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Harford dentist Jim Schall performed $8,000 of work on day off for man who was losing insurance due to coronavirus

Smile Partners of Havre de Grace dentist Dr. Jim Schall, left, prepares patient Lee Pucklis for a follow up exam during a visit Friday afternoon after some extensive dentistry work performed recently by Schall and his staff.
Smile Partners of Havre de Grace dentist Dr. Jim Schall, left, prepares patient Lee Pucklis for a follow up exam during a visit Friday afternoon after some extensive dentistry work performed recently by Schall and his staff. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Lee Pucklis had a problem. The coronavirus pandemic had cost him his job and, with his medical insurance expiring at the end of July, he didn’t have much time to get done some much-needed dental work.

Enter Jim Schall of Bel Air Smile Partners. When an appointment opened up July 27, Schall came into the Havre de Grace office on his day off, spending several hours working on Pucklis’s mouth and saving him thousands before his insurance expired.

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“I sincerely believe, he did it professionally, he did it in good will and fellowship. I really do,” Pucklis, 71, said. “He saved me close to $8,000 that my dental insurance absorbed.”

Pucklis lives and worked in Philadelphia, but is no stranger to Harford County, visiting often to look after and care for his 94-year-old mother. He takes his mother to different appointments, including dental appointments with Schall at Bel Air Smile Partners’ Forest Hill office.

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Since March, Pucklis has been spending more time in Harford County after he lost his health education job, a gighe had worked for the past 19 years.

“I test third and fourth year medical students regarding their behavior in a patient-doctor relationship,” Pucklis said of his job, which was affiliated with the National Board of Medical Examiners.

COVID-19 forced his dismissal. With classes being done online due to COVID-19, there were no students to do the live exams.

“Health education as well as general education has changed and we’re all trying to find out how best to handle this,” Pucklis said. The lost job was a concern, but the loss of medical insurance was a bigger problem.

“I needed dental work and what happened is, I’m down here and my mother’s dentist, I put a call in to [him],” he said. “Well, he couldn’t do much at first. All they could do, I could get my teeth cleaned.”

From that appointment, though, it led to a day in the dentist chair.

“When I told them, they created a treatment plan for me, which included nine crowns, a partial denture, two fillings, a root canal and two extractions,” Pucklis said. “That’s what needed to be done and I had four days to get this done before my insurance went out on me.”

Schall knew Pucklis from his trips to the office with his mother.

“Lee has been bringing his mom for years and he’s been talking about getting some things done and it kind of went on fast track once he lost his job with the COVID thing,” Schall said.

A big problem, however, was there was no appointment space at either the Forest Hill or Havre de Grace offices of Bel Air due to the backlog from May due to the pandemic.

But Pucklis caught a break. There was a cancellation in the Havre de Grace office July 27.

Pucklis got the appointment and he was scheduled for the root canal. Schall was scheduled to have the day off, but said he would come into Havre de Grace on and do everything he conceivably could.

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“He called me and I happened to have that Monday off, so instead of taking it off, I just went in and got one of my assistants and we just kind of helped him out that day,” Schall said. “Who wants to go to the dentist with a toothache? But you know what, that’s when you need the dentist.

“We spent the afternoon with him. It’s a lot. We got all that done in a day.”

Pucklis said he was in the chair from 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.

“He completed everything but the partial plate that I need because it takes time for my mouth to heal,” Pucklis said.

Schall also gave Pucklis a ride home, which included stops at a pharmacy. There, Pucklis ran into an issue with a prescription for an opioid that wasn’t filled. Pucklis said he‘d be back with his dentist and Schall came in and filled out the script right there.

“It was way beyond anything that I could have conceivably had happened to me at all,” Pucklis said of the whole experience.

Schall said he tries to take care of all of his patients the best he can.

“I try to treat most everybody how I want to be treated myself,” Schall said. “I just have a great staff and that’s one of things that makes it so easy. They’re really helpful, they really care, they do everything that I need, they do everything that the person in the chair needs. It really is just a nice thing.”

After 33 years as a dentist, Schall said he still enjoys his job and he likes helping people.

Pucklis is pleased as pudding. “This is Harford County, to do this,” he said. “It would never happen in Philadelphia. That’s for sure.”

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