Dr. Sonia Makhija.

Sonia Makhija, DDS, MPH, was integral to the Department of Clinical and Community Sciences and to the National Dental Practice Based Research Network, housed within the UAB School of Dentistry. Having passed away last Fall, she continues to be missed by her colleagues and friends.

She was born in Montgomery, Alabama, the youngest daughter of Dr. Suraj Makhija and Nina Makhija. Both of her parents were teachers and she understood the value of a good education. She developed life-long friendships and enriched numerous lives while achieving the highest level of academic and professional success. Most important, she was unfailingly generous to anyone needing her help or expertise.

Upon graduating from LAMP High School in Montgomery, she earned her BA in Biology from the University of Missouri - Kansas City and DDS from the School of Dentistry. After four years managing a general dentistry private practice in Montgomery and working with the Centers for Disease Control/National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in Maryland, she went on to earn her MPH in epidemiology from UAB School of Public Health where she also completed a research fellowship. In 2002, she joined the faculty at the UAB School of Dentistry, where she was promoted to full professor in 2020.

In addition to teaching within the school’s case-based and evidence-based dentistry courses, she was the backbone of the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network. As the network’s director of communications and dissemination, she helped recruit and connect a vast network of practitioners. Of her many activities, her role included disseminating information and surveys to help answer questions that arise in an everyday dental practice. The result was creating a network of more informed practitioners.

Dr. Makhija considered UAB her home and thoroughly admired her colleagues, especially her chair and friend, Gregg Gilbert, DDS, MBA. Gilbert, who is Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Clinical and Community Sciences, shared, “Sonia was widely loved for her collegial attitude and widely respected for her expertise in clinical, research, teaching, and administrative matters, as well as her ability to achieve the perfect work-life balance.”

Russell Taichman, DMD, DMSc, the school’s dean added, “It was a pleasure to get to know Sonia. One of the great joys of this past year was when I let her know that she had achieved the rank of full professor. Rarely have I heard a faculty member so thrilled!”

Always engaged and kind, Dr. Mak, as she was affectionately known, was active in many national and international committees at UAB including: Director of the Behavioral Sciences, Epidemiology, and Health Services Research Group of the International Association for Dental Research, and Director of Communications and Dissemination for the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network. In 2019, she was named a Fellow of the International College of Dentists for her internationally recognized clinical research and academic expertise.

Dr. Makhija is survived by her loving family: husband Grant Briggs, her two children, Bella and Maks, who were the greatest loves of her life, as well as her mother, Nina Makhija, her sister, Dr. Sharmila Makhija, her brother, Dr. Ajay Makhija, her sister-in-law Dr. Laura Tuttle, nieces Emily and Kate and mother-in-law Marlene Mitchell. She was preceded in death by her father, Dr. Suraj Makhija. In lieu of flowers or donations, the family kindly asks that you honor her memory by living life to its fullest, letting those you cherish know how much you love them and by being kind to one another.

To remember Dr. Sonia Makhija and her legacy with the School of Dentistry and the National Dental Practice-Based Research Network, the department intends to dedicate its main conference room in her honor. The dedication is planned for later this year, once everyone can safely come together post-pandemic.

In addition to the UAB honor, a special fellowship has been established in her name to honor her dedication to education. The Dr. Sonia Makhija Memorial SV Fellowship will provide full college scholarships and mentorships to five young women chosen every year in India. Her sister, Dr. Sharmila Makhija is an advisor to the Shanti Vidya (SV) Foundation, which generously established the fellowship. Established in the holy city of Varanasi, India, the SV Foundation is dedicated to empowering and educating underprivileged women in India.

Adapted from a loving obituary by Dr. Sharmila Makhija and family.