Dr. Jonathan Rothbart
May. 21, 2020

For Dr. Jonathan Rothbart, working the past 14 years at UNLV Dental Medicine has been a wonderful blend of three loves: dentistry, teaching, and the American Southwest. As he prepares to retire after a nearly 50-year career, he has multiple road trips planned and hopes to continue teaching.

Uncertain what to do after completing his undergraduate degree, Dr. Rothbart began teaching at a school in Massachusetts for students who had dropped out, but later returned to complete their education. He taught math, science, and a little music for approximately four years before returning to school himself in preparation for dental school at Boston University.

“I had an awesome experience at Boston U, which had been open for only a few years,” Dr. Rothbart recalled. “After earning my DMD, I moved to Philadelphia for my general practice residency, and began my private practice.

“I started teaching in the pre-doctoral programs at University of Pennsylvania and Temple University about one day a week. Then, a faculty friend encouraged me to start lecturing, which I was hesitant at first to do. However, I soon discovered how much I enjoyed it.”

For the next 24 years, Dr. Rothbart managed his solo practice in Philadelphia and taught part time for 15 of those years. Throughout that tenure, he took many trips to the south west portion of the country, exploring national parks, monuments, tourist hotspots, and roads less traveled.

“I fell in love with the Southwest when I was 15 years old,” he said. “When my kids were growing up, we traveled to Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and, of course, Nevada. Las Vegas is a terrific hub for hiking and visiting national parks. Once they were grown, I realized I wanted to teach full-time.”

Then during a planned trip to Death Valley, he decided to stop in Las Vegas and visit the newly opened UNLV School of Dental Medicine. Het met informally with a few faculty members who encouraged him to apply.

“When I arrived, I liked what I saw—there was a lot of positive energy and excitement,” Dr. Rothbart said. “I was hired in 2006 and began teaching in the general practice clinic. I always had an interest in dental materials and was later asked to teach the introduction to operative course, which was right up my alley. What’s more, we had permission to develop and try new things, which added to the excitement.

“One of the highlights of my tenure happened during my interview process. I was walking past an office and saw the name ‘Larry Zoller’ on the door. My anatomy professor at Boston University was Dr. Larry Zoller. Of course, he was the same person and we rekindled our friendship. It is certainly wonderful how the universe works.”

Some of Dr. Rothbart’s fond memories include working with Dr. Rhonda Everett and the students at the Huntridge clinic, establishing the grand rounds course with Dr. Rick Thiriot, and serving on the hospitality committee for the American Dental Association’s meeting when it was held in Las Vegas.

“One of the most gratifying moments for me is bumping into some of our graduates and learning how they’re doing,” Dr. Rothbart said. “It’s very heartwarming to see them bloom into competent doctors . . . it makes my heart feel great. That’s one of the best benefits of being a teacher.”

He acknowledges that retirement is bittersweet, but, in his own words, “it’s time for the torch to be passed.” He has multiple plans to travel, including a trip to see his children and grandchildren in Israel, touring Southwest on a road trip with another of his children, and exploring the Mississippi Delta with his brother to visit areas were blues music originated. He’s also working with a couple of UNLV colleagues in opening a chapter of the international dental organization, Alpha Omega, and hopes to continue teaching at some level.

And while discussing his retirement plans brings a smile to his face, he is even happier to witness a palpable change within the school.

“I am very encouraged with what I see as a new, positive energy blooming within the school under Dr. Garcia’s leadership,” Dr. Rothbart said. “It has the same youthful enthusiasm that I felt 14 years ago. Amazing.”