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Though it happened nearly 63 years ago, Dr. Grady Price, ’64, remembers the moment like it was yesterday: He had not been accepted to what was then known as the Medical College of Alabama in Birmingham. On that day in 1959, Price—who was then a pre-med student at the University of Alabama, preparing for a career as a physician—felt his entire world had been upended. After getting engaged to be married in January 1959, Price’s plan was to be accepted to medical school that June, get married that August, and start the fall as both a newlywed and a medical student.

Grady and Judy Price. Suddenly, only one of those dreams was able to come true.

“I really had never failed much at anything in the past,” he remembered 63 years later. “That was a real blow to me. I went back to my dorm and cried.”

His dentist back home in Fort Payne, Ala., had for years encouraged Price to go to dental school. He studied with a couple of young men ahead of him in school that were already in dental school, and they told him how much he would enjoy it. But Price was already a signed, sealed and delivered future medical student—until he wasn’t.

So, long before everyone knew how to do it, he pivoted. In August, he decided to apply to dental school.

“When I left the entrance exam, I felt really good about it,” he said. “I thought ‘Boy, this is going to be good for me.’ It had didactic work, hands on work, as well as mental work.”

Now a newlywed, Price and his wife went back to his hometown of Fort Payne and taught high school at the same school he had just graduated from four years earlier. In October 1959, he learned he had been accepted into his first choice of dental school—the UAB School of Dentistry. He entered in the class of 1960 and quickly found that, though not his original plan, he was right where he was supposed to be.

“After I spent a week in dental school, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be, and wild horses couldn’t have prevented me from graduating,” Price said.

Price ultimately finished third in his class. Upon his graduation in 1964, the dental school’s registrar told Price and his family that she had taken Price’s grades down to the medical school’s registrar every year and, in so many words, said Thank you for saying no to Grady Price so we could say yes. Price went on to complete his orthodontic residency at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and then returned to Alabama, Montgomery specifically, in 1966. He practiced orthodontics for over 41 years there, with satellite offices in both Troy and Prattville. He retired in 2007.

The UAB School of Dentistry allowed Price to find his true calling, and now, through the Dr. Grady Price Jr. and Mrs. Judy Price Endowed Scholarship in Dentistry, he hopes to be able to do the same for current dental students. Price is the donor to the $50,000 endowed scholarship—with a $5,000 match from UAB’s Graduate Student Match Initiative, bringing the total to $55,000. In creating the scholarship, Price requested the recipient have earned at least a 3.0 GPA and gave specific preference to students from four counties that represent his life’s path—DeKalb County, where he grew up, followed by students from Pike County, Autauga County and Montgomery County, respectively, all counties where he has practiced.

“I was born in DeKalb County, and the latter three [counties] provided me with income and a lifestyle beyond my expectations,” Price said. “I owe a great debt of gratitude to give back. It just seems right to give back to them—that to whom much is given, much is required.”

In addition to a focus on grades and county of origin, Price also asked for a preference to be given to underrepresented students, including first generation college students and students who have faced challenging life circumstances, and recipients who “will follow ethical virtues such as honesty, integrity, patience, kindness, generosity, prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance in fulfilling the scholarship purpose.”

“What a great and noble act of enablement,” said Russell S. Taichman, DMD, DMSc, and Dean of the UAB School of Dentistry. “The scholarship will provide opportunities for student success well into the future. We are particularly grateful for Dr. Grady Price’s willingness to partner with the UAB School of Dentistry to assist our students.”

All told, Price said, he wouldn’t change a thing—including rejection from medical school. He said he might not have enjoyed medical practice as much as he did practicing dentistry as an orthodontist—that career was truly meant for him.

“I don’t know what in the world I would have done if I wouldn’t have been a dentist,” Price said. “The Lord blessed me beyond words to let me be a dentist and an orthodontist.” Price also often jokingly says “Many, many years ago, God decided ‘I’m going to create the specialty of orthodontics, and one of these years, Grady Price is gonna want to be one.’”

Price said he feels like he lived through the golden age of orthodontics, and 60 years after he started his career, he still wants his profession to be viable, prosperous and a giving profession for all patients.

“I couldn’t have chosen a path that would have been more pleasing to me than what I had the opportunity to do,” he said. “I wish everyone could enjoy going to work every day half as much as I did.”


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