New Year, New Smile

It was scorching hot when Eugene Brown and his company were stationed in a Southwest Asian desert. Thirsty from the heat, he recalls contemplating between drinking contaminated water and dehydrating himself. 

“You could look at the water and see the little things floating inside,” he recounted. “We weren’t getting fresh water for about maybe two months.”

Eugene Brown in the clinic with his doctors
Eugene Brown (center) with his student doctor Madiha Sultan (left) and RSDM's Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs Michael Conte (right) at the clinic.

Sometimes in unsanitary conditions, other times under excessive stress, Brown put his nation’s needs over his health and served in the US Army for 24 and a half years both overseas and at home. He was an air traffic controller in Kentucky during Desert Shield and Desert Storm Operations. During 9/11, he was a supply soldier, working at airports and power plants as well as helping to reach for the bodies under the rubble. Those times took a toll on his health, and he has been turning to Veterans Affairs for his needs. But over the years, he experienced interruptions to his care and never found a dental home. Working as a security guard at Hyacinth, New Jersey’s largest and first HIV service provider, he heard about Rutgers School of Dental Medicine’s (RSDM) VETSmile program. With generous donations from The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey and Delta Dental, RSDM dental treatment to veterans.*

I was trying to get my teeth done,” said Brown, who joined the first group of patients in the program that launched in 2022. At the time, he was struggling to eat and consequently lost a lot of weight.

“He was missing a lot of teeth,” said Madiha Sultan, the student doctor on Brown’s case. Sultan is a Pakistani-trained dentist in RSDM’s Internationally Educated DMD Program. “I worked so hard to become a dentist. It is my passion, so when I moved here, I wanted to have this education to serve people,” she said. After a couple more extractions, Sultan is giving Brown full upper and lower dentures.

Soon, he will have his dentures and will start the new year with a new smile. The first meal he’ll have, he said, is going to be a steak. “I've been hungry enough.”  


*The program currently only accepts veterans from Essex County, and dental implants are no longer covered. For more information, please call Patient Navigator Tayri Leon at 973-972-4959.