When Dr. John Scaramella, a dental surgeon, moved to the Santa Clarita Valley in 1978, there were only 18 others in his field.
Now, more than 40 years later, Scaramella has had the opportunity to work with hundreds of dentists who have come through the SCV.
While Scaramella has since sold his practice in December, he said he isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet, especially as his services are so needed in the current COVID-19 world.
After growing up nearby in Granada Hills, Scaramella said he watched the SCV grow, and looked forward to being one of the firsts in the dental field in the area.
“In 1979, when I opened my office, I was able to ride my horse to the back of my office, make my calls to my patients, then ride off — that worked out very nicely,” Scaramella said, chuckling.
Scaramella worked in the office suites of Santa Clarita’s first orthodontist, Dr. Alan Barbakow, on Lyons Avenue, where antique Western-themed memorabilia hung from every square inch.
When Barbakow completed another office, just as unique and only just down the road, Scaramella moved there, where he’s been ever since 1983.
Since then, Scaramella has seen Newhall transform from a ranch town into the bustling community it is today, though still he thinks it’s better today than it was back then.
Assisting the community where he could
In the early 1980s — before seat belts were widely used — Scaramella began working with Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.
“We had a lot of trauma in Santa Clarita, and we took care of all the facial fractures,” he said, adding that in addition to the car crashes on Interstate 5 were the crashes on sets at the nearby Indian Dunes filming ranch. “It was remarkable.”
These surgeries were usually done at night after a full day at the practice, and though that meant sleep was infrequent, Scaramella said it was definitely worth it.
“We helped the community, and that was nice,” he added. “Luckily, seat belts and airbags cut down on the amount of trauma.”
Scaramella continued to assist the hospital for 35 years, and still goes on calls here and there.
Another passion of his was teaching, as he’s also certified in both advanced and basic cardiac life support, along with pediatric life support, CPR and anesthesia practices, and enjoys assisting other local doctors and nurses in learning the trade.
“I’ve been teaching since 1976,” he said, adding that he’s taught at his alma mater, University of California, Los Angeles.
Finding his successors
It was during these teaching experiences that Scaramella met Dr. Alexei Mizin, a doctor of dental medicine, and Dr. Gary Landa, an oral maxillofacial surgeon, with whom he would teach courses — and they would later be those he would pass the torch on to.
“He’s a legend in our oral maxillofacial surgery societies because he’s taught a lot of people, so he’s got big shoes to fill,” Landa said.
Mizin agreed, adding, “The knowledge and the tradition he has and has shared with us, is (invaluable).”
They are expected to transition the practice to the name Newhall Oral Surgeons, and while neither are new to the field of oral surgery, they maintain hopes of continuing Scaramella’s philosophy.
“We’re trying to continue his philosophy of patients first, but also grow (our services) into the realm of maxillofacial surgery,” Landa added. “There’s a potential to serve more people.”
“He has an impeccable record and reputation as a practitioner, and we’re trying to maintain the same brand, if you will,” Mizini added.
Not yet ready to leave it all behind
Scaramella had been thinking about selling the practice for a couple years, which finally came to fruition in December, though he was unable to go directly into retirement.
“We have a great community here in Santa Clarita,” he said, adding that not only have his employees been with him for nearly 20 years, but also have his patients, with generations coming into the office. “That’s been the hardest part — I’ve been taking care of patients, and I’ll still take care of the patients I’ve been seeing for a long period of time. … I still enjoy what I do.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also made him all the more willing to stay and help.
“They have lots of infections that come into the hospital, so if they can come in here, we can treat them and that prevents them from having to go to the emergency room or be admitted into the hospital, which they don’t have any room for anymore,” Scaramella said. “There’s a small, little window, … so if we can take care of infections here and free up a hospital bed, that’s a much better thing.”
For now, Scaramella expects to go from working five days a week to just four, leaving some time for fishing, he hopes.