Volunteers from around the globe help Jerusalem's needy children at DVI clinic

#1 von Andy , 21.05.2011 12:56

We are trying to bring the world together'
By Stacie Crozier

Jerusalem—In a melting pot city where thousands of indigent children lack access to oral health care, the Dental Volunteers for Israel Trudi Birger Dental Clinic has spent 30 years focusing on its mission: "To prevent suffering of Jerusalem's indigent children and youth—of all ethnic and religious backgrounds—from physical and psychological pain by providing quality dental care and oral health education."
Dr. Susan Gross, shown with a DVI patient
Successful practice model: Dr. Susan Gross, shown with a DVI patient, admires the continuity of care the clinic is able to offer its patients.

All qualified children ages 5-18 can find a dental home in the free clinic that is staffed with Israeli pediatric dentists and team members, plus a constant rotation of international dentist volunteers. Since its founding, the clinic has treated more than 20,000 children.

Jerusalem's Social Welfare Service and at-risk youth centers refer patients to the clinic. According to Israeli government statistics, some 200,000 Jerusalem children live in poverty.

Before receiving treatment, children and their parents must participate in a preventive health care program provided on-site by the dental hygienists to learn about oral health and how to care for their teeth. The preventive program sees about 600 children and parents each month.

In 2009 the clinic provided 13,411 treatments for 3,353 children with the help of its staff and 141 volunteer dentists. DVI is also an authorized training facility for pediatric dentistry residents from Hebrew University, and about four residents switch out quarterly each year to serve pediatric dentistry rotations in the clinic.

Volunteer dentists treat patients five days a week for one to four weeks and pay their own transportation costs to and from Jerusalem. DVI supplies them with housing for themselves and a couple of guests or family members. Volunteers can use Fridays and Saturdays for sightseeing and vacation time. DVI staff members help volunteers to obtain a temporary license to practice in the clinic.

DVI fundraisers planned for November

New York—In honor of Dental Volunteers for Israel's 30th anniversary in November, American Friends of DVI will host two special events to raise funds for DVI.

On Nov. 8-9, the group will host a two-day continuing education seminar with Dr. Gordon Christensen. Participants will also have the opportunity to add on a day trip with Zev Birger, husband of DVI founder Trudi Birger, and DVI staff.

Since Trudi died in 2002, the clinic has continued its mission to provide free dental care to Jerusalem’s indigent children ages 5-18, regardless of race or religion.

The American Friends of DVI will also host an International Gala Dinner and Celebration Nov. 28 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, in conjunction with the Greater New York Dental Meeting.

"Our founder and inspiration was Trudi Birger, a Holocaust survivor who established the clinic that draws volunteer dentists from 34 countries and donations from worldwide," said Dr. Michael Goldberg, a Manhattan dentist, vice president of the American Friends of DVI and chair for the international gala.

"I have volunteered more than 20 times at DVI and can attest to the professionally rewarding experience it is. If we could replicate what happens at DVI on a daily basis in other areas, the world would be a better place. There are too few venues where people of all faiths and backgrounds meet toward a common goal. At DVI it happens every day."

For more details or to pre-register for either event, visit the website: www.americanfriendsofdvi.org.
"We make it easy for dentists around the world to come and volunteer," said Michelle Levine, DVI's director of international relations and development. "Everything is ready for them. All they need to do is come and focus on the dentistry. There are no concerns, no paperwork, and they can provide optimal care for our patients without consideration of cost constraints. Our clinic brings the whole world of dentistry together in a positive way."

Since it was founded in 1980, the clinic has drawn more than 4,500 dentist volunteers—more than half non-Jewish—from 34 countries in North and South America, Europe, Africa and New Zealand. Support from charitable donations comes from around the globe and finances about 95 percent of the clinic’s budget.

"A lopsided percentage of the free clinic's budget is composed of in-kind donations (which must be legally recorded in DVI’s budget), such as the time of volunteer dentists, as well as clinic supplies, which are primarily donated by Henry Schein Cares and other philanthropic companies like Premier USA," said Ms. Levine. "Thanks to this combined effort of dentists, industry leaders and private donors, DVI is such a cost-efficient nonprofit organization that every dollar donated makes an incredible impact."

"I get a little twang before I go," says Dr. Susan Gross, a general dentist in suburban Minneapolis who has made four trips to volunteer at the DVI clinic. "This clinic has such an interesting model. Patients and parents have a big responsibility to keep up with oral care between visits, or they can't continue as patients there. The model stresses continuity of care and all kids are treated equally. It's a peaceful and caring place in one of the most volatile parts of the world, and it’s very fulfilling to be a part of it."

Dr. Gross, who is Jewish, says she learned about the clinic from a Christian colleague who regularly volunteers there. "I know a little bit of Hebrew and I like to practice it when I'm there," she says. "The kids laugh at me when I make mistakes. I also enjoy exploring the cultural and religious activities there during my free time."

At home, Dr. Gross also teaches part time at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, working with residents in the general practice residency program. Her volunteer efforts in Minneapolis include serving on the dental board, the alumni association and the Give Kids A Smile committee.

"I know you don't have to get on a plane to help provide access to dental care. There's a lot we can do in our own communities," Dr. Gross added. "But at the DVI clinic, you're not involved in a short-term program. You're not just doing extractions or working in temporary facilities. You can immerse yourself in providing care. You're not wasting time and resources, because the staff here is organized and the program is well established. Volunteers can provide high-quality care and the children get continuity of care, no matter who is volunteering when they come to the clinic."

For the past eight years, Dr. Otice Z. Helmer Jr., a general dentist in Fort Worth, Texas, has observed a new tradition in celebrating Christmas—volunteering at the DVI clinic.
Season of giving: Dr. Otice Helmer and his wife Brenda have volunteered at the DVI clinic during Christmas week for the past eight years.
Season of giving: Dr. Otice Helmer and his wife Brenda have volunteered at the DVI clinic during Christmas week for the past eight years.

"I saw a little notice in the ADA News about 15 years ago," said Dr. Helmer, "asking for volunteer dentists to travel to Jerusalem. I cut it out and stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it. But it came to the surface again and I called. I explained that my office was usually closed for the Christmas holidays so that would be a good time for me to go, and they put me on the schedule."

Now, he and his wife Brenda make the two-week trip every year. Brenda helps DVI staff with the preventive program activities, gathering children and families, showing a dental health education video and passing out toothbrushes, while Dr. Helmer (known as "Dr. Z") works in the clinic.

"We have a big family gathering at Thanksgiving, but once we get on the plane for Israel, we are in work mode," said Dr. Helmer. "As Christians, we feel that because Jesus served others while he was on earth, he would support us helping children on Christmas day."

The Helmers will visit Israel twice this year, he added. "Since we've begun volunteering for DVI, we've made a lot of friends in Israel. In August, two of our friends are getting married, so we are going to attend the wedding. I told the clinic I could help out while I'm there, so I will be a back-up dentist if they need help."

Dr. Katzman
Dr. Katzman
Dr. Robin Katzman, a general dentist in Orlando, Fla., said from the time she graduated from dental school she knew she wanted to volunteer in Israel.

"After establishing a practice and raising a family, I was finally able to go for the first time in 2003," said Dr. Katzman. "It was a great fit for me because at least half the patients in my practice are children. I was doing exactly what I like to do."

Now preparing for her seventh trip this month, Dr. Katzman said her volunteer experiences "pick me up professionally and spiritually. My patients at home really love that I do this. It makes them feel good about their dentist and about dentistry in the U.S."

Volunteering for DVI, said Dr. Michael Goldberg, a Manhattan dentist, former dental educator and vice president of the American Friends of DVI, helps give him a broader perspective about international relations.

"I've been volunteering for DVI since 1984, and I have worked with dentists from all over the world," said Dr. Goldberg. "Last year, I worked with dentists from Norway, Finland and Chile. The clinic brings dentists from all over the world to treat children of all backgrounds. What we are trying to accomplish is not just helping children's oral health. We are trying to bring the world together—something that in Judaism we refer to as 'tikkun olam,' a phrase that means 'repairing the world.'"

Dr. Goldberg is also a firm believer in the practical benefits volunteering can have on a dentist's career.
Smiles: Dr. Michael Goldberg and a DVI patient pause for a photo before treatment begins.
Smiles: Dr. Michael Goldberg and a DVI patient pause for a photo before treatment begins.

"I say the best practice management advice I can give a colleague is to volunteer. Giving your time away makes you feel more entitled. It keeps your enthusiasm up. It keeps you current and energized."

Dr. Goldberg also spends time working to obtain charitable donations for the clinic through the American Friends of DVI. He is chair for the organization's international gala planned for November (See story, this page).

The clinic's mission has already come full circle, Dr. Goldberg added, since one of its past patients, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, is now one of its volunteer dentists.

Dr. Nedal Alayyan, a patient from 1984-93, now practices dentistry in East Jerusalem and has volunteered in the clinic since 2006. His story is profiled in a DVI brochure available to donors, potential donors and volunteers.
Dr. Alayyan
Dr. Alayyan

"From my first day at the clinic, DVI dentists were so kind to me, so concerned with me personally, inquiring about me, rewarding me with a gift they'd brought from abroad to Israel," said Dr. Alayyan. "From that moment, I knew I wanted to be a dentist—and especially to treat children with kindness and compassion, because children really need this extra level of care."

"Today, I treat many patients with Down syndrome who are rejected by other clinics—having learned from DVI dentists how patience, kindness and a gentle touch makes a profound difference," said Dr. Alayyan. "DVI dentists treat every child equally. Jewish dentists treated me with kindness. I will do the same with Jewish children. I learn to be a better dentist from so many dentists around the world—it's an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. I want to give back to DVI, but I end up still on the receiving end."

More information on the DVI clinic is available at the website, www.dental-dvi.org.il, and you can also find it on Facebook, YouTube and the ADA International Volunteer website.

To learn about other international dental volunteer opportunities visit the ADA International Volunteer website, http://internationalvolunteer.ada.org or contact the ADA Division of Global Affairs, 1-312-440-2726 or international@ada.org.

Andy  
Andy
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RE: Volunteers from around the globe help Jerusalem's needy children at DVI clinic

#2 von Andy , 21.05.2011 12:57

Andy  
Andy
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