Diplomates Making a Difference: Gurinder Wadhwa, DDS, Oral Surgeon
Tuesday, May 31, 2022 - Gurinder Wadhwa, DDS, an oral surgeon who practices at Hometown Health Centers (HHC) in Schenectady, N.Y., is a champion of community health centers, the primary medical home for more than 30 million Americans.
Dr. Wadhwa believes these community-based “family doctors,” which can be found in 13,000 rural and urban communities, are an integral piece of the U.S. healthcare system, since they partner with hospitals, local and state governments, social, health and business organizations to improve health outcomes for the medically vulnerable.
After spending four decades as an oral surgeon in private practice both downstate and upstate, Dr. Wadhwa retired in 2017. However, in the fall of 2019, while teaching at New York’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel, he was lured out of retirement with a tempting offer.
“HHC’s CEO Joe Gambino, who oversees one of the region’s top-rated community health centers, contacted me to see if I could help them out,” said Dr. Wadhwa. “Schenectady’s Ellis Hospital had one oral maxillofacial surgeon, but he was retiring and the hospital planned to close its department. Joe asked if I could establish an oral and maxillofacial surgery care center within HHC’s busy dental department. The opportunity to impact the lives of inner-city residents was very appealing to me!”
Over the past three years, Dr. Wadhwa has focused his attention on turning the center into an asset for the region’s medically underserved. He has created two surgery suites within the dental department. He has also trained several staff members as surgical and anesthesia assistants.
“It took about a year to fully develop an oral surgery program from the ground,” explained HHC Dental Director Rory Schmit. “We were the first federally qualified health center in New York to have an oral surgeon, so a lot of development and coordination with New York State Department of Health was needed. Since then, we’ve continued to grow the program and services we can provide.”
Dr. Wadhwa and HHC have big plans for expanding the dental practice, which provides 17,000 patients annually with everything from primary and preventative dental services to surgical extractions and implant placement. This fall, the department will move into a vacant, nearby pharmacy.
“The new, state-of-the-art site will enable us to provide expanded oral maxillofacial surgery services to patients in Schenectady and surrounding communities,” said Dr. Wadhwa. “It will feature two main surgical suites and additional recovery rooms. We’ll also have more trained doctors with expertise in oral surgery.”
“Before Dr Wadhwa worked with us, our patients who needed oral surgery services were put on six-month wait lists or had to travel 40 minutes to the closest oral surgeon that accepted their insurance,” said Dr. Schmit. “As a result, patients were in pain for long periods of time or ended up neglecting their care due to frustration on access to care. Dr Wadhwa allowed us to treat patients in a timely manner and provide services to a community that had minimal to no options. Dr Wadhwa’s passion for helping everyone and anyone is contagious and really empowers all of the providers at Hometown!”
Editor's Note: This article is scheduled to run in the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery's summer newsletter, The Diplomate.