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In the fall of 1969, Dr. Charles “Scotty” McCallum, dean of the School of Dentistry at the time, hosted a meet-and-greet reception at his home for the School’s incoming freshmen. Among those in attendance were John Anderson, and his new wife, Mimi.

Dr. John Anderson“We’d only been married a week at that point,” remembers Dr. Anderson. “Mimi had never met Dr. McCallum before, but she went right up to him and said, ‘John is going to be your best student!’ She really put me on the spot! I did end up graduating number one in the class, though. I still don’t know how she knew it four years in advance, but she has always really believed in me.”

John and Mimi met in a comparative anatomy course while attending Auburn University for their undergraduate studies. John initially entered college as an engineering major. “I loved math and science, and I never thought about pursuing anything except engineering. But after I gained a little bit of co-op experience during my second and third years, I realized it was actually the lab techs who had the job that I wanted. They were the ones building things, and engineers were actually doing more research and reading and I didn’t want that. I decided my other interest was biology, and everything I read about it – particularly on healthcare – intrigued me. So I finished out my four years at Auburn as a biology major and completed the requirements to enter dental school.”

It turns out that pursuing a career in dentistry was a blessing in more ways than John could’ve foreseen at the time.

“When I graduated from Walter Wellborn High School in Anniston, Ala. in 1965, I was in the age group being drafted to Vietnam. When I got accepted to Auburn, I was deferred going into the army until I finished college. But then I got accepted into dental school, and the army told me they’d rather have me as a dentist so they let me continue on to dental school. But then the draft ended in January of 1973, five months before I graduated that June. As a dentist, I still probably would’ve been stationed in a combat zone, so I was extremely fortunate.”

Even though Dr. Anderson’s time at UAB might have been stressful amidst the Vietnam War draft, he really enjoyed dental school. “I liked the faculty and my classmates, and I liked the challenge of learning new things,” he explained.

And the faculty certainly liked him as well. Not only did Dr. Anderson graduate at the top of his class with honors, but he is likely one of the most awarded dental students that the School has ever seen. Among these accolades include the Bill Jensen Award for Outstanding Freshman Student, the American College of Dentists Award, the Walter J. Pelton Community Dentistry Award, the Academy of General Dentistry Award, and the Dean’s Award.

“I remember Dr. Harold Askew telling another faculty member in my presence that I was the best pre-clinical student they’d had. That was the biggest compliment to me. And then of course, Dr. McCallum giving me the Dean’s Award and asking me to stay on as faculty at the School was another extremely gratifying compliment. But ultimately, we were ready to move away from Birmingham.”

Dr. Anderson’s first visit to Rainsville, Ala. was in late 1972 during his final year of dental school. He met with Dr. Marvin Barron, the only dentist in town at the time.

“Dr. Barron’s building was under construction, and he invited me up to see it. We liked the area and everyone we met, and ultimately agreed to rent the space for my office from him but they refused to install any equipment until I had my dental license in-hand. Once I passed my boards, they installed everything and I began practicing independently in July of 1973.”

Eventually, in 1985, Dr. Anderson bought the entire building from Dr. Barron. He continues to rent space in the building out to other dentists, but in the nearly fifty years that he’s been practicing, John has never had an associate work with him.

“Well, except for my daughter, [Dr. Mary Stuart Gallian, UAB SOD Class of 2007] who came to work with me for about ten months right after she graduated from dental school. She moved to Virginia with her husband, Andrew, who has a PhD in Physics from UAB.” John said, proudly. “We had a ball while she was here! That was a great time.”

The decision to move away from Birmingham to a smaller town was an easy one for John and Mimi.

“We love this area and the small town environment. We see most of our patients around town on a regular basis; it’s like one big family. One of the things I really appreciate about our community is the helpfulness. One time, I had my tractor out on the street with a flat tire. The guy that owns a local tire place – who’s also a patient of mine – happened to drive by and he stopped to see what the problem was. This was on a Saturday afternoon, so his shop was closed, but he fixed it for me anyway. As we were finishing up, he turned to me and said, ‘oh by the way, I’ve got a sharp spot on my tooth.’ So I said ‘okay, well let’s go fix it then.’ So we went back to my office and I fixed his tooth that day! These are the kinds of experiences that keep us living in a small town.”

Over the course of his career, John became known as a leader in organized dentistry. He served for twelve years as a delegate to the American Dental Association, holding several leadership positions. He was also heavily involved in the Alabama Dental Association, including serving as the ALDA president in 1999 and as the current action team leader for the fourth congressional district representing ALDPAC. In 1985, he was president of the Alabama School of Dentistry Alumni Association, and lectured part-time at the School for almost ten years.

But despite his numerous awards and accomplishments, and how well-respected and widely known he is as an outstanding dentist in the state of Alabama, it is Dr. Anderson’s kindness and humility that truly set him apart. His greatest point of professional pride is being a friendly dentist who cares deeply about his patients.

“I really love what I do,” said John. “When I’m at the chair doing dentistry, it’s the happiest I can be! I love my staff and my patients.”

When he’s not in the office, John and Mimi like to be outdoors – camping, hiking, or working on their farm. “Apartment living would kill me!” joked Dr. Anderson. “I’ve always been that way. And my wife loves animals. She’d have one of everything if she could. We’re both really into birding. We’ve traveled around the United States and internationally on excursions, just looking for whatever birds we could find.”

No matter where their adventures take them though, the Andersons always makes it back home to Rainsville.

“People ask me, ‘when you retire, are you going to move somewhere else?’ and I say ‘no, we don’t want to be anywhere else!’ If I could tell a young dentist anything it would be to first decide where you want to live and raise a family. No matter where that is, you’ll be successful. With an education like ours from UAB, you can practice dentistry anywhere. The important part is deciding where you’ll be happy living, where you want to call home.”


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..