Graduates from the UAB School of Dentistry can guarantee they will leave with an excellent dental school education and clinical experience. Many will also take with them life-long friendships with classmates and faculty members, and fond memories of living in Birmingham. But every so often, students also leave with something (or, better yet, someone) even more special.

“I met my husband Dan my last semester of dental school,” remembered Dr. Leslie Buckley. “He just said ‘hello’ to me one day in clinic, and I did not know his name. I looked up his name after that so I would know who he was if I saw him again, and found out he was a year behind me in school. We found ourselves in the same town in Colorado over spring break and our two friend groups ended up skiing together. And the rest is history!”

Leslie Buckley and her family standing outside,  a green tree in the background. Originally from Montrose, Ala., Dr. Buckley grew up on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. She spent most of her childhood on the water.

“I was the unofficial jubilee predictor for my neighborhood,” laughed Leslie. “A jubilee is when sea life will leave deep water and come up to the shoreline because of low oxygen content in the water. It makes them easy to catch. We used to skip school on jubilee days, and we would be out there in our nightgowns scooping up shellfish. This was before cell phones, so we used to have jubilee landline lists and we would call everyone to let them know. It was such a fun time! We would be steaming crabs by 9 a.m. on the back deck, and you could smell a crab boil and coffee brewing at the same time.”

Leslie’s father is a physician, and she knew she wanted to pursue a career in healthcare from an early age. She initially thought she would want to follow in her dad’s footsteps and go into medicine, so she went to Birmingham-Southern College to double major in biology and psychology. But by her senior year, her dad had talked her out of becoming a doctor.

“Dad was honest with me about how difficult it can be to be on call, especially as a parent. I applied to study dentistry a bit last minute, and got accepted. And I am so glad I did because I really do love being a dentist.”

After graduating in 2001, Dr. Buckley decided to move to Denver, Colo. for a General Practice Residency (GPR) at the Denver Veterans Administration Hospital. After just four months of dating, Dan asked Leslie’s parents if he could propose, knowing she would be in Denver for at least a year while he was still in Birmingham finishing dental school.

“We got married the fall after Dan graduated and then he joined me in Denver when he started his own GPR program with Denver Health. By then, I had completed my residency and was working in a private pediatric dental practice. That is where I learned I have a knack for working with kids, and where I learned how much I love it. The practice owner was the retired director of the pediatric dental residency at Children’s Hospital in Denver, and I basically had extensive training in pedo while on the job. I learned to do so much, I don’t even think he ever put on a pair of gloves!”

With family on both sides in Mobile, Leslie and Dan decided to move back in 2003. After several years as associates, they decided to open their own practice together.

“Our first practice was in Atmore, Ala. We were not even planning to buy it; it just fell in our lap. Dan worked there, and then we decided to open a separate practice just for me in Spanish Fort. And then when we had children, I decided to stay at home for a while.”

The Buckleys have four children – Daniel, Jr. (13), John Tabor (11), Julie (9) and Eliza (5). After six years at home with Dan managing both practices, Leslie returned to the office in 2016 when they opened their third practice right in Mobile, close to their home and their children’s schools. But Leslie has learned to juggle motherhood and practice ownership beautifully.

“I was originally hesitant about having four children and opening a third practice,” Leslie admitted. “I was worried about being able to be there for my children. But it has turned out great! They are close enough that they can even walk here after school if they need to. My daughter loves coming here. We have a little lab coat with her name on it and she loves ‘assisting’ me, mostly helping me clean up the playroom. I have learned to lean on my other mom friends for help with carpooling to activities, and always try to return the favor. Some days I am running through carpool between patients – whatever it takes!”

Dr. Buckley certainly loves her hometown of Mobile and the patients she serves. (And as the 1996 Krewe of the Mystics of Time’s Mardi Gras queen, they clearly love her back!)

“The best part about being a dentist is being a trusted member of the community, and these families who continue to come in to see me every six months. I love the social aspect too – just being able to chat and visit with my patients, and really get to know them.”