The office, which exists on the ground floor of the Berkshire Apartment complex, looks like a typical dentist’s office. A “proudly accepts most major credit cards” sign hangs off the reception desk right next to a sign that begs “like us on Facebook.” Recent issues of Vanity Fair, Shape, Family Circle and National Geographic fill a small black plastic magazine rack. Two waiting patients watch the modestly sized, silver, flat-screen TV that is playing a promotional video for a cosmetic dental procedure.
The small waiting room smells like the Colgate Total samples that are stacked neatly on a shelf behind the desk.
American University students are familiar with the Berkshire Apartment that is a five-minute walk off campus on Massachusetts Avenue. Even if a student does not live in the building, he or she is more than likely to know someone who does. Those who have visited the Berks, the endearing nickname for the apartments the AU community adopted, have undoubtedly walked by the blue neon light reading “DENTIST,” which hangs in one of the windows in the front of the building.
Though the Berkshire exists as a social hub and an unofficial extension of the university’s undergraduate culture, not many are as familiar with the small office, Berkshire Dental Care, which operates alongside them.
Dr. Hassan Chehayeb used to live in the apartment complex in which he has been practicing dentistry for the last 18 years. Chehayeb, who was born in Lebanon, moved to the United States when he was 18 to study dentistry in Cleveland. After graduating from Case Western Reserve, he completed a one-year residency in St. Woke Hospital before moving to the D.C. area.
While living in the Berks, Chehayeb befriended an endodontist — a root-canal specialist — who practiced in the complex before he did. When his friend decided she no longer wanted to manage two separate practices, she sold her space in the Berkshire to Chehayeb and dedicated her time to her downtown location.
Nearly two decades later, Chehayeb continues to do business out of the office space, which is convenient for both Chehayeb who lives in McLean, Va., and also for many of his patients who either live in the Berkshire or close by.
“I’m happy with my business,” Chehayeb said. He has five employees and sees a dozen patients a day, though people who reside in the same building might not know this.
“The dentist is a little mysterious,” Abdallah Fayyad, an American University student and two-year resident of the Berkshire complex, said. “I don’t really know much about the dentist; actually, I don’t even know his name,” he said.
Though Fayyad is not sure if he would ever use Chehayeb’s office, he thinks the dentist and the other services the Berkshire offers — a convenience store that contains a café; and dry cleaning service, a small gym and at one time a hair salon — add character to the building.
Prashant Choudhary, another AU student and Berkshire resident, agrees. “I appreciate the amenities that the Berks offers us,” he said.
Helga Stwolinsky, a treatment coordinator who has worked with Chehayeb in his office for two years, enjoys working in the apartment building, part of which the university leases to students for off-campus housing.
“I always thought an established practice would have their own building, but I do think that they are pretty established here,” she said.
“It has pluses and minuses,” Chehayeb said. “I would rather be out in a separate building, but I see a lot of AU students and residents of the building,” he said. His location has serviced not only college kids but “embassy people,” too, local diplomats and ambassadors who live nearby in one of the many neighborhoods that ring the university in Northwest.
Chehayeb finds excitement in practicing in the capital. He understands that Washington brings different people in from all different places.
“It’s the most transient place I’ve ever been,” he said. “It’s a revolving door being in D.C.” With students coming and going, and more established professionals doing the same, Chehayeb has grown accustomed to an influx of new patients as old ones say goodbye.
“I just work, and work hard,” he said.