Paterson in the US state of New Jersey is a multicultural city with high unemployment. Many families here live below the poverty line. Although these families have national health insurance, parents often do not take the children to the doctor. They lack the time, resources and perhaps the necessary understanding of just how important regular check-ups are. “10 years ago Paterson was a disaster in terms of dental health”, says Dr. Robert Grunstein. Even when the dentist opened his children’s clinic there, he still lacked patients. “I wanted to help the children who needed help the most. Unfortunately, these are often the ones who are not brought to the dentist.” In order to help these children, Dr. Grunstein initially bought an old fire truck which he converted into a mobile dental surgery. “Smile Central Dental” was born.
Since Dr. Robert Grunstein bought the fire truck he no longer has to wait for children to make an appointment at his practice – he simply goes to them. For example, he and his team drive to schools where he explains dental hygiene with the help of a puppet show. In the back of the truck he treats minor problems such as cavities, which sometimes need urgent care. In more acute cases he talks to the child’s parents and advises them to come to his clinic. Children enjoy the playful way in which he discusses the serious issue.
However, the old fire truck is not the perfect solution for Dr. Robert Grunstein’s personal health: “Fireman never drive these trucks for longer than a few minutes – I drove it for hours”, says Dr. Grunstein. “Travelling in the truck was like riding a horse. Over longer distances it was simply too strenuous.” The fuel consumption and size of the truck were also simply too impractical. After extensive research he found the solution to his problems with the fire truck in a 2009 Sprinter 170 D. “That changed my life. Everything is a lot easier now. The fuel consumption and driving comfort in the Sprinter are fantastic. The difference is simply immense”, says Dr. Grunstein. He bought the former airport taxi from Orlando on eBay. To retain the fire service theme he not only converted the interior into a mobile practice, but also modified the exterior, as well. Now the Sprinter looks like a fire service command center. The Sprinter’s cargo area provides space for the dentist, the assistant and equipment along with up to 20 kindergarten children. Now that simply driving the vehicle itself is no longer a demanding job, he can visit more schools and treat many more children.
The Sprinter 170 D changed my life. Everything is a lot easier now. The fuel consumption and driving comfort in the Sprinter are fantastic. The difference is simply immense.
The hard work done by the dentist and his team pays off: Almost 35,000 children from Paterson are now his patients. “In the city of Paterson things really have changed since we started our program. I am very proud of that”, says Dr. Grunstein. But that is not enough for him: Last year he purchased a Sprinter 4×4. Now his team can easily travel into rural areas and set up temporary children’s clinics. Dr. Grunstein always follows his motto: treat every child like it was your own.