Reserve dentist honored for humanitarian work
July 25, 2011
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - The University of Pristina, Kosovo, recently honored an Army Reserve dentist from the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Coraopolis, Pa., for her outstanding humanitarian work while deployed to Camp Bondsteel.
Lt. Col. (Dr.) Elaine Berkowitz, dental and special projects officer in charge, received the award July 4 in appreciation for her accomplishments, significant contributions and support given to Kosovo.
According to Genc Rezniqi, a member of the Kosovo Figurative Artists Association, the award recognized the support Berkowitz gave the people of Kosovo with lectures, help and readiness.
She is always making an effort to help us, Rezniqi said.
Berkowitz said that of all the awards she has received over the years, she especially cherishes this one. “This honor is very important to me. I love this country and the people,” she said.
Camp Bondsteel, located in the southeast region of Kosovo, is home to the Multinational Battle Group East, part of the larger NATO-led Kosovo Force. MNBG E is a U.S. led battle group focused on maintaining a safe and secure environment and allowing freedom of movement throughout Kosovo. MNBG E Soldiers work and train with local security elements to strengthen and support the institutions in Kosovo.
In addition to providing dental care to Soldiers and civilians on Camp Bondsteel, Berkowitz has embraced the chance to make a difference for the country. She teaches civilians, including children, about proper oral hygiene, lectures at a dental school and has been giving continuing education to dentists and physicians.
Earlier this year, Berkowitz visited a Prishtine/Pristina satellite of the SOS Family Village, a home for orphaned and abused children, where she taught them how to brush and floss, and why it is important to care for their teeth.
"The focus on dental care is overshadowed in Kosovo," Berkowitz said, "I hope to try to get both the dentists and children to learn how important it is to emphasize proper care. I like to teach good habits - which is why I am teaching these children. It is going to take a long time to (reach everybody) in Kosovo, but this is a start."
Berkowitz, a 37-year veteran of the Army Reserve, has also donated tennis balls to a children’s tennis club and collected and donated warm clothing to needy children.
“Helping the people of Kosovo is important to me as I have made so many friends, both in the dental and medical communities as well as others in the arts and the regular every day people. They need our help and I am happy to give it,” she said.
When she is not serving her country in uniform, Berkowitz specializes in elderly and special-needs patient care in Pittsburgh. This is the doctor’s third trip to Kosovo since 2007. During her time there, she said she has learned a lot from the people.
“The people are rich in culture and know their history very well. They are interesting and beautiful. They have a difficult life here but stay because family is the most important thing to them. Some young people leave to work in other European countries but eventually they all return home.
“They deserve to be helped,” she said, adding that she intends to continue serving the people of Kosovo after she retires by returning for several months each year.
(130th Public Affairs Detachment contributed to this report)