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New Faces: Benjamin Barborka

This dentist's tip for success is to avoid the temptation to take shortcuts since only persistence and hard work are going to get you where you want to be.

People  |  Feb 21, 2017  |  By Kevin Dunegan
Benjamin Barborka

Benjamin Barborka at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Creative Services)

Benjamin Barborka had considered becoming a dentist for years, but his first career was information technology. Today this alum, '13 DMD, enjoys teaching in UNLV's School of Dental Medicine and has a transmission input shaft on his bookshelf that reminds him to discover new ways to help his students master the curriculum.   


I had an amazing mentor in the UNLV School of Dental Medicine who inspired and motivated me. I enjoyed teaching during my first career and the decision to teach alongside my mentor was easy.

What about UNLV strikes you as different from other places you have worked or where you went to school?

UNLV School of Dental Medicine is a relatively new school. As a student, I was impressed by the inventory and use of high-tech equipment and teaching tools compared to other dental schools across the country. Now as an educator, I appreciate the interdisciplinary teamwork between the departments and the level of delivered patient care.

Where did you grow up?

 I grew up in Idaho, Colorado, and Utah.

What inspired you to get into your field?

My uncle is a dentist and my mom is a dental assistant. Growing up, dentistry seemed like a good career that would enable me to help people and provide a comfortable family lifestyle.

What is the biggest challenge in your field?

The biggest challenge in my field is student debt. The cost of higher education in general has risen exponentially, but dental and medical schools are particularly expensive. Many graduates face debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars compounded with high interest rates. The debt burden limits the traditional private practice/solo practice opportunities for new graduates.

Tell us about a time in your life when you have been daring.

Being a dentist is my second career. I quit a promising career in information technology (IT) to pursue dentistry, which included moving my family from Utah to Las Vegas.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I am not a traditional student. I began my first career in IT, but had considered being a dentist for years. During the latter half of my IT career, I began taking pre-requisite classes for dental school. Then, I visited the UNLV campus and was hooked. After I was accepted, I submitted my two weeks' notice and relocated to Las Vegas.

Any tips for success?

There are no real shortcuts, so avoid the temptation to follow one. Also, be persistent, embrace hard work, and pursue what you want to do.

Pastimes or hobbies?

My wife, three children, and I love the year-round outdoor activities Las Vegas offers. We enjoy boating and camping at Lake Mead, mountain biking, off-roading in our ATV, and visiting southern Utah to go repelling and canyoneering.

Tell us about an object in your office and why it is significant.

I have the input shaft from an automatic transmission that I rebuilt during residency by following steps on a YouTube video. I am not a mechanic, but I successfully disassembled and repaired the transmission on my car. The shaft reminds me to think of new and innovative ways to reach my students.