Giving back is as rewarding as ever for Dr. Jonathan Dubin, whose work at Georgia’s Ben Massell Dental Clinic has evolved from young volunteer to board member and mentor.
THE BEN MASSELL Dental Clinic in Atlanta has progressed by leaps and bounds since Dr. Jonathan Dubin started volunteering there in the 1980s. That’s a long time, but it’s hardly unusual for Massell volunteers. “If you do it once, chances are you’ll become a volunteer for life,” Dr. Dubin says.
About 150 doctors, supported by a talented professional staff that includes a full-time social worker, typically commit a half-day a month or more. Dr. Dubin also serves on the clinic’s board of directors, and he reports that working there is something the volunteers universally enjoy. “Once you experience firsthand the gravity of the need, and the gratitude in patients’ eyes, you realize it’s probably one of the most rewarding things you can do,” he says. “Let’s face it—if you don’t genuinely love dentistry, you won’t be doing it for long. As a volunteer, I get to do what I love for people in real need. Plus, I get paid in hugs.”
The clinic serves more than 200,000 financially disadvantaged people in the 12-county Atlanta area. It’s the only dental clinic fully staffed by volunteer dentists and offers comprehensive care in every specialty, from children’s orthodontics to endo and even single-visit crowns and bridges. That’s a far cry from the old days, when Dr. Dubin used to bring his own equipment to the two-story house donated by Atlanta real estate investor Ben Massell, from whom the clinic takes its name.
A vigorous fundraising campaign about a decade ago netted enough donations to buy and completely renovate a larger facility and thoroughly modernize the equipment with help from equipment manufacturers and dental suppliers including Benco Dental. “It’s as nice, or nicer, than most private practices out there,” Dr. Dubin says. In fact, the building was designed by architect Ted H. Taylor and is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold-certified thanks to its many green features.
For Dr. Dubin, some of the best moments are when patients “graduate” from the clinic after finding work opportunities that lift them out of the low- or no-income status required to qualify for services. That’s not surprising, considering he chose dentistry because of the largely positive outcomes doctors provide. “I considered becoming a vet, but I’d be a basket case if I had to put an animal down,” he says. “Surgery was on my list too, but I had a family dentist I admired, and dentistry satisfied my interest in health and science. Even when you have to give a patient bad news, there’s almost always a good treatment option.”
Dr. Dubin’s journey with the Massell Clinic recently came full circle, in a way. For years, he taught young docs performing their first root canals there—a rite of passage of sorts. Last year, he did the very same for his son Zachary, a recent dental-school graduate, who will no doubt follow in his father’s footsteps as a volunteer.
“I pay my bills and put food on the table at my practice,” Dr. Dubin observes, “but here at the clinic is where I feed my soul.”
To learn more about the Ben Massell Dental Clinic, please call 404-881-1858 or visit benmasselldentalclinic.org.