Valley orthodontist stands tall in mentoring city young people

Staff photo / Lily Nickel ... Dr. Moshood Martins, an orthodontist at Precision Orthodontics, demonstrates how he treats his patients with the help of one of his assistants, Janie Farkas of Fowler, at his Niles office. He also has offices in Poland and Salem.

YOUNGSTOWN — Right after his pre-game prayer, Moshood Martins was hit with a reality check while sitting on the bench waiting for his last game to start — he was ready to say goodbye to his dream of a career in the NBA.

Through a few tears, he glanced up at the jersey of his idol, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, former basketball player for the University of Houston and later the Houston Rockets, and came to terms with what was now the end of a childhood dream. Martins hoped to follow in the footsteps of Olajuwon and take his own basketball career at the University of Houston, a Division I school, to the professional leagues.

“There was a shift. I had a reality check, I needed to get something with a little more of a foundation,” Martins said.

That realization was in 2005, and now 16 years later, Martins is known to the Youngstown area as “Dr. Mo,” an orthodontist at Precision Orthodontics in Salem, Niles and Poland. While his career took a different direction, standing 6 feet 10 inches tall, he could easily pass for a professional basketball player at first glance, especially when sporting one of the many pairs of sneakers in his collection.

After graduating from the University of Houston, Martins left his hometown of Houston and went on to pursue a doctor of dental surgery degree from Howard University, and later a master’s degree in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics from Seton Hill Center for Orthodontics in Greensburg, Pa.

After graduating, he was offered a position running the orthodontics division of the North American Dental Group, which landed him in the “hidden gem” known as Youngstown. Living and working in the area allowed him to tap into another passion of his — mentorship.

Martins has been involved with mentorship programs in the area, including Big Brothers / Big Sisters, and has plans to start his own summer mentoring program for kids who want to pursue dentistry or orthodontics. In addition to his mentorship in the area, Martins has volunteered his time and dental services to those who have limited access to dental care in Uganda, Africa, and has donated $10,000 to the Flint, Mich., clean water initiative.

His mentorship has reached beyond the limits of his specialty, and he has made it a point to be a role model and advocate for minorities, both young and old. To his knowledge, Martins is one of the first African American male orthodontists in the area. According to a nationwide report produced by the American Dental Association, only 3.8 percent of dentists identify as African American.

“It’s a duty, I mean it goes beyond representation,” Martins said. “I believe there needs to be way more positive role models in this area. A role model doesn’t wear a cape; a role model is just someone who wants to reach society, and in turn changes lives.”

Martins has had multiple role models in his life, from ones he’s never met like Hakeem Olajuwon to ones that he had dinner with this week like Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown. One that sticks out to him was the University of Houston’s team dentist that allowed Martins to shadow him, which made Martins fall in love with dentistry.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have mentorship,” Martins said. “I had a lot of people that guided me and pushed me to tap into my full potential. Someone gave me that chance, and now it’s my turn to give back and that’s where I’m at right now.”

Martins uses his position as an orthodontist as an opportunity to connect with people, especially his younger male patients that have a desire or a passion, but no direction. One of his favorite success stories is that of the 22-year-old son of one of his former employees. He lacked direction and his mother came to Martins for help. Through Martin’s direction and mentoring, the son started his own cleaning business, and now the mother and son work together cleaning all of Precision Orthodontics’ offices.

“They’re local, they’re in the community, they’re active, and he’s looking at expanding to different businesses. It wasn’t about me; it was about him tapping into himself,” Martins said.

Martins does not approach each young person he mentors in the same way. He helps each one set up a step-by-step plan on how to achieve the goal they set together, but he said he doesn’t make it easy on them, and doesn’t describe his approach as gentle. He wants to mentor only those who are passionate about what they hope to do.

“I’m a little harsh, to be honest. I’m not apologetic about it,” he said. “It has to be a passion, it has to be something that you are willing to not sleep over, to lose your mind over. That means it’s your heart’s desire, and nothing’s going to stop you from getting it.”

To suggest a Saturday profile, contact features editor Burton Cole at bcole@tribtoday.com or metro editor Marly Reichert at mreichert@tribtoday.com.



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