Dr. Doug Smith is no stranger to long days and hard work. That is because, on top of serving the Dothan, Ala. community as a trusted dentist of almost forty-five years, Dr. Smith works on his family farm where he raises pure bred Black Angus cattle.

Dr. Stephanie Teichmiller (centered)Dr. Doug Smith “On a typical day, I work all day in the office and finish up around five o’clock, then go to the farm about 5:30pm,” explained Dr. Smith. “In the winter months, I am usually there several hours by the time I have put out hay, fed, and checked on everything. Once the grass greens up in the spring, the cows can graze and I just need to feed the horses. But there is always haying, fencing, and other never-ending farm work to be done. I dedicate the majority of my free time to the farm. It’s definitely not a hobby – it is a full-time job!”

Doug grew up in Dothan, surrounded by farmland and family. Throughout high school, Doug remained interested in medicine and dentistry. He realized his particular interest in surgery after working for a vet in high school, and initially set out to pursue oral surgery.

“I enrolled at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1970,” remembered Dr. Smith. “I was accepted early into dental school, so I actually never technically graduated from Alabama. I originally wanted to be an oral surgeon, so every free clinic we had I went to the oral surgery clinic. It was a different time back then. I remember going to faculty members’ homes after hours for additional instruction and guidance. Dr. Dwight Castleberry invited me into his home and we worked on several cases together, which we presented to the Birmingham Dental Society. All of our clinical faculty were great. They always had our best interest at heart.”

By commencement of his senior year, when it was time to apply to residency programs, Doug elected to pursue general dentistry. He and his wife, Karen, moved back to Dothan immediately after Doug graduated and passed his boards. He decided to open his own practice in a shared building with his childhood dentist, Dr. John Davis. However, the building addition that was to be Dr. Smith’s clinical space was only half completed when Doug returned.

“When you grow up on a farm, you learn a little bit of everything – whether it is animals, crops, gardens, mechanical knowledge, etc. Our farmers have to do it all. I had a lot of practical knowledge about a lot of things, including about construction, and so I hired on with the contractor building our office addition. I would work for the contractor Monday through Thursday while Dr. Davis was seeing patients, and then on Fridays when he took off, he let me come in and use his equipment to do dentistry. I did that for four months! I remember one Thursday afternoon in particular. It was a little after five o’clock, and Dr. Davis was already gone for the day. A woman drove up while I was working on the roof and told me she’d broken a tooth and needed to see the dentist. I told her I’d come back the next morning right at eight o’clock and take care of her tooth. With a very puzzled look on her face, she backed up a couple steps and said ‘What??! YOU’LL take care of it??’ Suddenly I realized that she had no idea that I was a dentist! To this day, she is still a patient of mine, as are her children and grandchildren.”

Being able to treat multigenerational families is one of Dr. Smith’s favorite aspects about his practice.

“I always knew I wanted to return to Dothan after dental school,” said Doug. “The relationships here, especially those with patients that go back so many generations, are invaluable. And I’m grateful for the dental community here, too. We are a close-knit group; we support one another. People do not realize how tough a profession dentistry can be. A local surgeon here in Dothan is a patient of mine and one day while I was treating him, he stopped me and said, ‘Doug, I admire what you do.’ I said, ‘Me? You have people’s lives in your hands!’ And he said, “Yes, but they’re not staring me in the face!’”

Dr. Smith still loves being a dentist and is not planning on fully retiring any time soon. He is grateful for a profession that has afforded him to live the lifestyle he and his family value so deeply.

“My education from the UAB dental school made all this possible. Farms are financially draining, and dentistry has made other dreams of mine come true. I am very thankful my career has enabled me to continue to do the things I love including raising cattle. In fact, my entire immediate family works in healthcare and the farm is our outlet, our therapy. (Karen is a Nurse Practitioner; daughter Emily is a Speech & Language Therapist; son Chase is an Orthopedic Surgeon and daughter-in-law Chelsey is an Orolaryngologist and head and neck cancer surgeon.) We can share work and play there together. It keeps our family ties and traditions secure. I am grateful for the way the farm brings my family together, and I am grateful to my profession for making it all possible.”