Looking Back on Time Well Spent
Ariel Steinberger, Touro College of Dental Medicine, ‘20
Ariel is part of the first class to graduate from Touro College of Dental Medicine (TCDM), the newest dental school in the country founded to harness advancements in digital dentistry for the good of the community. With school’s campus and clinic closed due to coronavirus, the 103 graduates of the TCDM’s Inaugural Class of 2020 will celebrate their historic commencement virtually May 19 before beginning residencies or joining private practices across the country.
Advanced Education in General Dentistry, NYU Langone (Harlem United), New York, NY
During the coronavirus pandemic, the thing that Ariel Steinberger misses most is his patients at Touro Dental Health, which for safety reasons suspended non-essential dental care to patients in April, while remaining open for emergencies. Ariel misses the relationships he developed with patients and the role he got to play in their overall health.
“I miss them all,” says Ariel. “I put my life into my patients, and I think we really grew together. Whether it was life-changing dentistry that improved their appearance and self-esteem, relieved their pain, or put them back together after years of neglect, or whether it was simple maintenance, I appreciate all our time together. I’m sorry that we didn’t get to say goodbye in a real way.”
While he will go on to treat countless patients in the future, he realizes that the extended time he spent with patients as a dental student was a rare privilege. “I’m never going to be able to sit for three hours with a patient,” he says of his time in clinic. “I have a deep connection with all my patients. I knew their families, the names of their kids.”
Ariel chose TCDM to ensure that he got an excellent education that remained true to his Jewish values. He took a chance on a new school—“The simulation lab was still in development, the lecture hall hadn't yet been built, and the clinic was a dream,” he says—and has been thrilled with the results. “No one really could have predicted the amazing program that TCDM would become. The faculty is incredible, the facility is gorgeous and above all else, the students are happy.”
He is looking forward to working with patients again while further advancing his education at NYU Langone in Upper Manhattan, treating vulnerable populations including patients with HIV and members of the LGBT community. He knows the immediate future will look very different from his TCDM clinic experience because of the pandemic, with new regulations and restrictions, and with logistics of opening still up in the air. “Dentistry is tough right now,” he admits. “But I am excited to get started, whenever that is. I look forward to serving the community and developing as a clinician.”
Even as details about the immediate future are not so clear, Ariel’s vision for the future beyond is bright. He sees himself building a practice where he can live out the lessons he learned at TCDM. “I want to be a dentist who is knowledgeable, well-read, and focused on the patient,” he says.
As for the present, Ariel is quarantining at his Queens apartment with his wife, now expecting the couple’s second child, and his 1-1/2-year-old son Yehuda. “This is a difficult time, but it is also a special time,” says Ariel, who watches his son full time while his wife works. “I’m very grateful to be able to spend so much time with him. He’s changing so much every day.”