Building Bridges to Peace Through Oral Health

This past Friday, I went to Philadelphia to participate in a symposium on “Building Bridges to Peace Through Oral Health.”  It was a fundraising event for the DVI clinic at Temple University’s Dental School.

Jerusalem’s DVI clinic is recognized as a model for delivering high quality care to at-risk populations.  This symposium was geared to examining such models in an effort to promote oral health in children. 

It is widely acknowledge that the key to cutting overall long-term health costs must include a preventative oral health program because oral health accounts for over $117.5 Billion a year or 4.2% of the national total health expenditure.  And, decay is the most prevalent disease in humans, affecting up to 90% of schoolchildren in industrialized countries!

Those who know me well know that I have a passion for helping people and building bridges.  Whether it’s between dentists and physicians through the Oral-Systemic Connection or between Israelis and Palestinians through the DVI clinic, I believe that my gift of being able to heal people might be used for something even greater; healing the World (what we refer to in Judaism as Tikkun Olam).  For me, this is the highest mission possible.

And so when my friend, Dr. Amid Ismail, the Dean of Temple University’s Dental School, invited me to accompany him on a mission to Israel and to a conference on Public Health in the West Bank (Nazareth), I immediately agreed. 

My being there will serve to help move ahead an agenda for developing a DVI-style internationally staffed volunteer program in Palestinian East Jerusalem.  It’s an ambitious program that could bring attention to the oral health needs of at-risk populations.

We’ll be going to The Hadassah University and Tel Aviv University dental schools, to an amazing new facility that cares for special needs children called Shalva and of course, to the DVI clinic.  We’ll be going to East Jerusalem to visit with Dean Musa Bajali of Al-Quds University Dental School and to the Makassed Hospital clinic, which we hope will be the home of a new international oral health program.

The reason I’m so excited about going to the Nazareth Conference is that many of the people in the Israeli and Palestinian governments and dental societies will be there.  It’s an amazing opportunity to fast-track this Dental Volunteers for Palestine program that will run in tandem with the DVI program and supported by the American Friends of DVI organization that is so dear to my heart (www.americanfriendsofdvi.org).

The mission (from May 13-18) will require me to modify my schedule.  I apologize to those of you who might be inconvenienced.  Our entire team including Doctors Gamzeh and Pastagia, and our amazing hygienists, Dushan and Sandra will be available to you during my absence.

I couldn‘t do what I do without all of your help.  I realize that and appreciate each of your contributions to my life both inside and outside of the office.  I share my success in these efforts with you.  I hope that you are as proud as I am that through Dentistry and the amazing network I have built over my 40 years in the profession I have been afforded the opportunity to help advance a global agenda for improved health and peace.

Thank you all for your continued help and support.

I wish each of you and your respective families a Happy Easter, a Meaningful Passover along with the good health and wellness to enjoy them.

Michael