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Star of Queens: Dr. Nicholas Rallis, volunteer, Free to Smile Foundation

BACKGROUND: Born in Greece and raised in Brooklyn, Dr. Nicholas Rallis, 51, moved to Queens in 1988 and began his dental practice in Bayside in 1990. He knew that he wanted to be a dentist since high school as he sees this profession as the only one in which a doctor “can see the result of your handwork, what you build for people, the before and after,” he said. “You can be a doctor and an artist at the same time.” He likes the fact that he gets to interact with his patients and feel the joy they express after a dental makeover.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Rallis’ friend is involved with the Free to Smile Foundation, an organization that offers free dental and surgical care to the underprivileged around the world. Last year, the foundation invited him to Guatemala to help treat people with dental emergencies. It was a shock, seeing how people live in mud huts with no roofs over their heads. He was touched by the experience, and this year, he went again to Guatemala, taking two assistants from his private practice with him. He led the team of 22 dentists, nurses, anesthesiologists and surgeons in their work in the city of Santiago Atitlan. He stayed there for nine days in the first week of September. The team treated about 260 patients and conducted 48 surgeries. They treated problems such as tooth pain, dental abscesses, cleft palates and cleft lips. These are not just cosmetic problems, according to Rallis. “Kids [with cleft palates or cleft lips] are usually undernourished because they cannot eat and cannot be fed even through a bottle as they don’t have the ability to create suction with their tongue,” said Rallis. “It is a challenge to make them get the nutrition necessary to make it possible for them to undergo surgery.” The organization works in other countries such as Tibet, Niger, Cambodia and Colombia, and Rallis is eager to volunteer again next year. “You see the need that is there, you can’t really stop going,” he said.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: “My family is my greatest achievement,” said Rallis. “I have a beautiful family, three wonderful children and a great wife.” He adds, “I am also the clinical instructor of the Mouth Rehabilitation Clinic at New York University. It is a prestigious position. It is a four-year continuous education course where we teach dentists, not students, from all disciplines of dentistry how to incorporate the various disciplines and become better clinicians. It is really fulfilling.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Both of them [family and position at NYU],” he laughs. “Things that you are good at are the things you have to work on the most, because you always want to strive to become better.”

INSPIRATION: “I had a mentor in dentistry who passed away,” said Rallis. “His name was Dr. Dan Ianniello. I just like the way he interacted with people and strive to be better at his work. He was very humble. I try the best I can [to emulate him].”

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