By STACY MILLBERG - firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s been 37 years and Dr. Rudolph Schuster is still going strong and he plans to keep it that way.
Aside from a one-year residency at a rehabilitation hospital in Cleveland right out of college, Schuster began his career as a dentist in Orwell and has remained there ever since.
Schuster didn’t always want to be a dentist. As a physics major at UCLA in the 1970s, the recession played a big role in his decision to switch to a medical field, he said.
“It was a phenomenon that happened to a lot of science majors,” he said. “In the 70s, during the recession, it seemed like the medical field was the only way to get a job.”
Schuster said it was very difficult to get into medical school in the 1970s due to the high demand. He was fortunate to get in and has had no regrets in making the switch, he said.
“It fits me,” he said.
Schuster was born in Germany. His family immigrated to Canada and then to Los Angeles, Calif. Schuster attended dental school at Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill. and then ended up in Orwell.
He said it was completely by chance that he started his practice in the southern-most part of northeast Ohio.
Schuster said he and his wife were traveling through Ohio and Pennsylvania trying to find a location to start a practice. They came through Orwell and saw a space for rent. Schuster said when he inquired about the space, he learned of a dentist retiring and bought his practice and started up.
Schuster said there have been quite a few changes over the year, some good and some not so desirable.
One of the positive changes he has seen has been an increased improvement in children’s dental health within the Grand Valley area.
Schuster said he is now treating the children of children he treated years ago.
“Patients that I treated as children and had a mouth full of cavities, now their children have none,” he said.
Some of that he attributes to former Grand Valley school nurse Mrs. Nye, who organized a fluoride rinse program and first grade screening program with the two area dentists. Schuster said unfortunately, Nye retired, and the screening program was stopped.
Schuster said parents should begin taking their children to a dentist at age 3. At this point the children have all of their baby teeth and shouldn’t need any work so the visits are fairly pleasant, he said.
Schuster said there has also been a drastic change in demographics.
“Back in the 70s, people killed to get into medical school, but that trend changed in the 80s,” he said.
In 1983, the United States produced the largest number of dentists, he said. After that, the number of dentists graduating began to decrease. Schuster said 10 dental schools have closed since that time and many others have decreased their classes.
Today, for every three dentists retiring, only two are graduating and Schuster said he expects that to become even worse in parts of the county.
“Thirty years ago we all thought we would build a good practice and sell it to a younger dentist and retire,” he said. “Now, a lot of older dentists are working at a reduced pace either until they, or their equipment is broken and then they quit.”
Schuster said it will become noticeable to the general public in about five years when that large class from 1983 begins to retire.
“There will be a large number of dental practices retiring and they will just disappear,” he said.
Schuster said while the economy was good, there were so many other career choices that were more desirable to young people.
“I think young people think about it more when there aren’t a lot of choices,” he said.
Schuster said he plans to slow down a bit in the near future, but doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.