Stories of Change

NSU Endodontics: Dental Volunteers for Israel

Trudi Birger founded Dental Volunteers for Israel (DVI). For a child, a dental abscess is excruciating. Trudi's dental clinic recovers young smiles. Dr. Ken Namerow directs NSU's endodontics program. "There's a desperate need for our specialty." Education is a gift. He and other NSU dentists pay it forward through DVI.

NSU's College of Dental Medicine provides international exposure. Postdoctoral students have done externships in Mexico, Spain and Portugal. For lessons in giving back, professors lead by example. Volunteer work adds a dimension beyond skills. Associate Professor, Dr. Robert Seltzer says "You're teaching students that there's an emotional value - a responsibility."

At DVI, need outweighs differences. "Arab women in burkas, orthodox Jews, Ethiopians all mingled together. Everybody has teeth. Children are children," says Dr. Namerow. Impoverished Israeli children get treatment. They learn about oral hygiene. "Parents are so grateful."

Dr. Grace Chu is an alumnus. Experienced professors attracted Dr. Chu to NSU. "I really wanted a lot of interaction with experienced faculty." Adjunct faculty member, Dr. Allen Helfer, enhances that opportunity. He serves as Chairman of DVI for North America. Dr. Helfer's background offers unique experience.

Dr. Helfer first came to DVI in 2001. Trudi Birger believed he could do more. In Israel, Trudi told him, "You know a lot of people." Dentists from all over the world volunteer. Root canals require specialists. Dr. Helfer said write out "a wish list." Then, DVI changed forever.

That week, during Dr. Helfer's last hour of work, news reached the clinic. Trudi Birger had died. Clinic Director Dr. Moti Moskovitz shared what Trudi feared most. "If she dies, this place closes," Dr. Helfer answered immediately, "That'll never be." He got Trudi's wish list. He inherited her mission.

NSU's endodontics program is well known. Dr. Namerow says "We're leaders in stem cell research." Quality is Dr. Chu's top reason for choosing NSU. She and alumnus Dr. Roxene Gascoigne volunteered for DVI too. Quality faculty inspires residents. Dental specializations are challenging. Volunteering renews the spirit.

"We do it for ourselves," Dr. Namerow explains. They save teeth. They restore smiles. At DVI endodontists are heroes.

Dr. Seltzer adds, "We're gifted. We're lucky. We have skills that most people don't have access to." He volunteered for DVI in 2009. NSU endodontics professors model more than academic and financial success. They measure success in smiles all over the world.