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Passing on the practice: Longtime Jim Thorpe dentist will be cutting back his hours during transition

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    Dr. Josh Debellas, left, is purchasing Dr. John “Doc” Fallabel’s dental practice on North Street in Jim Thorpe. Fallabel still plans to work at the practice in a reduced number of hours each week. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS

Published March 30. 2019 06:12AM


e’s no longer the man in charge, but don’t be surprised to show Dr. John “Doc” Fallabel still showing up for work.

The longtime dentist is finalizing the sale of his Jim Thorpe practice, but the 67-year-old Fallabel plans to work part-time at the office for at least the next three years.

“My back has been giving me issues for around 20 years, but it went out on me last January and I had surgery in July,” Fallabel said. “This will give me a chance to take a step back and still work, but take time off when I want to as well.”

Fallabel’s desire to cut down his hours paired perfectly with Josh Debellas’ job search. Debellas, a 28-year-old Tamaqua graduate, had left a dental practice in Minersville after two years and was looking for work, leading him to email Fallabel.

“Josh came on part-time in April of last year, and it really was kind of divine intervention with the timing of it all,” Fallabel said. “I was going out for my back surgery and he came in really right when I needed someone.”

The two, over the course of the past six months, worked on the sale of the practice, and the transaction is in its final phases. Debellas said the 3,000 to 5,000 patients of the practice shouldn’t expect any drastic changes.

“We’re not going to turn into one of those boutique practices or anything like that,” he said. “I’m just looking to continue what Doc did and keep this office very community-minded. I love this area. I’m from this area and I’m looking to give back.”

That’s not to say there won’t be any technological advancements or growth in terms of any new techniques that may pop up in the future.

“We’ll focus on what people need,” Debellas said. “Whether it’s a young person or one of our older patients, we’re capable of helping them and getting them the treatment they need.”

Fallabel opened his current location, at 1212 North St., in July 1977. Many of his current staffers have been with him over 20 years. Even the newest additions, he said, have over 10 years in the office.

“I take a lot of pride in what we have built, and I know Josh will continue that,” Fallabel said. “I think we’ve treated patients well. The time is just right. I’m 67 and Josh is 28, it just makes sense.”

A Hazleton native, Fallabel was looking to start a practice in that area when he pulled a note off a bulletin board at his dental school.

“There was an advertisement looking for dentists to help fill a spot here,” he said. “There had been no full-time dentist in Jim Thorpe for over 10 years, and I made the choice to come here. I opened an office at 421 North St., where I was for six years. I’ve been here ever since.”

For the first 20 years of his practice, Fallabel and four employees ran the office themselves before he brought in another dentist. After his last associate left, Fallabel handled the workload himself until Debellas came along.

From the time he was in high school, Debellas, a Temple University graduate, had an interest in dentistry.

“I had a lot of work done on me when I was younger from braces to some other oral surgery,” he said. “In high school, I actually worked as a doctor’s assistant and got a taste for it there. My family dentist also pushed me pretty hard to get in the field.”

Though he didn’t see himself owning a practice at such a young age, Debellas, who lives just south of Tamaqua, is eager to take on the challenge.

“Sometimes the stars just align, and that’s what happened here,” he said.

“There is a great potential to grow here. This practice can do a lot of good things.”

While he’s cutting down his hours in the office, Fallabel will still have plenty to keep him busy. The head volleyball coach at Marian Catholic High School, he plans to stay in that role.

“I also have eight grandkids, so they’ll keep me busy in the extra hours I gain,” he said.


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