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Q&A with David Kliger

The cyclist, back-country skier and volunteer dentist talks about his experiences.

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David Kliger retired from professional dentistry and moved to the Salt Lake City area with his wife, a retired family physician. On his radar was a leisurely life of long, hard bike rides, arduous winter back-country skiing and donating his time and medical talent to help the area's less fortunate. Here's how that's working out for him.

Were you always into competitive sports?
When we lived in Yonkers, New York, I did biathlons for 30 years. At age 45, I got involved with the Century Road Club in Central Park, New York City. A friend and I would get up at 4:30 a.m. and ride 16 miles from Yonkers to Central Park, would race, and then would ride home again. We raced almost every weekend and went on group training rides every evening in White Plains or in Connecticut. I raced all over New England for years.

How did you get into dentistry?
Back in the '60s I was a pre-med student, but got caught up in the whole hippie, rejection movement, so I transferred from medicine and graduated with a psychology degree. But then I couldn't get a job, so I went back to school and became a dentist. I started out at my father's practice in the South Bronx in the '70s before starting my own. The South Bronx was notorious to the outside world for poverty and drugs, but I loved the diversity of the neighborhood. Our patients were black, Latino and Eastern European—many of whom were refugees.

What got you to move to Salt Lake?
I retired in 2007 and my wife and I would come to Utah eight to nine weeks each winter to ski. The Utah biking community isn't as big as back East, but we moved here because I really fell in love with back-country skiing. Also, I practice dentistry part-time as a volunteer at a nonprofit called Donated Dental on 9oo West and 13oo South, part of the Sorenson Unity Center. We serve low-income patients. I specialize in dentures and partial dentures for this community. I am very comfortable with this very diverse clientele, because they remind me of my patients back East.

Is it hard practicing after retirement?
I have two wonderful dental assistants. One is Mexican-American and a retired Navy veteran, and the other is Puerto Rican from Brooklyn who shares my East Coast culture. They help me do this.

Why do you volunteer?
I really am about people. I believe strongly in social justice. These are important values to me, especially now, accentuated by the current political climate. My father really loved his patients and I get a lot of this from him. I love talking with patients, learning their stories from Iraq, the Pacific Islands, Hispanic regions, everywhere.

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