Bernard Fialkoff, a dental implant surgeon and educator on opioid abuse, first witnessed the consequences of drug addiction in high school.
His friend, a star athlete, forfeited a football scholarship to play at Ohio State after being expelled for drug use. He received a second chance, but was soon expelled from junior college.
“It was my first introduction to the role of addictive drugs in destroying someone’s life,” Fialkoff said.
Fialkoff, of Roslyn, has operated a dental implant and cosmetic laser surgery office in Bayside, Queens, for over 34 years. In the course of his early work he noticed a lax attitude among his colleagues when it came to prescribing narcotics like Oxycodone and Percodan, he said.
“I realized there was a drug culture developing and I had to do something about it,” he said.
In 2006, he started a chapter of the international nonprofit Foundation for a Drug Free World. The organization empowers youth and adults with factual information about drugs so they can make informed decisions and live drug-free, according to a statement from the foundation.
Fialkoff estimated his chapter, which encompasses all of the Americas, has held 1,200 educational events.
“We go to schools, YMCAs, churches and synagogues educating people about the consequences of drug use,” he said.
In addition to the United States, the chapter holds programs in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and El Salvador.
“I’ve presented the program to the chiefs of staff of armed forces in both El Salvador and Guatemala,” Fialkoff said.
He has also worked on Long Island with Dr. Robert Trager, a Roslyn resident and the president of the Nassau County Dental Association. Together they have encouraged their colleagues to stay aware of the risks of narcotic painkillers.
Last November, Fialkoff presented a seminar entitled “Controlling the Drug Epidemic Worldwide” at the Greater New York Dental Convention at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan.
“I presented to about 5,000 dentists from around the world on how to do something effective and educational to stem the drug epidemic,” he said.
“The drug crisis is a global crisis.”
Fialkoff vowed to continue his advocacy but encouraged others to join him.
“This is not something that one person can do alone,” he said.