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Ask AIP: A Chat with Dr. Gruwell

We get it: sometimes, over the course of a procedure, you might not get the chance to ask all the questions you'd like to. While you may leave feeling confident about the answers you got about your periodontal concerns, you might still be wondering what Dr. Shuman's favorite color is! For that reason, we're excited to announce a new blog series called "Ask AIP." During the course of this series, we'll give you a topic on Facebook (in this case, the topic was our newest doctor, Scott Gruwell) and you can send us anything from minor musing to profound quandary related to the theme. We'll pick the most popular questions, and get you your answers in the next blog!

In this installment, we get to know Dr. Scott Gruwell a little bit better.

Tell us a little about your family and hobbies.

My family is the highlight of my life. My wife and I have been married for almost 19 years and our three kids (17, 14, 10) certainly keep us busy and out of trouble. My daughter is a competitive swimmer and high school championship water polo player. My boys love football, basketball, and soccer. We love a great board game and are really looking forward to trying out some of the great winter sporting activities that Vermont has to offer! Additionally, we love exploring new areas, taking road-trips together, and almost any outdoor activities. One of my life goals was to visit all 50 states and I recently checked my final box... Indiana!

You majored in humanities and minored in zoology at Brigham Young University. What made you decide to go into the field of dentistry and then specialize in periodontics?

In college, I loved art and ornithology, but switched majors several times, having no idea what I wanted to pursue professionally. My dad is an E.R. physician, so I decided to go to medical school.  After many long conversations with my dad, he talked me out of medicine and suggested I explore dentistry – a chance to combine both art and science into one job. In fact, I was part of a group of four guys all preparing for medical school. After really researching the careers, three of us decided to switch to dentistry.

As far as the specialty of periodontics is concerned, I can honestly say that perio was the only specialty I decidedly ruled OUT before dental school. During my undergraduate studies, I completed a progressive 3-semester pre-dental learning track. I thoroughly researched all aspects of dentistry and observed in the offices of many general dentists and specialists. Periodontics was just not for me.  Fast forward 4 years in dental school and I loved it. To me, it represented the specialty that focused largely on the biology of dentistry while combining aesthetics with oral & systemic health and medicine on an extremely detailed platform. I love details!

You said one of the highlights of your Air Force career was leading a 9-person team into the Amazon jungle to provide humanitarian service. Could you share details about this adventure?

My adventure to Suriname was a once in a lifetime experience. I was the only staff dentist leading a dental resident, 3 dental assistants, and 4 pre-dental students into the Amazon jungle as part of a larger Air Force medical team. We saw patients in 3 different mobile dental clinics we set up in the local elementary schools at Brokopondo, Klaaskreek, and Brownsweg.  Our entire mission consisted of about 14 days in country, but due to the logistics of setting up, tearing down, and traveling between sites, we were only able to see patients for about 8.5 days.

During that time period, the resident and I completed over 700 extractions and 1600 dental procedures, taking only a single 10 minute break for lunch each day. During the day, we had toucans and sloths in the trees above us, patients who showed up with pet monkeys and parrots, and even a poison-dart frog hop across the waiting room one morning. The evenings were spent on the banks of the Suriname river watching the piranha attack our leftovers we tossed in the river.

Looking back, it was definitely a difficult experience to articulate. To say it was humbling is an understatement… literally hundreds of people in line when you arrive in the morning, passing armed guards in the hallways, using a translator for every interaction, and knowing that no matter how much work you accomplish, it will simply not be enough. All-in-all, the people were exceptionally kind and thankful. It was an honor and privilege to serve this population, many of whom had never had the opportunity to see a dentist in their lifetime. I can't wait until I have the chance to participate in another humanitarian mission trip.

Thanks to Dr. Gruwell for sharing, and we look forward to answering more of your questions in the next installment of Ask AIP!

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