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By the time the 1980s rolled around, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry had been in existence long enough that it could look back and celebrate several decades of accomplishments. And that is exactly what the SOD did by, of all things, making a movie.

We’re not talking about dental film here. This was an actual 16-millimeter movie titled “A Commitment to Excellence.” It was released in 1985 with an original screening held at Disney World for a group of Florida SOD alumni as part of the Florida Dental Congress.

The movie was underwritten by a grant from the Alumni Association’s Annual Fund for Excellence in Clinical Dentistry. It was shown at district meetings throughout Alabama, as well as at other gatherings of SOD alumni.

In announcing the production, the Spring 1985 issue of the SOD’s DentAlumni magazine proudly proclaimed that, “The Alumni Association is making a movie – just for you.” The article went on to describe the movie this way:

“It reviews the history of the School of Dentistry, shows where we are now, and provides insights into needs and goals for the future. It features Roy Cowan of Butler (Class of 1958) on a visit to his son, Glen, who is a third-year student. During the course of the film, the Cowans tour the Medical Center and the School of Dentistry, and pay visits to former deans Drs. Joseph Volker and Charles McCallum, and current dean Dr. Leonard Robinson.”

If they made a movie today about the UAB School of Dentistry in the 1980s, here are some of the highlights that could be included:

● The Sidney B. Finn Pediatric Dentistry Clinic was dedicated in 1980. Located on the third floor of the SOD building as a separate clinic of the School of Dentistry, the facility was named in honor of longtime SOD faculty member Dr. Sidney Bernard Finn, who wrote the school’s adaptation of The Dentist’s Pledge. After stating what a dentist should do, Finn’s interpretation ended with the declaration, “All this I accept with pride in my profession, and with humility at the magnitude of the work to be done.”

● Also in 1980, the first Parents Visitation Day was sponsored by the SOD Student Government Association. More than 100 parents visited the campus for lunch, followed by a school tour conducted by their sons and daughters.

● Dr. David F. Greer, associate professor of dentistry and director of the Office of Student Affairs, was named president of the Omicron Kappa Upsilon national dental honor society in 1982, after serving for two years as vice president.

● Dr. Theodore E. Fischer, a professor emeritus at the SOD, was named recipient of the 1983 Wilmer Souder Award, given by the American and International Associations for Dental Research. Fischer was recognized for his work involving the development of material used in prosthetic devices for patients with facial disfigurement.

● SOD grant awards from the National Institutes of Health topped $4 million in 1984 (the equivalent of approximately $12 million today). “This achievement is all the more remarkable when one considers that our School of Dentistry has been in existence for the relatively short period of 37 years,” SOD dean Leonard Robinson said at the time.

● Also in 1984, as part of the SOD’s growing tradition of international partnerships, Alpha Omega sponsored a student exchange program with Hebrew University in Jerusalem

● More than 200 scientists from throughout the world gathered at UAB in 1985 for a conference on Cellular, Molecular and Craniofacial Aspects of Streptococcus mutants hosted by the SOD. Dr. Lewis Menaker, the SOD associate dean for academic affairs, said the conference “provided a forum for the exchange of new ideas, as well as a review of the considerable progress which has been made in our understanding of this bacterium.”

● Dr. Richard R. Ranney became the fourth dean of the School of Dentistry in 1986 and remained in that role through the end of the decade. With the assistance of a $100,000 grant from the Pew National Dental Education program, Ranney proceeded to reorganize the SOD by reducing the number of independent departments, then establishing new departments to better reflect the changes in dental education. He also was responsible for recruiting future faculty leaders, including Drs. Marjorie Jeffcoat and Michael S. Reddy, as well as future staff leader Liz Bolton. Jeffcoat went on to become chair of the Department of Periodontology and Reddy was named the school’s eighth dean in 2012.

Christos Vlachos, D.M.D., D.D.S., M.S., has served under 10 deans (including Ranney) and three chairs during his time as faculty. Of the school’s leadership throughout the years, he summed it up by saying, “There are people with very distinct personalities, very different from each other with different administrative styles, but all committed to excellence.”

And with that firm foundation of excellence, the UAB School of Dentistry was ready to head into the 1990s.