Oral Surgeon Chose Dental Career After Volunteering at Ben Massell Dental Clinic

November 02, 2021

Oral Surgeon Chose Dental Career After Volunteering at Ben Massell Dental Clinic

Dr. Michael Rosenthal loves being an oral surgeon. After graduating from Tufts University, he decided to go into healthcare. “I wanted to help people,” he said. “I like to interact with people and make a difference.”

When choosing his field, he didn’t always think of becoming a dentist. He was initially thinking of other forms of medicine, and then went to talk to a family friend. Dr. Joel Adler, who was an oral surgeon allowed Michael to shadow him for a day. He took him to the Ben Massell Dental Clinic where Adler volunteered. Instead of shadowing Joel for one day, as planned, Michael came back again, and again. At Ben Massell, Michael was exposed to the way the volunteer dentists, oral surgeons and nurses helped patients in need with their tooth pain and dental problems.

Michael went back to Tufts for Dental School and then matched at Emory Hospital for his residency. He joined a practice here in Atlanta, Northwest Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, but he never forgot about helping the patients down at the Ben Massell Dental Clinic.

One of the few dental clinic resources for people in need

Today, with Emory’s Dental School free clinic shut down, there is no other way for those in need to get dental care for toothaches and pains. Ben Massell Dental Clinic is the only place in a city of hundreds of thousands of people to provide this type of service.

“My ambition to be a physician in the first place came from a desire to give back,” says Michael. “I have a young family and am building my career. It feels like I’m going in a million different directions. But if I do have some spare time, it’s important to me to give back to those less fortunate and Ben Massell gives me that avenue.”

In addition to dealing with tooth pain, cleanings and other procedures, a full-time social worker on the clinic staff provides crucial case management and referral services to Ben Massell clients. Thanks to a collaboration with Mercy Care Services, clients can receive general health screenings for conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Also, through Georgia Lions Lighthouse, patients have access to eye exams and glasses.

Good for the patients and good for young dentists

The Ben Massell Dental Clinic serves another function for Atlanta as well. It has also given generations of doctors, nurses, and staff a place to hone their skills. “I’d say the biggest thing for me is the people. The education it gives students who are coming up now is profound,” says Michael. “Being able to instruct and teach the younger generation has been amazing. I loved that aspect when I was in residency. Letting dental students and residents matriculate through the Ben Massell program is great for their education.”

The clinic always has the best state-of-the-art equipment, due to partnerships with top dental equipment manufacturers. In fact, part of the clinic’s mission is to provide the most advanced dental care available to its patients.

As Michael puts it, “I’m able to help students learn the latest techniques and equipment. That’s one of the most rewarding parts of the Ben Massell Dental Clinic for me. I’m able to teach so much. They have full capabilities of everything a current office needs.”

In addition, the volunteers can work with top notch colleagues and staff. “In any clinic, the underlying infrastructure is what runs the place,” says Michael. “The staff at Ben Massell are phenomenal and well trained. It’s such a joy to work with them. They know where everything is and they can assist at such a high level. It makes any procedure just run that much smoother. And they’re the ones that really make that place work.”

It’s more than a place, it’s a passion

The dental provider community is a small community. It’s said that everyone knows everyone else. At Ben Massell Dental Clinic over 150 different volunteers come together to make the clinic work. Each volunteer is essential, and the Clinic is actively looking for more dental volunteers, as well as a full-time dental assistant.

“Whenever I have the chance, I call up and just say, can you get me in on the schedule? Sometimes it’s hard to find that time, but if you are passionate about trying to help, you make the time,” says Michael. “Anybody can make excuses, but it comes down to one morning session once a month. It’s a great way that we can come together as a community.”

“Of course, nobody wants a shot in the mouth. Patients aren’t always happy to see us. They are in acute pain or need some major work. So, nobody wants to come and just hang out. We know that,” says Michael. “But to take somebody who has little access to care; to help a dental-phobic patient; and get them out of acute distress and rehabilitate their mouth so they can function and smile comfortably again. That’s what it’s all about.”

“And every single patient that I’ve treated there, every single one, has been so appreciative and super sweet to treat.”

The Ben Massell Dental Clinic is open to adult residents of Metro Atlanta who go through a screening process. People who meet the criteria will come into the clinic to create a treatment plan. Once the patient’s health is stabilized, the clinic helps transition the patient to a more permanent dental home.

If you’re interested in volunteering, the clinic is currently aggressively recruiting more dentists to meet the demand for services in our community. Dentists volunteer a half a day or one full day each month to manage the case load. If you would like to learn more about being a dental volunteer, you can link HERE to our site.