Dr. Bobby J. Grossi’s commitment to oral health runs deeper than the cavities he fills.
After operating Gateway Dental at 5321 Gateway Center Blvd. for 10 years, the dentist has earned a reputation for quality, friendliness and even fun, a trait not often associated with his profession. When he reopens to the community as Grossi Dental and Wellness on Sept. 26 Grossi says he plans to continue the traditions that have made him and his staff popular with patients.
He’ll also maintain a devotion to encouraging others, part of a mission inspired by his grandfather.
The renaming announcement and 5 p.m. celebration will honor the city and Flint residents Grossi loves. A ribbon-cutting, prizes and a special welcome to guests who attend the 10-year anniversary observance will all be part of the festivities. Current patients and their families, along with the general public, are all welcome.
“In February 1994 my grandfather died of throat cancer when I was 21 years old,” Grossi says. “I told my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, ‘I think I might want to go into medicine.’ Now this is coming from a guy who’d focused on nothing but music for three years.”
Grossi’s unconventional path to owning a dental practice followed a career in entertainment and a flirtation with pursuing sports after he was offered a college scholarship. Today, along with overseeing a staff of 25 at Grossi Dental and Wellness, he is the author of two books – and possibly the most multitalented dentist in Flint.
Raised with two siblings and supported by his mother’s $24,000 annual salary, he envisioned more a financially comfortable adult life.
“It sounds like a statistic, but it is what it is. My dad was an alcoholic,” says Grossi, 45.
“My life was good, my life was a blessing” that he says included support from his grandparents. “But they would talk openly about not being able to pay the bills.”
By the time he was 18 he’d demonstrated the athletic talent to attract Central Michigan University’s invitation to play Division 1 baseball, but it was near that time that his grandfather became sick.
As part of an R&B singing group called Grae (pronounced “gray”) – “two black guys and me,” he remembers – Grossi turned his attention toward performing in the 1990s. He’d written 30 songs and frequented the same recording studio as Flint native R&B stars. Ready for the World and other acts that achieved success beyond the city, Grae even opened shows for major names like R. Kelly, but a contract dispute kept the group from being signed by a major record label.
The death of his grandfather, whose surname Grossi legally took and for whom the practice was renamed, nudged Grossi in an entirely new direction.
“My mission was to bridge the gap between dentistry and health,” he says.
He first enrolled at Mott Community College, later graduating from University of Michigan-Flint in 1998. While working a range of jobs at companies from Coca-Cola to a jewelry shop, he trudged forward, eventually commuting between Flint and Detroit where he graduated from University of Detroit Mercy dental school in 2003. He remembers lengthy days of functioning on two hours of sleep while balancing all his obligations with the needs of his wife’s and child.
Along the journey of building his dental practice, Grossi developed a passion for connecting with others and encouraging them to achieve against the odds as he has.
“My true purpose isn’t dentistry,” he says. “It’s kind of motivational and inspirational.
“My calling through Christ is not to drill teeth. My purpose is to change the lives of everybody I come into contact with.”
His book Your Destiny’s Not Hereditary: How Knowing Yourself Impacts Others is available at Amazon.com and promotes positive self-image and awareness of how individuals have the potential to influence entire communities.
“Too many people think because their dad was an addict they’re supposed to be an addict,” says Grossi.
Changing the Face of Dentistry, also available at Amazon, was written as part of Grossi’s goal to connect oral health with general wellness.
A lover of R&B and gospel music, Grossi says he “can still dance a little bit,” like he did when he and fellow Grae members shared the spotlight.
A quick glimpse of the Grossi Dental and Wellness Facebook page reveals his easy rapport and lighthearted approach with patients. More than 2,000 followers enjoy the page, with comments expressing fondness toward Grossi and his staff.
He describes his patients as mainly blue-collar, “good, old Genesee County people,” whose ages average 20 to 60.
Grossi enjoys giving to his fellow Flint residents, including the annual free dental day the office hosts on Saturdays every Thanksgiving weekend. Last year’s event donated $45,000 in services, he says.
He’s also training dental assistants to become certified in as little as 13 weeks through the Grossi Institute.
The Sept. 26 anniversary celebration will give away four spa packages worth $3,300, four dental packages worth $5,000 and a $75 “fire and ice” facial treatment.
Grossi hasn’t promised to dance at the event, but he hasn’t ruled it out, either.
“My biggest thing is just impacting others and trying to do the best I can,” he says.
“I’m kind of like the guy that’ll prove everybody wrong. If I fail it’s because of something I did, not because of something somebody did to me.”