NYU Alumni and Friends Connect

July 15, 2022

Providing dental care to members of an underserved community in New York City is one of the most rewarding career paths Mark Makiling (DEN ‘15) (he/him/his) could have asked for. After graduating from NYU College of Dentistry, he shifted from private practice to working for Care for the Homeless, an organization dedicated to providing healthcare for those experiencing homelessness across the five boroughs.

Mark Makiling

“I think NYU had a major role in the path I am on right now…Working with [people from underserved populations] and gaining that experience was extremely valuable and also put this type of work in my mind as something I really enjoyed,” says Makiling (DEN ‘15). While searching to reinvent his career path, NYU helped guide Mark in the direction of treating more vulnerable populations with the dental care that they needed. He took an elective course during his fourth year that sparked an interest in this field, and when he learned that NYU already had a relationship with Care for the Homeless he knew he had to apply to be a full-time dentist there. His work makes a tangible difference in this community by providing treatment to those who truly need it and often cannot find other affordable options.

Mark makes his patients feel comfortable and ensures he gives them the best quality of care, especially when much of their dental care might have gone neglected for far too long. The pandemic has opened his eyes to the vast demand in this field and he says, “[it] led to a lot of delayed treatment because of the shutdowns. Now we are seeing the repercussions of that as many cases of oral disease have progressed rapidly in the past few years.” He feels grateful that he can help people within this community all throughout New York City, and always recommends the best healthcare resources and any feasible, affordable options to them. Read further to learn how his time at NYU shaped him, and what’s next for Mark:

Tell us a little about Care for the Homeless and how you came to join them. What’s your favorite thing about being part of this organization?
Care for the Homeless is a non-profit organization committed to caring for those experiencing homelessness in New York City by providing healthcare to them in several different locations across the boroughs.

It was actually through my connections at NYU that I found them. After working in private practice for some time, I found myself looking for something different for my career. It turns out that NYU College of Dentistry had a pre-existing relationship with the organization and would send students to the clinic to provide care for the population as well. I was informed by a colleague at NYU that they were looking for a new full-time dentist and I immediately knew this was the type of path I had been looking for. So once again, NYU has played quite a major role in my life.

My favorite thing about being part of the organization is working with our patients. I get to work with people everyday who truly need the treatment we provide but often cannot find other options, and being able to give them the care they need is very rewarding. Working with my dental team to make our patients feel comfortable and give them the very best care we can is something I truly look forward to everyday.

How did your experience at NYU inspire you to work with underserved patients?
I think NYU had a major role in the path I am on right now. Working in New York City, we see patients of all different backgrounds, but there is definitely a large proportion of patients who are underserved and from vulnerable populations. Working with them and gaining that experience was extremely valuable and also put this type of work in my mind as something I really enjoyed. Additionally, I took an elective course during my fourth year called Program for Survivors of Torture where we provided care for refugees from around the world, which further fueled my passion for working with these populations.

Have you seen the need for dental services grow or change in any way, as a result of the pandemic and conversations around social equality? Are there other ways for patients in these underserved communities to maintain their dental care and access resources?
Dental care is always something that is greatly needed, especially for the population I work with. Oftentimes, patients are forced to forego treatment due to high out-of-pocket expenses in order to keep up with other perhaps more immediate needs in life.

I think the pandemic especially led to a lot of delayed treatment because of the shutdowns. Now we are seeing the repercussions of that as many cases of oral disease have progressed rapidly in the past few years.

I think government and healthcare providers need to come together in ways that can remove barriers to care for people, especially from vulnerable populations, and create more equity for all.

I actually always recommend going to dental schools, like NYU College of Dentistry, to people in underserved communities because it can often offer more financial flexibility and treatment plans for larger and more complex procedures in ways that private practices can’t always. Things like implants—which is the premium treatment for missing teeth—cannot be done at our clinic because we do not have specialists on site. Going to a place like the dental school can provide an opportunity for patients to get treatments like these at a lower rate because it is a teaching environment. Oftentimes, patients are completely unaware this is an option.

What’s one thing you haven’t tackled yet that’s still on your to-do list, short- or long-term?
In the short term, it’s mainly household chores and making sure our one-year-old doesn’t bump his head on anything…But in terms of long-term for my career, I’m currently working on getting my Masters in Public Health at CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy so that I can continue to expand my knowledge on the type of dentistry I do and learn how best I can serve my community.

Would you please share your most memorable moment(s) from NYU?
I don’t know if it necessarily counts as one “moment,” but the most memorable thing that happened to me at NYU is that I met my wife, Cheryline Pezzullo (DEN '15)—she was the same year as me in dental school. Definitely the best thing that happened to me at NYU—or anywhere really.

The world looks much different for today’s college students than when you graduated. If you could give one piece of advice to NYU’s newest alumni, the Class of 2022, what would it be?
I know Taylor Swift already gave some great advice at graduation, but I’ll try my best to follow that…Even though the world is much different than it was when I graduated, I think the advice I received on my graduation day still applies.

Take things one day at a time. Yes, of course you want to have a plan. But there will always be highs and lows, and it can all get extremely overwhelming if you get too far ahead of yourself. So take your time, don’t be too hard on yourself, balance your work and your life needs, and take on each day as it comes. You got this.