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Dr. Peter Waite shares his memories about the late Dr. Scotty McCallum, former dean of the School of Dentistry and president of UAB.

I met Dr. McCallum in 1979 when I came to UAB for an interview. My father, an OMS from Minnesota, was a professional friend of Scotty and he knew of UAB’s excellent reputation. Dr. Joe Volker saw the potential in Dr McCallum and recruited him to Birmingham. Although, Dr. Volker probably started the UAB vision for excellence, it was Dr McCallum who continued to execute the plan.

Dr. McCallum was the first OMS resident to go on to medical school, and he always valued higher education. He was the prototype of our current “double degree” training program, which was one of the first and best, integrated with the medical school. He valued basic sciences and developed joint appointments between the SOD and SOM. I believe a strong basic science foundation is one reason the UAB SOD emerged preeminently in the world of academics.

He remained to become Department Chair, Dean of the School of Dentistry, Vice President for health Affairs, and President of UAB. He recruited UAB basketball coach Gene Bartow, and fostered the concept of “excellence”. I remember that word used often at commencement and faculty awards etc. Dr. McCallum was President of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the Joint Commission on Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations, and Mayor of Vestavia Hills. He was driven by excellence and inspired that concept in others. He was the most powerful man with the sweetest personality. He walked softly and carried a big stick. He was known to “work the carrot and the stick better than anyone”. He was always nice to me.

We had a unique relationship seldom experienced by most people. We spent hours with our heads two inches apart struggling to see into a surgical site driven by the concept of excellence. Dr McCallum once called me from Chicago for a report on one of his patients, and ask me to meet him Sunday night at 9 p.m. to make rounds. He was terribly busy but never in a hurry and always had time for his patients. He valued the solemn responsibility of patient care. We were required to always wear a tie and have a clean white coat. Nobody would wear scrubs except in the operating room. He would often talk to me while straightening my tie. He instilled in me the concept of professional excellence and looking professional for my patients. To this day I always wear a tie when treating patients in the clinic.

The McCallum family was always open to all UAB families. He would invite everyone over to his house with children on Christmas Eve. Since we had no family in Birmingham my children still remember going to his house in their PGs for Christmas. I realized to achieve excellence in my career I needed to have balance in all aspects of my life. Family and friends were very important. Dr McCallum was my teacher, mentor and friend.

Peter Waite, M.P.H., D.D.S., M.D., F.A.C.S., is Professor and former chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.