A new Eastman Institute for Oral Health SMILEmobile will soon be rolling into town to provide first-of-its-kind access to people with special needs, including older adults, people with developmental disabilities and other medically complex conditions.
Unlike Eastman’s three other SMILEmobiles, which are more like trailers that are transported to city schools to provide treatment to students, the new unit will be a self-contained, drivable, wheelchair-accessible dental clinic. The other units are geared to treating children, but the new unit will provide services for adults, including dentures, partials, and space maintainers, in addition to the usual cleanings, x-rays, fillings, sealants, extractions and oral health education.
The Lobozzo Family Advised Fund of the United Way of Greater Rochester donated the major funding to build the custom designed unit. Joseph M. Lobozzo II, local businessman and founder of JML Optical, said he and his family are excited about reaching hundreds of Rochester area residents whose oral health care needs often go unmet because of various challenges, including lack of transportation and few providers who are able to treat patients confined to wheelchairs.
“This new SMILEmobile gives immediate access to a myriad of agencies, group homes, and special needs centers,” Lobozzo said. “Such accessibility has never been offered in Rochester and is rare in other communities.”
Access is an issue that’s very important to him. When he heard in 2005 about how a bridge would solve the frustrating challenge that faced many patients in wheelchairs who parked in the main hospital garage, and had to travel over snowy or muddy grass to get treatment at Eastman Dental, he provided the funds to make it happen.
“Every month when I arrive for a meeting,” said Lobozzo, who serves on the University of Rochester Medical Center Board, “the sight of the bridge warms my heart.”
“We are deeply grateful to Mr. Lobozzo for his generosity and heartfelt desire to help those in need,” said Eli Eliav, D.M.D., Ph.D., director of Eastman Institute for Oral Health. “Oral health care is the number one unmet health need among people with special needs. His gift will allow Eastman specialists to reach these patients in an unprecedented fashion, as well as to train the next generation of providers.”
For Lobozzo, who believes people with developmental disabilities and older adults have somewhat become marginalized throughout our country, he feels it’s imperative to give back. “For me, giving back always feels right, especially when helping those who need it most.”
The new SMILEmobile is being custom built and is expected to be on the road serving patients next Spring.