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New Faces: Civon Gewelber

When she isn't treating patients with disabilities in UNLV's Special Care Dental Clinic, you might find this new faculty member gazing skyward as she pursues her favorite hobby — falconry.

People  |  Feb 16, 2016  |  By Diane Russell
Civon Gewelber

Civon Gewelber, assistant professor in residence at the UNLV School of Dental Medicine. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

After initially considering either medical or veterinary school, Gewelber eventually found herself drawn to dentistry because the detail work and fine hand skills required better matched her interests and talents.

Why UNLV?  

I completed my general practice residency at UNLV and enjoyed the program and faculty so much that I decided to stay. There are a lot of great people at this school who made me feel welcome and valuable since the very beginning. Also, I love living in Las Vegas!

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Southern California about 15 minutes north of Disneyland. Sometimes I tell people I'm from Disneyland because I spent so much time there as a kid.  

Where did you work previously?

I was a full-time student before coming to UNLV, but had a few interesting part-time jobs along the way.  I went to Fordham University in New York City for my undergraduate degree in sociology and worked for Nintendo for a month doing a special promotion for the Game Cube. Then I went to California State University, Fullerton for my post-bac. pre-health professions certificate where I was a teacher’s assistant in the stained and fused glass department. From there I went to University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco for my doctor of dental surgery (DDS) degree where I was a prosthodontics hand skills tutor. And finally I went on to UNLV's general practice residency here in Las Vegas.  In between my residency and coming to UNLV to teach full time I spent a summer using trained birds of prey to protect blueberries in Washington state.

What inspired you to get into your field?

I’ve wanted to be a teacher since fourth grade, but I didn't know what subject or grade level to focus on. During college I thought I wanted to go to medical or veterinary school, but after researching my options I discovered that dentistry would fit my interests, skill sets, and lifestyle better. I love working with my hands, and dentistry, above almost any other medical profession, requires excellent hand skills, attention to detail, and artistry. If I could go back and do it all over again, I definitely would!

What’s the biggest challenge in your field?

As the director of UNLV’s Special Care Dental Clinic, I find that working with adults with disabilities is very challenging but also very rewarding at the same time.  The challenge comes from the fact that every disability or diagnosis does not present the same way, so each patient has unique and sometimes very difficult needs.

What is your area of research?

For the past couple of years I have been working with endocrinologist Dr. Kenneth Izuora from the University of Nevada School of Medicine and Dr. Michael Neubauer, a periodontist with UNLV's general practice residency on a study evaluating "the effect of periodontal disease treatment on inflammation and bone turnover markers in patients with diabetes."  The pilot study results showed "non-significant improvement in glycemic control and inflammatory markers," but we are preparing for a larger, longer term study to continue the investigation.

Proudest moment in your life?

I have to say graduating from dental school was the proudest moment of my life because I put a lot of time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears (literally) into my degree.  Completing my general practice residency training is a close second. I wouldn’t be where I am today without both programs, of course, so I am thankful for each of them equally. 

One tip for success?

Never stop working to improve yourself. 

Who was your favorite professor or teacher and why? 

Dr. Mark Booth was my mentor and group practice leader at University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. He played a major role in my success there and was the greatest inspiration I could have ever hoped for. As a teacher, he was approachable, kind, and patient, all of which are great qualities in a teacher. I hope someday to inspire UNLV’s dental students the way he inspired me. 

Who is your hero?

Both of my parents are my heroes.  My mother worked six days per week when I was growing up yet always found the time and energy to be supportive and participate with me in my hobbies, no matter how strange they were, provided I had good grades in school. My father emigrated here from Israel as a young adult with almost nothing to his name, paid his way through college by painting houses, and eventually became a successful mechanical engineer. He lived the “American Dream.” They both inspire me to always do my best and to be persistent and committed to my career and profession. I would not be the person I am today without their love, support, encouragement, and guidance. 

Pastime or hobbies

My No. 1 hobby is falconry, which I got into when I was just 12 years old.  Also, I used to participate in children’s theater and played the violin, so when I lived in New York City I saw a lot of Broadway shows and am still to this day very into show tunes and performing arts. Other interests and hobbies include stained glass, knitting, painting, sculpting, writing, going to Renaissance fairs, and of course, keeping up with my dental continuing education courses.