For most of us, dental work is not at the top of our wish list. But for patients treated by Dr. Ihab Mansoure through Yad Sarah, a visit from the dentist could just be their greatest wish.
Mansoure, 56, who specializes in geriatric dentistry, attends patients throughout the southern region of Israel, from Be’er Sheva to Ofakim, Ashdod to Arad. But she doesn’t have an office — she brings the office to her patients.
A Christian-Israeli Arab from the old city of Akko, Mansoure performs critical dental work on the homebound on behalf of Israel’s well-known health and humans services organization. With her massive army-grade gray suitcase, her Romanian driver, British dispatcher and Russian dental hygienist, she shleps around the largest region of Israel with her mobile dental clinic. She has extensive equipment, from X-rays to drills, and can perform a vast array of procedures in-home, except for oral surgery. A dental MacGyver, she never says no to a patient in need, even if she has to rig a supportive procedure-ready chair out of a broom and a couch cushion.
She estimates about 99 percent of her patients are elderly, an often forgotten or neglected demographic. With an otherworldly empathy, Mansoure doesn’t treat only her patients’ mouths, she treats their overall condition.
She recounted some of the challenges she has experienced firsthand in watching her parents age. “I remember the first time I had to put my father’s socks on, he cried,” she said. “He didn’t say anything. He just cried.”
She intimately understands that her patients are struggling to accept their limited independence and myriad of health issues. She knows that this respectful understanding is the key to her success. As she says, “It starts from the mental state. If the head and heart don’t accept you, they won’t accept your help and treatment.”
“I always said, if every person gives a little, everything would be totally different.”— Ihab Mansoure
So how does a Christian-Arab female dentist from Akko who studied in Romania end up working for Israel’s premier health and welfare nonprofit in Be’er Sheva? She listened to the radio and to her heart. Fresh out of dental school, Mansoure was driving from Akko to Jerusalem when she heard the ad that would change her life. Yad Sarah, well known for its rehabilitation services, was opening a new dental services initiative and looking for volunteers. She called immediately, and for more than 20 years has been an integral part of the Yad Sarah dental program.
Mansoure started with Yad Sarah as a volunteer. One day a week, she would close her dental clinic in Rahad, a Bedouin town near Be’er Sheva with a population of 70,000, and jump in her Yad Sarah mobile clinic and serve patients throughout the south. After 10 years as a volunteer, she joined the organization full time. Today, she spends three days a week based in Be’er Sheva traveling around the south, two days at the Yad Sarah dental clinic in Jerusalem and her weekends at home in Akko.
Compassion, healing and volunteerism are obvious to her, an innate and significant component of her being. Mansoure repeats her life’s mantra: “I always said, if every person gives a little, everything would be totally different.” Yad Sarah is the last stop for those navigating services in Israel’s health care sector. Mansoure knows these are the people she is meant to serve: “I grew up in a house that emphasized the interplay of whomever haves versus whomever needs.”
As Mansoure recounts story after story of the special patients she has met along the way, one can start to feel a bit of what it must be like to be visited by this angel of healing. The respect she has for each individual, the empathy for each situation, and the care and compassion to solve someone’s problems is something that can’t be taught in dental school. Beyond the white lab coat and dental drill is a sensitive woman who looks you in the eye and listens to your soul. Mansoure is the rare dentist who patients look forward to seeing again and again.