What is BMDC?
With a rich history extending back over 100 years, the Ben Massell Dental Clinic is a vital part of the fabric of the Atlanta community, providing life-changing health services at no cost to those unable to afford care. Since its inception, the Ben Massell Dental Clinic has relied on a force of volunteer dentists to give their time serving those who need care the most. Now, BMDC serves thousands of patients each year from 13 metro Atlanta counties, all of whom are within 125% of the federal poverty line and have no access to dental insurance. BMDC continues to provide comprehensive oral health services at no cost to patients through all-volunteer dentists, making it the only free dental clinic of its kind in Georgia.
Originally called the Morris Hirsch Clinic, the clinic was established by philanthropist Morris Hirsch to provide outpatient medical services to those who could not afford it. A dental program was added to the clinic in 1929, serving patients there for nearly 30 years.
In 1956, Dr. Irving M. Goldstein, a dentist and former Chief of Staff at the Morris Hirsch Clinic, and Dr. Marvin Goldstein, his brother and successor, recognized the need to move the dental clinic from its location in downtown Atlanta to better serve the target population. They enlisted the help of Ben Massell, one of Atlanta's premier builders and developers, who ultimately acquired a location on Pryor Street.
The clinic thrived in its new home for three years. But in 1959, urban renewal and eminent domain laws made it necessary for the clinic to move. Again, Ben Massell, with help from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, secured the clinic a new home, this time on 7th Street in midtown Atlanta, where it remained for 49 years. In honor of his involvement, assistance and financial generosity, the clinic was renamed the Ben Massell Dental Clinic (BMDC).
From this two-story, 2,000 square-foot facility, the staff and an all-volunteer dental force restored health and hope to an average of 6,000 patients each year for almost 50 years. It wasn't without its shortcomings, however. Two of the greatest challenges for staff and patients were insufficient parking and the lack of handicapped accessibility. Staff members often had to carry patients into the building and downstairs to the restrooms.
Additionally, in its latter years, the volunteer dentists were performing thousands of procedures with donated equipment that was outdated and worn. Even so, the clinic was honored nationally and internationally for its innovative model and for its dentists’ tangible devotion to accessible healthcare for underserved Atlantans.
In 2005, Gary Miller, former CEO of Jewish Family & Career Services, BMDC’s parent organization, took on the daunting task of bringing the clinic into the 21st Century to better serve its patients. For three years, he championed the cause to some of the dental world and community's biggest leaders. He enlisted the help of Cathy Selig-Kuranoff, granddaughter of Ben Massell, to chair the capital campaign that would eventually top $5.5 million in monetary and in-kind capital and endowment funding. The new BMDC broke ground on November 13, 2007, beginning renovations on an existing building at its current location, 700 14th Street. Construction was completed in October 2008.
Since 2008, the Ben Massell Dental Clinic has continued to offer caring and professional dental care to people in Atlanta who cannot afford it with the help of over 100 volunteer dentists and our wonderful staff.
Designed by architect Ted H. Taylor with consulting architects from Atlanta Dental and BencoDental, the current BMDC location features 16 treatment rooms that are outfitted with advanced dental equipment as well as two hygiene rooms, a large laboratory, x-ray room and sterilization area. Clients have the benefit of CT machines and digital radiography, wet and dry labs, and customized software that streamlines patient treatment and records, making BMDC a fully equipped dental clinic with state-of-the-art technology. See a full tour of the facility here.
This technology is extremely beneficial to our dental students who gain experience with new machinery and techniques. As a teaching institution, BMDC hosts dental residents, dental students from Dental College of Georgia, and dental hygiene students from Georgia State University. In addition to leaning from some of the best dentists in Atlanta, dental residents and students help address the dental demands of our community.
Through partnerships with Georgia Lions Lighthouse, MercyCare, and Urban Clinic of Atlanta, BMDC provides comprehensive healthcare including vision services, hypertension and diabetes screening, and cancer screening.
A lot has changed in 100 years of the clinic, but the dedication to serving those in need regardless of their ability to pay has remained the same. Expanding access to care and providing compassionate, quality oral healthcare to all Atlantans are the cornerstones of the Ben Massell Dental Clinic. With the help of our volunteers and donors, the clinic can continue this mission for another 100 years.