ground up alongside local AKU faculty and leadership, as well as global dental hygiene education volunteers and students from across East Africa. For five years her team worked to develop an academic program that had the capacity for long-term growth and sustainability, and that would train young professionals to bring their knowledge and skills to underserved communities across the region.

To date, this program has graduated nearly 50 students, many of whom have gone on to practice in rural and remote regions of Pakistan.

“The goal in Pakistan was to not only establish an academic program, but to also establish the dental hygiene profession because the developing world really has no model for preventative dentistry,” says Salima. “Pakistan has one of the highest rates of oral cancer in the world, so our work was building the country’s capacity to prevent and treat oral cancer and other diseases. By the time I left, we had partnered with other institutions and brought the program to the global level.”

Building on her experience in Pakistan, Salima is thrilled to lead the UBC Dental Hygiene Degree Program (DHDP), with the goal of building new, broader pathways for the program and forming connections on a global scale, including countries in transition.

“UBC Faculty of Dentistry is a powerhouse and our dental hygiene students go on to do amazing work in the community,” says Salima. “We’ve established ourselves on the provincial and national levels and now I want to take us to the international level by preparing our students to be global change agents. We want our students to understand how they can make a difference on a broader scale and feel confident in practicing in other areas of the world, including remote and rural locations.”

The DHDP is poised to work with global partners and communities, creating reciprocal connections and giving UBC students the chance to share what they’ve learned in their program with students across the world.

“My vision is really for the UBC DHDP to make an impact on a global scale,” says Salima. “These types of connections are about creating pathways to care and access that can be translated across countries. I’m really excited to be here and work towards this vision!”