Jimmy Kilimitzoglou was just 6 years old when he made what turned out to be the most important decision of his life.
“I had gone to the dentist for a filling. And when I came home that day, I asked my parents, ‘Does a dentist make a good living?’” said Kilimitzoglou, president of Stony Brook’s School of Dental Medicine alumni chapter. “They laughed and said, ‘Yes.’ Then I said, “I want to be a dentist.”
Kilimitzoglou ’02, a Stony Brook professor and Smithtown dentist who has donated $100,000 to establish three student scholarships and awards at the dental school, smiled broadly remembering his time seated in “the chair” getting a cavity filled back in 1983.
“I was amazed and impressed with the confidence, borderline arrogance, that the dentist was treating me with,” he said. “He had great posture. He was using his fingers in a small area – with all the technology and the fine little instruments. I was mesmerized and fascinated.”
Dental medicine, it would turn out, is ideal for Kilimitzoglou’s many and varied interests.
“For my personality, it was the perfect fit — because it’s the perfect combination of art, science, technology and psychology,” said Kilimitzoglou, who is a major in the Air National Guard and chief of dental services for the 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach.
The boundless energy Kilimitzoglou relies on to succeed at work plays into life outside the office, as well.
“I am very diverse in everything I do,” noted Kilimitzoglou, whose given first name is Dimitrios.
For instance, he’s a musician, but he doesn’t play just one instrument.
“I’m not a perfect guitarist, but I play guitar, bass, harmonica, drums. I sing. I write my own music,” Kilimitzoglou said, then added, “I like scuba diving, snorkeling and playing soccer. I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I ride a motorcycle.”
And most importantly, he said, he’s a dad.
“They look at me as if I’m their super hero,” Kilimitzoglou, 38, said of his twin 5-year-old boys. “Above all, my role as a father is paramount.”
Kilimitzoglou isn’t just a hero to his children. To his patients and to the Stony Brook dental students who call him “Dr. K,” Kilimitzoglou has been an inspiration with his approach to work and life, and through his generosity.
It wasn’t long after his graduation from dental school that Kilimitzoglou started giving back to the institution that he credits for inspiring so much in him.
In 2006, he established the Dimitrios Kilimitzoglou Pioneer in Dentistry Award with an annual contribution of $1,000 to Stony Brook’s School of Dental Medicine.
In 2012, he created an endowed scholarship fund with a transformative $35,000 donation, a gift that was matched by the Simons Foundation for a total impact of $70,000.
Kilimitzoglou recently donated $55,000 to create two additional endowed funds for an award and a scholarship.
Now, three Stony Brook dental school students each year will receive scholarships or awards courtesy of the Kilimitzoglou endowed funds.
“I love Stony Brook, I’m very proud of my profession, and I want to inspire people to excel so that they can make me proud and improve the school, the profession and the community,” said Kilimitzoglou, who noted the benefits of a strong family atmosphere and favorable professor-to-student ratio at Stony Brook’s School of Dental Medicine.
“It’s so rewarding to be able to give back and to inspire these young individuals. And hopefully, my enthusiasm can be infectious and they can do the same thing in the future.”
As a student, Kilimitzoglou worked tirelessly to increase his knowledge and to add to his skillset, said his mentor, former Stony Brook dental professor Dr. Mark Wolff ’81 and ’97.
“Jimmy was one of those students who always asked questions. He was never for a moment lazy and was always willing to work more, do more and research more,” said Wolff, Chair of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at New York University College of Dentistry.
“He really did his thing very well, both clinically and intellectually.”
Kilimitzoglou is still doing his “thing”— or things, considering all of his activities and responsibilities — very well.
When one of Kilimitzoglou’s regular patients was asked to name the best dentist, the man replied “There is only one dentist: Dr. K.”
“I want my patients to know I will take very good care of them. The biggest commodity that I have is trust,” Kilimitzoglou said. “When a patient places their trust in my hands, I won’t let them down, I won’t betray that trust.
“When my patients are in that chair, I look at them as if they are my brother or my sister, or my mother or my father,” he added.
Whether it’s because they’ve had a bad experience at a dentist’s office or because they have heard about bad experiences, many patients are afraid of pain, Kilimitzoglou said.
“I have a gift that I can use to take that pain away,” he said. “I can’t think of anything more powerful than that.”
With his generosity and his dedication to the profession, Kilimitzoglou is helping ensure that the community continues to reap the benefits of having excellent Stony Brook dental school graduates serving the public.
— Brian Harmon