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While growing up in Fayetteville, Ga., Susannah Kendrick never understood why so many children – and some adults – seemed to be afraid of the dentist. As far as she was concerned, the dentist was just a regular ‘ol person, no different than the local teacher or shop owner.

Susannah KendrickKendrick felt that way because she regularly spent time with not one but two dentists. Her father and grandfather, who shared a Fayetteville practice for nearly 20 years.

“I’d go visit the office for lunch or something, and there would be these little kids crying,” Kendrick recalls. “I couldn’t understand why they thought going to the dentist was so scary. To me it was just normal, because my dad and grandad did it.”

Turns out, Kendrick not only is unafraid of the dentist, she wants to become one herself. So she is following the same path that both her father and grandfather took, by enrolling this year in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry. Her grandfather, John Kendrick, graduated from the school in 1968, and her father, Jeff Kendrick, DMD, followed in 1997.

“I didn’t push Susannah to be a dentist,” says Jeff Kendrick, who still runs Heritage Dental Associates in Fayetteville, “but I’m happy to have somebody who wants to continue the family tradition.”

Susannah Kendrick says that growing up in a small town as the daughter of a dentist was an interesting experience.

“Everywhere we went, people were like, ‘Hey, doc, how’s it going?’ People were always talking to us,” she says. “And my dad did the barter system sometimes. A dog breeder in the area needed a root canal, so my dad did it in exchange for a free dog. I thought all that was perfectly normal.”

Still, despite being raised with the profession all around her, Susannah says it wasn’t until her sophomore year at the University of Georgia that she began to seriously consider pursuing dentistry as a career.

“When I was thinking about what I wanted to do, I always went back to using my hands. So dentistry made a lot of sense,” she says. “I really like the cosmetic aspect, and bringing somebody a new smile. Then I shadowed other dentists outside my family, and that’s when I realized how much I enjoyed it, and how everybody’s practice is so different.”

Susannah Kendrick graduated from Georgia in May with a degree in biology, then made the short drive to Birmingham to start her dentistry training. She says UAB is the logical place for her to attend, considering her family’s history with the university. In addition to her father and grandfather, her uncle, Scott Kendrick, M.D., graduated from the UAB School of Medicine and now owns Southside Pain Specialists.

“I have a lot of ties to Alabama, family that lives here, so it just felt right to come to UAB,” she says. “Then after the first week, I knew this was the right choice for me. Everybody was so nice and accepting, and I like the one-on-one teaching time you get here.”

Jeff Kendrick certainly has no complaints about his daughter’s decision to attend the UAB SOD. He has maintained close ties to the school through the Alumni Association, and says he would “recommend UAB to anybody and everybody.”

“The education they gave us rivaled anyplace, just because of all the patient encounters,” he says. “Not all dental schools have as much hands-on experience as at UAB. It really gives you an advantage.”

When Susannah arrived at UAB, it did not take long for her family connections with the school to be noticed. During orientation for first-year students, SOD interim dean Nicolaas Geurs, D.D.S., M.S., spotted Susannah and said, “I know who you are.” That’s because Geurs had been one of her father’s teachers at UAB back in the 1990s.

Of course, having a practicing dentist for a father can be useful in terms of easy access to a knowledgeable source of information. Susannah brought some of that knowledge with her to UAB in the form of her father’s old dental anatomy textbook, though she says the emphasis is on “old.”

“The copyright is from 1984,” Susannah says with a laugh. “I told him, ‘This is an artifact.’ It’s the second edition of that textbook, and we currently are using the ninth edition. But it has all his notes, all his highlights. Things have changed, but it’s still a good resource.”

A resource that will help produce a third-generation dentist from the Kendrick family.

“UAB was good to me,” Jeff Kendrick says, “and now hopefully they’re going to be good to my daughter and we’ll keep this thing going.”