by Arthur J. Crosta, D.M.D. '67
When Dr. Cliff Rigby graduated from NJDS in 1985, he had the same apprehensions as the rest of his classmates: Where would he practice, where would the patients come from, and where would the money come from to set up a new dental office?
For about a year Dr. Rigby worked in clinic-type facilities, after which the Monmouth County, N.J., native opened an office in Shrewsbury. In the beginning, he encountered the same problems many dentists face when starting a new practicemore open appointments than patients to fill them.
But Dr. Rigby had an idea that intrigued him for some time. If patients couldn't get to his office, he would bring the dental office to them in an ADEC mobile unit. "I always had an affection for the elderly and an interest in their special dental needs," he says. "I envisioned treating these frequently immobile and housebound patients as a way of meeting their needs and increasing my patient base."
Initially, the mobile unit sufficiently met the needs of Dr. Rigby's homebound patients. But about two years after beginning his mobile care, the dentist realized that many of these people needed more extensive treatment than he could provide in the home. He then moved to a new facility in Tinton Falls that is totally barrier free. "If a patient can be driven into the parking lot, we can get them to a dental unit for treatment," says Dr. Rigby.
Dr. Rigby continues to provide dental care via his mobile unit one day each week. While many who receive this special service are senior citizens, others are physically challenged or agoraphobic. Most of the treatment for these patients consists of limited oral surgery, palliative care, and removable prosthodontics.
From a business perspective, the mobile unit patients are tantamount to missionary work, since this treatment provides only about 10 percent of Dr. Rigby's income but accounts for about 20 percent of his time. From a human perspective, those percentages don't matter. "The grateful response of my patients and the satisfaction of providing this care to the needy makes it a truly symbiotic experience," says Dr. Rigby.
About five years ago, Dr. Rigby attended the GeriatricEducation Center in Stratford, N.J., a training program for interdisciplinary care of geriatric patients. Encouraging him to complete the course was Dr. William R. Cinotti, associate dean of the Office of Interdisciplinary and Extramural Programs, whom Dr. Rigby describes as "a good friend to me and the office." His interest in geriatric dentistry also was influenced by Dr. Yede Dennis, associate professor of clinical General and Hospital Dentistry, and Dr. Cheryl Biber ('78), whom he met while attending the center.
When Dr. Rigby needs an outlet from a very lovable but difficult dental population, he once again turns to the road. A triathlete and dedicated long-distance runner, in an average week he runs 25 to 40 miles, bicycles three or four times, and swims three times. He has run nine marathons, all since dental school, including those in Boston and New York. "I am very proud of my best time in the marathon of 3 hours, 20 minutes, which I achieved in New York in 1996," says Dr. Rigby. "I'm getting down there."
The athlete participates in four to six short-distance triathlons and has also competed in two full-distance triathlons. "I finished the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii in 1997 despite the 115° heat and a 40 mile-per-hour headwind on the cycling leg," he says.
With his dual passions of dentistry and running, Dr. Rigby knows what his priorities are. "I've given up about 10 hobbies, including golf and tennis, for lack of time," he says. "But I still have time to devote to my wife, who is a practicing attorney, and to my three daughters."