At the age of 6, Shamim Nabuuma experienced tooth pain and this was repeatedly treated with pain relieving tablets, however this was not enough to keep away the tooth pain which soon degenerated to a swollen jaw. Even with all that pain, her parents couldn’t afford to take her to the dentist. They however mobilized 5000 Uganda shillings and took her to a patent medicine dealer known to be an expert in dental extraction though not a dentist. “The man did not have any machine to remove the tooth and the process on top of my pain the sick tooth was broken half way. After the incident the pain became worse than I had and few days after I started bringing pus in my mouth, I could not eat, could not talk neither could I even sleep. Since the my home was thirty kilometers from the health center (that is Mbarara Referral Hospital) my father put me on his bicycle for all those kilometers on a bumpy road .I reached when I could not know anything .Actually when I reached other patients thought I was dead. On recovery I was told I was having cavities and that half broken tooth made the condition hard and more complicated” This experience shaped her desire to study dentistry and opening “Dental on a go”.
Shamim set up Dental on A Go as a merge between Community Dental and Reproductive Health, unlike other dental service providers whose target are the high class, town based population community, Dental On A go targets the low income earners and rural + peri-urban population (those who daily income is less than 1 dollar) . This service is also extended to Children in primary schools and pre- primary schools through a partnership with the schools, this partnership enabled children pay only 7500 Uganda shillings as part of school fees which caters for dental checkup and cleaning per term and per six months respectively. In cases where a pupil is found to have an extra need then the school stands in for pupil who gets the service on debt and pays next term. If the pupil drops out and fails to pay during the next term then the school is reliable to pay.
Merging Community Dental and Reproductive Health, Shamim and her team have added another segment of customers who are the organized women groups. Through strategic marketing, her team targets women groups teaching them about the dental scheme and those willing pay 25000 Uganda shillings (7 USD dollars) payable installments for the period of 3 months after which the team offers checkup and cleaning for them. In case the member wants extra services the same procedure is done as for a pupil fore mentioned. These groups’ services are offered at the places of comfort for pupils at school and for women at group meeting.
Dr. Shamim developed her passion from the conditions that encroached my teeth at a very young age and this makes her take saving lives as a more rewarding part of her job and also incorporates social good into her work by offering remember service to those who need dental services but do not have the upfront payment but can however pay installmentally. payment and getting services on debt. She has a vision to have a Uganda where everyone can access dental services whether rich or poor without being bared by either financial or distance barriers and for her this has to be achieved through putting up at least 5 mobile clinics and stationed clinic per district in Uganda. Although at a small scale business due to limited financial resources, Dental On A Go currently has 1 dental surgeon, four dentists, Four dental assistants, one lab technician, Four marketing personnel one administrator, One cleaner and a driver earn a living from community dental and reproductive Health.
The need to expand this business and the also to gain more knowledge on entrepreneurship led Shamim to apply for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme in 2018.. “I had heard about Tony Elumelu from someone at school, while they were arguing about rich men in Africa. On searching about him on the internet, I saw he was the founder TEF and that the foundation gives seed capital to entrepreneurs. I kept reading material about TEF till January when I landed on the call for applications from TEF and I applied since I was eligible.”
On March 22nd 2018, Shamim was selected on the programme as part of the additional 40 entrepreneurs funded by partners, UNDP and this she says came as a shock “Truth to be told I did not believe it since my name did not appear on the list that was put on the internet. After some few minutes I went on to check my portal and I found a congratulation message. I actually thought it was a mistake. I Wrote a message to TEF and went ahead to print the list out and count one by one and I found my name under the UNDP list. Since commencement of the programme, I have gained immensely from the training: The weekly tasks really help me a lot in refreshing my business management skills, have empowered me to learn that my product should not be very expensive or very cheap. During the weekly webinars I have leant a lot about how to manage my clinics.”
On future plans, Shamim and her team are looking forward to partnerships “Partnership is our major way to expansion, we started dental on a go, there after we partnered with community dental and reproductive health and in March 2018 we actually moved from partnership to merging. This gave us more coverage in terms of resources that is financial and non-financial like van for mobile clinic with this pace we hope to expand and cover the entire country.”
Shamim can be reached here