Growing up, Dr. Jim Phillips, Jr. didn’t always know he was going to become a dentist. But he did know he was destined to love sports and Auburn University.

Dr. Jim Phillips, Jr. with his family“My grandfather went to Auburn, my mother was a majorette at Auburn and my dad, Jim ‘Red’ Phillips, played football at Auburn,” explained Dr. Phillips. “Some of the very first words I learned were ‘War Eagle,’ and when I was born, Coach Shug Jordan gave my parents a plaque, offering me a football scholarship when I came of age! I grew up on the West Coast when Dad was playing professional football for the Los Angeles Rams and then later moved to Minneapolis when he played for the Vikings. Then his coaching career took us to Atlanta, San Diego, Florida, and finally to New Orleans where I graduated high school. But even though I didn’t grow up in Alabama, I knew I wanted to come back and go to Auburn.”

Jim graduated from undergrad in 1980 with a degree in Geology. After working for a few years as a chemist, he decided to return to school to pursue dentistry.

“When I was in junior high, we lived in San Diego while Dad coached with the Chargers. At the time, I was being treated by an orthodontist who was an extremely dynamic individual: fun, charismatic, and he owned the local San Diego minor league hockey team! He was my first encourager toward dentistry, and that was always in the back of my mind. Working for three years in industry cemented the fact that I wanted to be in a profession in which I could work for myself, so I applied to dental school.”

In the fall of 1984, Dr. Phillips and his wife, Melinda, moved to Birmingham so Dr. Phillips could attend the UAB School of Dentistry.

“There weren’t a lot of Auburn graduates on the faculty at the time,” remembered Jim. “They gave those of us from Auburn a lot of good-natured ribbing. Dr. David Greer was one of my mentors and we had a great relationship because he and I could talk football. I’d sit in that red and white office of his and we’d talk all things football.”

Despite bleeding orange and blue, Jim and Melinda weren’t initially planning to move back to Auburn at first.

“My wife is from Sylacauga, Ala. and my family was in Alexander City at the time, so we were actually looking to move somewhere along Highway 280 between Columbus, Ga. and Birmingham. But around Christmastime my senior year, Dr. Greer called to tell me about a practice in Auburn that was about to come available, and said he knew it would fit me perfectly. So I came down to look at it and, in a matter of weeks, I’d negotiated to purchase it and never looked back!”

The move back to Auburn was certainly a wise one, as Jim has enjoyed 33 years of dentistry. He’s also volunteered as the team dentist for Auburn Athletics for over twenty years.

“We’ve treated broken jaws and broken teeth – all kinds of injuries. I remember several years ago, during an Auburn baseball game against Alabama, a fly ball bounced off the outfield wall and hit an Alabama player right in the mouth. I was at home watching the game with my son and, when it happened, I told him, ‘I’m about to get a phone call.’ Then they showed the team physician getting on his phone and right then my phone rang.”

To add to an already-busy volunteer schedule, Jim is also extremely active in organized dentistry. He is currently serving as President of the Alabama Dental Association (ALDA).

“I’ve always considered myself to have a servant’s heart, and so my involvement with organized dentistry started all the way back in dental school. During my freshman year, Dr. Ben Cumbus gave a talk to our class about organized dentistry. It just sounded interesting to me, so I volunteered to be the American Student Dental Association student representative. I went to national meetings around the country, and learned a lot about organized dentistry. When I graduated, I immediately got involved in ALDA and the Ninth District Society. Over the years, I served in all officer positions for the Ninth District, as well as on several councils with ALDA. Then, once my kids were done with college and I had the time, Melinda supported my decision to pursue leadership positions within ALDA.”

Jim was the acting Vice President of ALDA when COVID shut down dental offices around the state for six weeks in March and April of 2020. While those were certainly tough days for everyone, they reminded Jim of the excellence of our dental leadership in the state of Alabama.

“The COVID crisis showed me how much organized dental groups like ALDA advocate for our dental practitioners. We were in constant conversation with the UAB School of Dentistry, the CDC, the Governor’s office, the Alabama Board of Dental Examiners and the Office of Public Health. We talked nearly every day, particularly about how dentists across Alabama were being impacted. Our state dental representatives did a phenomenal job making it possible for dentists in the state to function.”

Now that things are returning back to normal, Dr. Phillips is happy to be back in Jordan-Hare Stadium, cheering on the Tigers and ready to jump in and assist injured players if necessary.”

“I used to spend the entire game on the sidelines with the players and coaches. But that got old because you just can’t see the game very well down there! So a few years ago I started sitting in the stands and now they just call me down when they need me.”

Even though his plate seems full, Jim Phillips is first-and-foremost a family man.

“Melinda and I have two children – Kristen who lives in Auburn with her husband, Drew, and Trey who lives in Birmingham. We have an incredible three-and-a-half year-old granddaughter named Victoria who is perfect in every way! She’s my joy. Kristen is also expecting another little girl, due in January. And I’ve got an English Cream Golden Retriever named Ripken who’s a wonderful dog!”

Dr. Phillips would certainly have plenty to occupy his time if he were to slow things down in the office, but he admitted that he has no set plans to retire anytime soon.

“I love going to work every day!” said Dr. Phillips. “Every patient is a different challenge, and I love that. I just like helping people.”

And to his dental school alma mater, Jim remains grateful.

“My experience at UAB was outstanding and, being involved nationally with organized dentistry, I’ve been really impressed with the quality of training at UAB. It’s not the same everywhere. I meet dentists from all over the country, and I can’t emphasize enough how impressed I am with the quality of education I got at UAB. I hope our state leaders continue to realize the jewel we have in our dental school!”