Explore UAB

“I’m sorry, I have to step out for a moment,” Dr. Coggin interrupted. “We have a patient who is apparently refusing to receive their injections from anyone other than me. I’ll be right back.”

This small aside sums up Dr. Celeste Coggin’s legacy well. She has been practicing as a general dentist in Atlanta, Georgia for over 35 years and now sees several generations of patients from the same families. She is not just their dentist, but a committed and trusted confidante.

“My mother was a dental hygienist and we moved from the Birmingham area, where I was born, to Atlanta when I was in elementary school.” Celeste explained. “I grew up going to the Hinman Dental Society meetings with her from a young age, and she always really encouraged me to pursue a career in dentistry.”

Celeste Coggin articleDr. Coggin attended Auburn University and then moved to Birmingham after she graduated in 1974. She found a job doing cancer research while pursuing a Master’s in Developmental Biology from UAB. “I had a teaching fellowship, and I really loved it. I started working on a PhD, thinking I’d want to teach as a career. But I also started spending a lot of time in the School of Dentistry building because, at that time, it was right next to the biology building and I had a many friends in dental school,” Celeste recalls. “I eventually decided to apply to dentistry, and began classes in 1978.”

Immediately following dental school, Dr. Coggin decided to move back to Atlanta to work as an associate with Dr. Jerry Nutt. “I worked for Dr. Nutt for three-and-a-half years before starting my own practice in Marietta, just down the street from him. I’ve been practicing here at the same location ever since!”

Dr. Coggin has had several associates over the years, including Dr. Kristen Cooney (’97) and Dr. Chika Okabe (’99), two UAB graduates. These days though, the staff at Coggin Dental Group is a family affair. Her son, Dr. Alex Cole, joined her in 2016 after completing dental school at the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University, and her daughter-in-law Jessica is their lead dental assistant.  

“It’s great to practice together!” said Celeste, about working with her son. “I am over-the-top proud of him. He went to Carnegie Mellon to study acting; he’s extremely talented. He was on “As The World Turns” for a couple years, and did several movies. But he ultimately decided to come back home and go to dental school.”

Dr. Coggin is grateful for her profession, and the opportunity to grow in her career. “You never stop learning,” she said. “It’s been fun for me to continue to learn. Every day is something different.” And she’s maintained her love for teaching over the years. “One of the best parts of my job is mentoring young people who want to go to dental school. So far, I’ve mentored eight wonderful employees of mine who have gone on to dental school, and I have two more right now who are applying.”

When asked about her plans for retirement, Celeste laughed. “My patients ask me that all the time. I think they thought that after the COVID crisis, I wouldn’t be back. But I still love what I do! I know at some point I will retire, and I’m fortunate my son will be here to carry on the practice. I’ll know when to retire when they time comes.”

For now, Dr. Coggin is still seeing patients three days a week, in addition to managing administrative responsibilities. She remains very active in organized dentistry, particularly as a member of the Hinman Dental Society and the Pierre Fauchard Academy. Outside of the office, she and her husband, Houston Lennard, are on a quest to visit every national park. They also recently bought a lake house on Lake Oconee in Greensboro, GA and enjoy spending their weekends by the water with their children (Alex, Jessica, Raina, and Steve) and grandchildren (Steven, Tyler, and Rory Savannah). And she has remained close with her UAB School of Dentistry peers. “I’ve never missed an Alumni Weekend class reunion, and I make it a point to know what’s happening with my classmates. I met and made some of my best friends ever while in dental school!”

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..