It doesn’t take long after meeting and speaking to Dr. Ralph Kurry Wyatt (‘73) to realize he is a fantastic storyteller, and he does not like to be bored.

Dr. Ralph Kurry Wyatt's headshot“My favorite part about my career as a general dentist was that I could do a little bit of everything. It wasn’t the same ole’ thing day in and day out. Before I retired, I always enjoyed continuing education opportunities, so that I could learn new techniques of treatment.”

Dr. Wyatt explained that he always knew his professional limits and when to refer patients to a specialist. Over the course of his career, though, he built a reputation in Cullman, Ala. for being a dentist who could pull out wisdom teeth before there was an oral surgeon in the area, and a dentist who could perform a routine root canal before an endodontist moved into town.

“I eventually wanted to learn how to put on braces, and so I went to the local orthodontist here in Cullman and told them what I was doing. They were very encouraging, and I was a huge source of referrals for them. I called myself an ‘h-o’, which stood for ‘hotel orthodontist’ because I’d go to lectures at hotel conference centers to learn everything I could about orthodontics!” Dr. Wyatt recalled.

Even though Dr. Wyatt practiced dentistry in Cullman for nearly 40 years, he grew up in Tuscaloosa, Ala. and then moved to Fayette, Ala. in the middle of his freshman year of high school. “I first became interested in dentistry after I lost a tooth playing football when we still lived in Tuscaloosa. Those were the days before mouth guards were required, and I was just very impressed with the dentist in Tuscaloosa who handled my case,” said Kurry. “Then when we moved to Fayette, I had another influential dentist, Dr. J.C. Wheat (’53) who always did a great job explaining his treatments and procedures. He was well-known and admired in the community, and I realized how much of a positive impact a good dentist can have on the people they treat.”

Dr. Wyatt’s first stop after high school was the University of Alabama, where he graduated from in 1969, and then immediately went on to the University of Alabama School of Dentistry. Memories of those four years primarily include intense classroom and lab requirements, and long hours spent studying and working in the School’s clinics. Kurry recalls that it was his time treating patients in the clinic that made him feel that he was finally achieving his goal of being a dental doctor. He remembers how, above all, professors like Dr. Leslie Allen taught Kurry and his peers how to go above and beyond to serve their patients.

“I remember one particular time when I forgot to finish seeing a patient with a denture case. I forgot to get her third and final check off by the professor, and when I realized what had happened, I called to ask her to come back into the clinic the next day so I could complete her case. But she lived in Trussville – which at the time was about 45 minutes one way, before the interstate was built – and had no means of transportation. I decided I would just have to go pick her up myself and bring her to the School! I would have to cut class though, and that day I was supposed to be in Dr. Allen’s class. Some older students told me that Dr. Allen would call roll just one time each semester, so I decided to risk it. Well of course, that morning was the one day he called the roll. At the end of that day, I waited around the clinic and I explained to him what happened. He patted my shoulder, smiled, and said ‘you did the right thing, Doctor.’ I was on cloud nine!”

As soon as he graduated from dental school, Dr. Wyatt married his bride of 47 years, Karen Wyatt, and then reported to Fort Hood, Texas to serve for two years in the military. It was during this time, when he was working alongside dentists from other schools around the country, that he realized the value of his University of Alabama School of Dentistry education. “I learned that, during my third year of dental school, I had to complete more requirements than the guys from Tufts had to complete during their entire third and fourth years!”

In 1975, Kurry opened his office in Cullman under the name “R.K. Wyatt, DMD,” but strategically changed it to “Alabama Cosmetic and Family Dentistry” in the late 1980s. “I was one of the last names in the yellow pages because my last name started with a ‘W’. I knew people wouldn’t go to the end of the phone book just to find a dentist, so I changed my office name to start with ‘Alabama’ and that bumped me up to the top!” Dr. Wyatt laughed.

After many years of serving the community of Cullman, Dr. Wyatt retired and sold his practice in 2014, and finally saw his last case in January 2016. But don’t think for a second that he’s not just as busy as ever! He’s remained extremely close with his dental school classmates, and looks forward every year to hosting their annual “Beach Boys Bash” at his house on the Fort Morgan Peninsula of the Alabama coastline. He and his wife Karen also love to travel, and spend as much time with their children (Dr. Nathan Wyatt, a practicing neurologist, and Rachel Wyatt, a high school science teacher) and grandchildren (Madeline, 17, Aaron and Vivian, 6, and Micah and Andrew, 3).

“I also have a heart for missions. I’m working now on a project in Tapachula, Mexico,” said Kurry. “A team made up of dentists and hygienists plan to go down for a week next June, and provide free dental services to people living in the area.”

It’s clear, though, that Dr. Wyatt has a heart for young aspiring dentists facing dental school tuition costs, as well. Earlier in 2020, he and Karen endowed a scholarship within the School of Dentistry.

“We’ve been rewarded many times over from my dental degree,” explained Kurry. “Establishing a scholarship to give financial aid to a deserving student is a way to help show our appreciation for being in such a great profession.”

If you would like to nominate a UAB School of Dentistry alumnus to be featured in an upcoming Alumni Spotlight, please email Elizabeth Carlson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..