Manhattan Dental May/June 2018

The Doctor’s Dentist TM

May/June 2018

635 Madison Ave, 19th Floor New York, NY 10022 212-928-1000 www.MANHATTANDENTALHEALTH.com 117 Kinderkamack Rd. Suite 200 River Edge, NJ 07661 201-881-0660 www.MANHATTANDENTALHEALTHNJ.COM

How I Ended Up in Jail

It was Boston, 1973, and I was in dental school. Tufts had the reputation as the best school in the country, and I felt honored to have been accepted and to attend. Unlike many of my peers, I loved dental school. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard, but I loved what I was learning, and it was easy to see the light at the end of that long education tunnel, so the time just seemed to fly by. One of the things that set Tufts apart was the out-of-school affiliations it had. We had rotations in a VA-like “Old Soldier’s Home” where we removed teeth and did dentures, and at Boston City Hospital where we did extractions. We had way more experience doing dental treatment than students in dental schools do today. As part of our rotations, we also had to go to clinics throughout New England. We drew lots, and I got sent to a PRISON! I was selected to spend my time at Norfolk State Penitentiary’s dental clinic, where I performed dentistry on the inmates under the auspices of Doc Parker, one of the smartest and best dentists I’ve ever met. Doc Parker was a simple “country” Doc with a lot of horse sense. He reminded me a lot of Colonel Potter on M.A.S.H.

the road in Walpole was the really tough place made famous by the prisoner riots of 1972–73. The memory of such riots was fresh as I entered into Norfolk in the fall of 1974. Needless to say, I withheld this information from my mother in New York. After all, Norfolk had only 20 “lifers” while Walpole was full of them. I knew that wouldn’t be much of a consolation to her. I loved my six weeks in prison. It brought this 22-year-old, sheltered, Long-Island-native, Jewish dentist-in-training in contact with people I only read about, or saw on TV or in the movies. Bank robbers, sex offenders, and killers ... oh my! What impressed me most was just how afraid the prisoners, many of whom were drug dealers, were of little ol’ me. Many of them were twice my size and yet, when I gave them injections, so many passed out that I became an expert in reviving them. I eventually developed techniques that hid the syringe and facilitated an injection so painless patients didn’t even know it happened. Doc Parker was the first person who commented on the gift I had with my “special touch.” What I learned about human nature was eye-opening. Our dental assistant, Fred, was a lifer. No one knew what he did, but it must have been horrific. Yet Fred was, to me, one of the nicest and funniest people I’ve

ever met. He was respected by Doc Parker, the guards, and fellow inmates. It was clear that as his friend, I was protected too. No one started up with me. Though a lifer, Fred handled the scalpels and knives that we used in the clinic and those he used to do woodcarving. I learned that most inmates had jobs and hobbies. There was a Jail Store that sold goods to outsiders that were made by the inmates and served as sources of income that allowed them to buy things, such as cigarettes and candy. Fred made copies of Ethan Allen furniture. His stuff was beautiful and highly sought after. When I finished my 6-week sentence, Fred made me a mahogany name plate for my one-day-to-be desk. It was gorgeous, and I still have it. I treated some infamous criminals in the prison, including a member of the Brink’s robbery gang who committed what was considered the crime of the century. I made a set of dentures for Vinnie Costa. It was my first, and thankfully not last, experience caring for a celebrity! During the rotation of a fellow student six months later, I found out why Fred was a lifer. Fred was up for parole and was sent to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation. His file came to Doc Parker, who had to sign off on

Norfolk State Penitentiary was an intermediate security prison. The one down

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