Explore UAB

Dr. Wayne Primm with his immediate family
Dr. Wayne Primm with his immediate family

Dothan and dentistry through and through

Dr. Wayne Prim has always loved making beautiful things with his hands. Before he discovered dentistry, he was interested in pursuing a career as an architect.

“In high school, I took every single shop class and architectural drawing class that I could. I even took drama so that I could build stage sets! Neither of my parents went to college, but I wish they could’ve had the opportunity to do so – especially my mother. She had a gift for architecture and creating, and I’m grateful she passed that down to me.”

Wayne grew up in Dothan, Ala. Or, as he affectionately refers to it, ‘Mayberry.’

“It was a very simple, orderly, structured life,” reflected Wayne. “We played outside; we went to church. There was a lot of joy and a sense of belonging. It was secure. I feel very fortunate to have been raised there!”

Despite his affinity for the industrial arts, Dr. Prim shied away from pursuing architecture in college.

“I saw Auburn’s curriculum for architecture and knew that, with all the math involved, I’d never make it! In general, I knew I wasn’t as prepared for college as I should’ve been. So I made a decision to go to Marion Military School in Marion, Ala. I figured if I isolated myself from everyone and just buckled down, I’d do ok. And that’s what I did; I studied every night, and every Saturday and Sunday. After two years there, I was an honor graduate. I’d never been “honor” anything before, and I felt a reassurance that I could accomplish whatever else I wanted to if I just set my mind to it. It was life changing for me.”

After two years, Wayne made his way to Tuscaloosa to finish his undergraduate studies at the University of Alabama. While he had an interest in medicine, he still was not sure about his career path.

“I was getting antsy about staying in Tuscaloosa knowing Mom and Dad were back home working to get my brother and me through school, and I knew I needed to make a decision about my life. I was walking home one evening from my physics lab and outside of the Union Building was a sign for the Pre-Dental Fraternity. The sign advertised a speaker who was on campus that night, and I decided to walk in. It turns out the speaker was Dr. Scotty McCallum. I stood in the back of the room and just watched and listened to him. He was the first person I ever saw who I felt like he had what I wanted. When he finished, I walked down to the front and introduced myself. He asked me about my grades and encouraged me to apply, telling me that I might have a shot at getting in. It was right at that moment that the stars seemed to align, and I knew I wanted to go to dental school. And I’m here to say that there’s never been a single minute of my life that I regretted my decision. I loved my career as a dentist. Later in life, I got the chance to tell Dr. McCallum about how impactful that evening and his encouragement was on me. He was the mayor of Vestavia at the time, and I stopped in one morning and was able to see him. It was another monumental moment for me, being able to share with him how he changed my life, and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to do so.”

Dr. Prim entered the Alabama School of Dentistry in 1963. Just as he’d expected, dentistry turned out to be the perfect fit.

“We had a lot of requirements, and were under intense pressure to get them done,” admitted Dr. Prim. “But for me, the clinic and lab work came fairly naturally. I realize looking back that that was a gift passed down from my mother. I had been doing woodworking my whole life up to that point, and restorative and implant dentistry felt very natural. I also had an ability to envision the end result before ever starting, which I quickly learned was a crucial component of being a good dentist.”

After graduating from dental school in 1967, Dr. Prim entered the army. He spent a year in Vietnam before returning home to Dothan. He briefly practiced with another local dentist before opening his own office. Dr. Prim had a particular interest in preventative dentistry, and focused part of his practice solely on educating patients on basic dental hygiene.

“I tried to spend a lot of time with patients over the years. At first, I didn’t feel like I was successful at getting them to accept my treatment plans. I realized after a few years that I was the one who had been doing all the talking, and I wasn’t taking the time to get to know my patients. I learned how important it is to listen to people. Dentistry is not just about fixing teeth; it’s a gateway into people’s lives. It’s about lifting them up, and they have to be able to trust you and feel confident that you can help them.”

In the early 2000s, Dr. Ashley Matthews joined Dr. Prim’s practice as an associate. When Dr. Matthews came, Wayne was able to cut back to working just a few days a week. This freed up his time to volunteer at the UAB School of Dentistry as an adjunct faculty member.

“I taught at UAB for about 15 years and I really enjoyed it. Every time I’d go, there would be two or three students who would pull me aside and ask questions; that was so rewarding for me. Teaching is a wonderful thing, and you are able to touch so many people. The only things you keep are the things you give away.”

Dr. Prim fully retired in 2019, and he and his wife, Teri, moved to Auburn. They love living in a bustling college town, and their three sons, Ty, Trent, and Trey, along with their families, certainly love to visit. But just because he’s not in an office anymore doesn’t mean Dr. Prim isn’t busy.

“After many years of working and raising my children, I got back into woodworking. I really enjoy the creativity of it! I spend a lot of time in my shop, building furniture and making pieces for people I know and love who will keep it their whole lives. There will always be a small part of me that remains with them.”

Even after 55 years, Wayne doesn’t hesitate to sing the praises of the UAB School of Dentistry.

“The students that are lucky enough to get into UAB are getting a world class education. They may not realize it when they’re there because they are so focused on their studies, but after they leave and are exposed to students who graduated from other programs, they’ll realize how prepared they are to practice dentistry. It’s a great school!”