Flying over southern Nevada and Morocco, a person would be hard-pressed to note many differences. Both locations are barren, hot, dry, and scattered with desert vegetation. Perhaps that is one reason Dr. Greg Dumitru of Mesquite, Nevada felt so relaxed as he traveled toward his destination in Morocco.
The abject poverty, however, was something with which he was unfamiliar. Picturing Morocco in their minds, most people think of an austere and beautiful place surrounded by the Atlas Mountains. Visions of colorful marketplaces and native dress also come to mind. But the reality for most of the people living there is extreme poverty and a serious lack of basic services. “There is a layer of very wealthy citizens, but it does not trickle down to most of the population,” explains Dr. Dumitru.
Those in need have held a special place in Dr. Dumitru’s heart from the earliest days of his dental career. Straight out of dental school, he worked primarily on Medicaid patients before opening his state-of-the art dental practice in Mesquite.
But why Morocco? Dr. Dumitru met a man who would become his friend while on vacation in Zion National Park. As they were both riding a park shuttle to a hiking trailhead, Dr. Dumitru asked the man, “Where’s home for you?” The man replied, “Morocco and southern California.”
After a day spent talking and hiking together, a spark was lit that would soon give way to the dream of getting Dr. Dumitru to Morocco to serve the native Berber people. The dream grew and soon a friend from his church in St. George, Utah confided in Dr. Dumitru that he was dreaming of ways to start a clinic to serve the Berber people. “Through my church, I met a great group of people inspired to serve in challenging and forgotten corners of the world. I felt called to help people who were already ministering in places like Morocco by meeting their needs,” Dumitru explained. “I thought, ‘If we don’t go, who will?’”
In preparation for that first trip, members of the team met several times to prepare to enter an entirely different culture. “You experience people and circumstances radically different than in your own life. It is a chance to lead in a positive way, shining light in dark areas of deep need,” Dumitru said.
His first visit was an investigation into exactly what was needed. “We went to one village where the homes were made out of stones and mud, really like being transported back to Biblical times,” Dumitru said. “I was supposed to be leading a toothbrushing clinic, but not one of them had a toothbrush. They just used sticks that were frayed on the end.”
Armed with a small tacklebox that held a scant number of dental items, he ended up treating approximately 30 people the first night. “First, there was a kid with a bad tooth, then someone who had another problem. They have nothing and live in such pain. It broke my heart,” explained Dumitru.
With his list of basic items needed to minister to the needs of these humble people, Dr. Dumitru returned to the United States and began organizing. Today, he travels with a fully portable, mobile dental system, including a battery, hand drill, and specially designed, collapsible chair. Everything fits neatly into a backpack so it can be stowed in the airplane’s overhead luggage compartment. “It is all completely mobile at this point. I am working to establish clinics in partnership with other service organizations, particularly for the handicapped and street women – two groups shunned by the tribal society,” Dumitru explained.
“My patients and people in the Mesquite community really get behind what we do,” said Dumitru. “They always ask about my trips and when I might be going again. They can’t stop talking about it.”
Dr. Dumitru is a gift to our community and sets a wonderful example of caring and sharing. With his successful dental practice, he could stay home and enjoy the fruits of his labors, but he chooses to do what he can to help those who need what he has to offer. He goes to places no one else goes. Working to educate children and their caretakers means people – families – will learn to care for their teeth, enhancing their overall physical health.
When asked what someone who wants to help can do, Dr. Dumitru is quick to say, “Everyone can do something, whether in their own community, state, country, or abroad. Give back a portion of what you have been given. Share your gift.”
For more information contact Dr. Dumitru at Virgin Valley Dental (702) 346-3880.