Harrison Spatz, 28, is a dentist at the University of Maryland who specializes in dentures. Starting July of 2021, he will be expanding his work with prosthetics with the Maxillofacial Prosthetics Fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer in New York, which he was recently accepted into. In this fellowship, he will treat patients with cancer or trauma and find prosthetic solutions for them.
Spatz, who is from New York, now lives downtown near the University of Maryland. He is involved in Chabad of Downtown.
How are you liking Baltimore under quarantine?
I’ve been here for about two years now. When I first came to look for housing, I met the rabbi [Levi Druk] who was very nice and inviting. Him and his wife invited me and my family to meet him and have Shabbat dinners.
I am a dentist resident, so there’s a lot more restrictions for seeing patients now, to keep myself and the patients safe. There are restrictions to drilling … and we wear masks, which makes it hard to communicate.
I imagine it’s already hard to communicate with someone when your hands are in their mouth!
Well, it’s a little more challenging these days. You have to speak up and clearly. To be totally honest, I mean, my sessions take a long amount of time and I see them on a regular basis and am in touch on how they’re doing already so it isn’t awkward. I know them well.
What got you interested in dentistry?
I like to paint, draw, sculpt. The specialty I’m in is making dentures for patients. It’s kind of like a mix of being a dentist and a sculptor.
What are some difficult patients you’ve dealt with?
We get some patients who have been wearing dentures for a while, and by the time they get to us, well, it’s a complicated case. So we need to explain to them a groundwork of what we’re doing and take things step by step. Sometimes it can be hard to help them understand where we’re coming from.
Name a time when you went outside your comfort zone.
Starting residency was kind of difficult at the beginning. There was a lot of self-teaching. So coming straight from dentist school, it was difficult to get my self-confidence up to what I was doing. Eventually I got the hang of it. Now, I actually teach in the dentist clinic twice a week, which I actually enjoy.
It’s like, see something, do something, teach something.
What do you do outside of work?
In my free time, I like to explore the city. It’s a little difficult nowadays, but I like to find new restaurants or explore the new places, like Ekiben in Fells Point. They serve Asian fusion chicken sandwiches, my favorite, there.
You blew the shofar for your patients?
Yes, this is the second year I’ve done it. The rabbi [Druk] asked me to last year. It’s really nice. There’s a few patients who can’t see their families or do anything like that now, so it’s something for them to enjoy the holidays.
What does your Jewish identity mean to you?
Oh. I think it’s a very big part of who I am in terms of personality. It influences how I am, the kind of people I am around. I try to go Chabad once a month, keep the cultural traditions as much as I can.