Three dentally minded brothers at Tufts University follow in their parents’ footsteps—on charitable missions all over the world.
ON A CHILLY JANUARY AFTERNOON in Boston, the twin contingent of the three Golub brothers arrive for a meeting directly from their third crown prep of the day at Tufts University’s dental clinic.
“Ben did a great job today—with the help of my suctioning,” says Zachary Golub, a 25-year-old doctoral student at Tufts Dental. Because they work on the same floor, Zachary can regularly assist his twin—who’s currently earning his DMD—with a variety of procedures. “A lot of patients are seeing double,” Zachary jokes.
Indeed they are: The twins sport identical burgundy scrubs and share a jovial demeanor and a strong desire to treat needy people who lack dental care, both in the United States and abroad. The desire to serve others, they say, is primarily the legacy of their dentist parents, Drs. Jon and Jamie Golub.
Zachary and Benjamin, though, were a little late to today’s get-together. By the time they arrive, their older brother, Dr. Michael Golub, 28—in the midst of his residency at Tufts—is already explaining how his parents met at the university more than three decades ago.
As Michael tells it, their mother, then known as Jamie Diament, had already sent her deposit to Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine when she met third-year Tufts doctoral student Jon Golub at an “interview social” for current and prospective Tufts students. He was evidently persuasive: She decided to switch schools, and the two got married not long after.
They have since maintained two practices—one ortho (his), one pediatric (hers)—that serve three towns in Bergen County, New Jersey. Their humanitarian work began a decade and a half ago when Columbia Dental (apparently having gotten over her slight) offered Dr. Diament-Golub the chance to lead service trips. Working with aid groups Kids International Dental Services (KIDS) and Health Care International, she has led as many as six trips a year—often accompanied by her husband or their sons—to spots as far afield as Guatemala and Cambodia. During a six-day KIDS mission to Mongolia with 13 other dental professionals in 2014, the elder Golubs helped more than 2,000 children get fluoride treatment and removed some 1,200 teeth.
Michael was a junior at Syracuse University when he accompanied his parents to Jamaica on his first mission in January 2011. The twins were seniors in high school when, the next year, they went to Guatemala with Mom and Dad on a KIDS mission. “We naturally gravitated toward dentistry,” says Michael, who made his fourth trip to Jamaica last year, “but we were still always kind of amazed at the fact that we went on these outreach trips and saw that you can take a person out of pain.”
The three brothers have made 14 trips among them. The humanitarian aspect of dentistry has become such a passion project, in fact, that that’s what they named their nascent advocacy campaign: On Instagram, the Passion Project (@jointhepassionproject) documents the siblings’ work overseas, highlighting the dental needs of poor communities around the world.
One particularly evocative moment was Zachary’s visit to Zambia last summer as a Tufts Tisch College of Civic Life fellow. One remote village he saw in the country’s south had just one dentist to serve 14,000 people. In a video, Zachary shows off his own makeshift “operatory” there: The patient sits in one green lawn chair, Zachary in another. There’s no electricity, just hand tools and some gauze on a wooden table. Flashlights and headlamps offer illumination.
“The last thing we want to do is go pull teeth and then leave,” Zachary says. “We want to build sustainability. That’s the keyword: Build a sustainable community that will function there long after we’re gone.” Equally important for that goal: prevention through education.
The brothers hope the Passion Project will one day grow into a nonprofit consultancy. Michael explains: If someone in a needy place wants to find American dentists to partner with, for example, “one of our goals would be to have connection with different dental schools and be able to connect faculty and students from a school to an in-country host.”
The twins’ more immediate focus, for now, remains their education. They and Michael aspire not just to duplicate but, naturally, to triplicate their parents’ work ethic at home and abroad. Michael is an orthodontic resident, and their father is an orthodontist; Zachary will soon take up pediatric dentistry, like their mother; and Benjamin plans to become an oral surgeon. “That’ll definitely bring a new dynamic,” he says.
That word—dynamic—prompts Michael, the wizened elder of the trio, to ponder what makes his clan special. “We have a good family dynamic and a good family chemistry,” he muses. “We like hanging out with each other. We like working with each other.” That’s the recipe for success, it seems: a desire to give back, and a whole lot of brotherly (and filial) love.