Dr. Lenny Bers of Maryland has been a DVI volunteer since 2011. You can count on him to return to the clinic every year for a week or more! We’re thankful for dentists like Dr. Bers who share our enthusiasm for the good work of the clinic. As an AFDVI Board Member, he champions both the clinic and AFDVI as we raise awareness and funds, and recruit U.S. volunteers. DVI is about caring for kids and the elderly, but it’s also a place that brings people together from around the world, and an opportunity to visit Israel. Dr. Bers has a great sense of humor and loves to write. Enjoy his account of a morning walk in the city of Jerusalem below.

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Dr. Bers pictured with dental assistant Bat Chen and their patient K.

There is more to the experience of providing expert care to the children and young adults at the DVI clinic than just the dentistry. The change of daily routine is really the thing that is most fun for me.

I first thought that writing about a day in the clinic would make a pleasantly interesting piece. The problem was that as I planned my writing, I had a wide set of thoughts and hadn’t yet stepped a foot in the clinic. Not a good morning or scrub change in the small storage area or a look into the first mouth of the day. I was standing in front of the long unused security booth near the front door and realized that my walk from the apartment had already made the morning special.

My normal work day in Maryland starts with a commute on three highways, arriving at my office before 8 to go over paperwork and charts for the day. Actually, that’s not true. It starts with a shower and an ear to the radio for the traffic and weather “on the eights” (if you’re not familiar with “on the eights,” ask a friend who lives in a BIG city). Is there a truck overturned on the Beltway or a tree down on the Parkway? Time to plan a “work around” so I can get to the office on time.

Patient care goes from 8:30 to 1 and then a quick lunch with more paperwork to complete before more appointments from 2 to 5. I take a couple of minutes to finish charts and make calls and then the home commute. That one is a killer! It easily takes twice as long if the weather is nice; add rain or snow or darkness and who knows how long my drive home takes. I’ve done it for over 35 years and it never gets any easier.

Now let’s change the scene to a day at the clinic. Still, I get up a bit early but it’s really only a quick pop out of bed to flip the switch which gets the boiler working for my shower. With any luck my iPad has been able to download mail overnight and I sit down for a few minutes to write to friends. I just have to remember that I’m getting up and they may not have gone to sleep yet. Before leaving the apartment, I grab some juice or yogurt and fruit, and pack a bag with a couple of essentials, though many days they’re a waste of time to carry, and I’m on my way.

Before I’ve left the apartment I hear the sound of my neighbors getting their kids out to school; every parent knows what is being said even if they don’t speak the language. I get absorbed in life happening around me…children walking to school and parents dropping off toddlers at day care. Buses and cars full of commuters and work trucks are going to their first jobs of the morning. I enjoy the simple smells of the flowers as I walk toward Emek Refaim and the noises of the city that I rarely have the opportunity to appreciate.

The truly special part of the morning walk to “work” is stopping at the bakery just a short walk from the clinic. I always laugh when I describe the morning ritual of getting a couple of small pastries and a coffee Americano, sitting at one of the small tables in front of the store and just watching the city happen in front of me.

Where else can you watch an open-air car wash working right in front of you and cars getting gassed up just to your right with people running into the quickie mart, or whatever it’s called, on the other side of the pumps? Just beyond, the morning traffic stays busy and the bakery has a constant stream of parents buying their kids a quick sweet before school and laborers and office workers getting their egg and veggie hoagies. What a great way to get your head together for the day.

Just before you get to the bakery, there has been a fascinating transformation I’ve watched over the years. Abandoned rail tracks, that previously served the main train station, were a first-class eye sore. The right-of-way passing through the attractive neighborhood was full of weeds and trash. To anyone who hasn’t passed it in a couple of years, it’s changed! The tracks have been paved between the rails for a walk. There is now a landscaped area on either side of the tracks with benches and tables which extend up to the newly rehabilitated train station. It’s just nice to have a quiet place away from the rest of the city to enjoy a morning bicycle commute or an evening walk after dinner without seeing buses or cars. A gem of urban renewal!

The final walk from the bakery down Mekor Chaim to the clinic is always better if I’ve met up with one of my fellow volunteer dentists. Those seven or eight minutes are great to share “notes.” Where’d you go last night? Want to meet up tonight for dinner? If you’re interested, want to go to…? Did you see the kid I saw yesterday with the…? Gossip!
I pass the men leaving the French synagogue and around the cars parked partly on the sidewalk, then I duck under the low hanging branches; watching not to step off the curb. I stroll by the school where the teachers are attempting to bring order to a yard full of boisterous students and finally get a whiff of the eucalyptus trees. I’ve arrived at my destination, the DVI clinic, with a few minutes to spare!

A commute perfectly timed and executed. A deep breath of the cool morning air and it’s time to get to work!

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