When Dr. Allan Rothenberg retired earlier this year from the Howard Beach medical practice he co-founded back in 1981, the response from the community was overwhelming.
Well-wishers flooded his office with cards thanking him for what he had done for their children, or themselves when they were children. He wrote a column for the Queens Chronicle about his experiences as a doctor, and it went viral, with people posting adoring comments on the piece. Clearly the good doctor had left his mark.
“It was of course extremely humbling and flattering,” Rothenberg said this week. “I received cards that were sent to the office and then forwarded to me from parents whose children I had taken care of years ago.”
Meanwhile the staff at Queens Pediatric Care, which Rothenberg established with Dr. Phillip Dubin in 1981, threw a big retirement party for him and his colleague Dr. Dorothy Greenbaum, who retired the same day. Dubin had retired in 1999. A number of former staffers came to wish their best to Rothenberg and Greenbaum.
Why pediatrics? Rothenberg had always enjoyed children, serving as a summer camp counselor in high school and college. And his experiences in training solidified his choice.
“The attending pediatricians, more so than any of the other doctors I met in my training as a medical student and an intern, seemed the most personable,” he recalled. “Internists I found too intellectual, surgeons too arrogant. Pediatricians were the people I identified the most with.”
Rothenberg finished his specialty training in pediatrics in June 1963 and then served two years in the Army in “the obligatory doctor draft” of the time, treating the children of soldiers at Fort Dix, NJ. After that, he opened a practice in Lindenwood, merging it with that of Dubin in 1981 and finally merging their actual offices in 1989. They moved to Rockwood Park, where the practice remains today.
During the 1980s, Rothenberg’s wife, Bobbe, ran the Big Apple Learning Center, also serving the children of the community.
The doctor always found his work very rewarding. “What gives a lot of satisifaction to me and other pediatricians is that we are the closest thing to the old general practicioner,” he said. “Ninety percent of the time, whether the complaint is about the eyes, ears, throat, skin, stomach or chest, we’re able to handle it and make the patient get better.”
Once when a man complained to Rothenberg about his patients’ parking, he called him “nothing but a lollipop doctor.” That attitude changed a couple months later when Rothenberg cleared up a case of roseola, often called infant measles, that the man’s grandchild was suffering from.
Retiring just before the Affordable Care Act took effect, Rothenberg said he backs the law because everyone should have insurance. And he offered advice to his fellow medical practitioners: “No matter how big you get, you can’t lose that personal touch, that personal feel.”