Volunteer Appreciation Month: Ben Massell Dental Clinic

April 04, 2023

Volunteer Appreciation Month: Ben Massell Dental Clinic

We at JF&CS are deeply grateful for the work of our volunteers, without whom we couldn’t fulfill our mission to transform lives. April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and to celebrate we’ll be sharing stories about these incredible individuals. Stories will be posted here on the blog, as well as on Facebook and Instagram.

Today, we’re highlighting volunteer Dr. David Kurtzman at the Ben Massell Dental Clinic.

About Ben Massell Dental Clinic: For more than 100 years, the Ben Massell Dental Clinic has been changing peoples’ lives. Made possible by the work of over 150 volunteer dentists, the clinic is the only resource for comprehensive, quality dental care available at no cost to those who cannot afford it. With a holistic approach to overall health, we BMDC offers social services and health screenings to people who would not otherwise have access to these vital services. The clinic is also one of the most advanced dental training centers in the country for those entering dental careers.

Interview with Dr. David Kurtzman:

How did you decide to be a dentist? I was in college, looking into healthcare and dentistry seemed to be a good option.

How did you first learn about the Ben Massell Dental Clinic? When I was in dental school at Emory we did rotations through the Massell Clinic.

How long have you been volunteering with BMDC?

Not including dental school, it’s been 41 years.

Why do you choose to volunteer?

It’s a great way to give back. Ben Massell really gets to the heart and soul of dentistry. It’s a wonderful thing to have a private practice, but giving back in this way is what it’s all about. Dentistry has been very good to most of us in the field and this is a way to say "thank you."

Have there been any particular patients who have made an impact on you?

A bit about my background: I started working in hospitals when I was 17 years old. My aim had always been to help those who really needed it. After dental school I went into a residency to prepare for a career in rural healthcare. That didn't pan out, so I opened a general practice here in Atlanta that eventually turned to a practice serving a great number of people with special needs around dentistry- people with a great deal of anxiety, physical disabilities, people with autism- in a small, boutique sort of practice. I love working with people who aren’t mainstream dental patients. I particularly like that Ben Massell is run like a private office, with a great deal of dignity and respect for the people we serve, and people really respond to that. When you’re treating a person at Ben Massell vs a private practice, if you treat them the same they respond the same.

Do you find it to be rewarding work to restore peoples smiles? What changes do you notice in a person when they go from having dental problems to being problem-free?

Restoring peoples’ smiles is important, and of course it’s rewarding when someone has been missing teeth and we can help with that. That being said, I think that dentistry’s preoccupation of people’s smiles has done us a disservice. The mouth is an organ, and if it’s not healthy, the body isn’t healthy. My joy is not in making people smile; my joy comes from seeing the far-reaching effects of the return of function to the body once the mouth is healed. People who can eat again, who are no longer in pain, whose overall health improves. When mouths are healthy, a high level of security and self-respect returns to the person.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d love people to know that it’s a clinic which emphasizes health and self-respect for our clients. Ben Massell not only offers an active hygiene department and general dentistry, but we have surgeons, gum specialists, and other treatments. The clinic is staffed by active private practice dentists and specialists, and our services are of no cost to our clients.

Thanks again to Dr. Kurtzman and our other dedicated volunteer dentists at BMDC!