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Progeny return to parents’ alma mater, establish family tradition

Published on Monday, January 12, 2015

By: Ruth Cummins .

Published on January 12, 2015

The School of Dentistry at the University of Mississippi Medical Center opened its doors in 1975 – some might say a generation ago.

That’s certainly the case for approximately 30 of its graduates. One or more of their children have either graduated from the dental school or are enrolled there now. In some of their cases, it was all but predictable; in others, serendipity.

“It is a testament to what a great profession dentistry is when so many of our graduates’ children choose dentistry as their profession,” said Dr. Gary Reeves, dean of the School of Dentistry. “Also, the parents want their children to receive their dental education at UMMC, because they know there is none better.”

Here are the stories of three such graduates whose child or children are carrying on the legacy of learning that makes dentistry such a respected profession.


Dr. Paula Strange
Dr. Paula Strange

Divorced and mother of three children under 5, Paula Stewart in 1991 decided to go to dental school after working as a dental hygienist for 16 years.

That year, Thad Strange also became part of the Class of 1995 at the School of Dentistry. The two married, and Strange adopted Stewart’s children.

Paula Strange’s oldest child, Stewart, was just 4 when his mother went back to school. Paula’s brother, Clarke Stewart, also is a dentist.

“Stewart grew up in the path of least resistance,” Paula said. “When he was a child, he was up in the lab with me all the time. He was at the dental school when I was studying and doing teeth.”

It’s no wonder, Paula and her son say, that Stewart followed in the footsteps of so many family members, graduating in 2012.

“When he was little, he wanted to be a pumpkin and Christmas tree farmer, but the only thing he was ever exposed to was dentistry,” his mother said.

“It probably would have been fun,” Stewart said of a farming operation. “But with both parents and an uncle who are dentists, being at least in the medical profession is always what I wanted to do.”

Dr. Stewart Strange
Dr. Stewart Strange

Two days a week, Stewart practices at his mother’s office at Highland Village in Jackson. She practiced for more than a decade in Clinton before making the move to Jackson several years ago. Stewart works the rest of the week at the offices of Dr. Teena Horn (‘83) in Houston and Dr. Richard Akin (‘79) in Hazlehurst – both of whom are School of Dentistry graduates.

“When I got out of school, I was almost too familiar with dentistry,” Stewart said. “That was all our family vacations and our dinner talk. I wanted to see something different and go to rural Mississippi, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Thad Strange is a Flowood endodontist. Paula, who resides in Raymond, and Stewart, a Madison resident, say their office partnership is, in a word, wonderful.

“I love working with him,” said Paula, who serves as president of the Mississippi Dental Association. “He’s very respectful, and he and I are very like-minded. He’s got a delightful personality.”

Said Stewart: “It’s great. We’re easy. We don’t have any trouble. She’s a fun mom, and it makes for a nice working environment.

“We have a fun, joking family.”

Stewart said the variety of experience he’s getting is “an incredible opportunity.” And that’s just what she’s wanted for him, Paula said.

“I like interacting with people, a lot of new people every day,” Stewart said. “I can make a difference in their lives.”


Dr. Lewis Grubbs
Dr. Lewis Grubbs

It’s a dental dynasty in the family of Jackson dentist Dr. Lewis Grubbs (’83): son Clay Grubbs (’03) is a dentist in Clinton, where his brother, Lee Grubbs (’09), is an endodontist.

Daughter Mary Grubbs Garner, a 2007 graduate of UMMC’s School of Health Related Professions, is a dental hygienist in her father’s office.

“I never pushed them in any direction,” Lewis said. “I just wanted them to get a good education. Once they said that was what they wanted to do, I backed them up.”

Dr. Lee Grubbs
Dr. Lee Grubbs

Lewis said Lee initially leaned toward medical school, “but at the last minute, he said he just didn’t want that kind of lifestyle so far as being on call. He wanted to be with his children.

“Their families were all here,” added Lewis, who has seven grandchildren. “And if you have a Mississippi (dental) school, you support that school.”

Lee said part of his decision to go to dental school was the example his father set.

“He could go to all of our sporting events,” Lee said. “Everywhere we went, everyone always spoke very highly of Dad, and still do.”

Dr. Clay Grubbs
Dr. Clay Grubbs

Clay not only got a feel for dentistry from his father, but he also received an early acquaintance with the UMMC campus as a childhood cancer patient during his elementary school years.

“I spent a lot of time in my dad’s office, and saw that the patients who came there really loved Dr. Grubbs,” said Clay, who was recently chosen by Incisal Edge magazine as one of the “40 under 40” young dentists who excel in their respective fields. “I saw how much he loved his job.

“I love people, and my dad and I are a lot alike there.”

Lewis and his boys all had similar experiences in the School of Dentistry. Lewis let them find their way.

“Not everyone breezes through school with courses like pharmacology and gross anatomy,” the elder Grubbs said. “It was like déjà vu. I’d just laugh and tell them to suck it up.”

Mary Grubbs Garner
Mary Grubbs Garner

Mary, who received her bachelor of science in dental hygiene, worked for brother Clay before joining her father’s staff.

“I think we make a joke of it,” she said of the family’s career path. “But, Dad was always there for everything we did.

“He didn’t work Fridays. I don’t remember having a sport or contest or choir performance where he wasn’t there.”

What does Lewis say to people who discover just about the whole family spends the day working on teeth?

“Not everybody knows, but the ones closest to us think it’s pretty cool,” he said. “My wife (Chyrl) gets left out quite a bit when we talk about dentistry, but she’s been through it all with all of us. She’s actually very knowledgeable.”


A career in dentistry has afforded a full life, not just for Dr. Eric McCormick (’85), but for his entire family.

He and his late wife, Lanae, raised three daughters in Bay Springs, where Eric has operated his own clinic for 30 years. Two of their three girls – Alice McCormick, D2, and Laura McCormick Dixon, D4, are enrolled in the School of Dentistry. The youngest, Caroline, chose a career in speech pathology. 

“They always saw that dentistry allowed me to have freedom, and rarely issues of coming to work at night,” Eric said. “It allowed me to be beneficial to the community.

“We took a lot of wonderful trips and traveled everywhere with our kids. It allowed us to have a good lifestyle and plenty of family time.”

It’s nice, he told his daughters, to have a career where you can be your own boss.

“They were exposed to dentistry,” he said. “They were around the conversation. When they were small, they’d come to the office with me if I had an emergency.”

Alice said her teachers aren’t limited to her professors. She said her little sister, Laura, is both her comfort and her coach.

“It was my sister who taught me how to drill a cavity,” Alice said. “She spent hours with me in the lab. She taught me to do a crown prep and a root canal.

“Being with her has helped me so much. We eat lunch together every day. We look so much alike that everyone gets us confused.”

Said Laura: “It helps me to realize that I’m learning when I know enough to teach her. It helps me to see my progress, and it’s nice to have someone you feel comfortable around.

“She gets it.”

Having a dentist as a father “definitely had major pull in my decision to go to dental school,” Laura said.

“I’ve seen how dad’s patients react to him and feel like they are part of our family. I wanted to be like him.”

Eric has fielded a number of calls from the girls seeking advice.

“In clinicals, she’s called about dealing with patient management and trying to get compliance with patients,” he said of Laura. “We talked this morning about a crown she was putting in a patient’s mouth.”

Laura and her husband live in Ridgeland. That would make it difficult for her to work side-by-side with Eric, a dream he’s always had. But Alice might be a possibility.

“I’m keeping my options open,” Alice said. “I know all his staff and the ins and outs of the office.”

“I’ve always thought that one of them, at some point in time, might be able to come over and take over my practice,” Eric said. “That might come to fruition yet.”

Legacy of Achievement

The following lists the School of Dentistry’s “family” alumni:

Andrew Abide Sr. (’82) of Greenville; sons Andrew Abide Jr. (’07) of Southaven and David Abide (’10) of Greenville

The late Bryan Blakeney (’84) of Gulfport; son Stephen Blakeney, D1

Thomas Byrd (’88) of Florence; son Adam Byrd (’13) of Florence

Tim Carney (’86) of Brandon; son Daniel Carney, D4

Michael Carter (’79) of Ridgeland; daughter Catherine Ann Carter Sledge (’11) of Ridgeland

Charles Caskey (’80) of Ridgeland; son Curtis Caskey (’10) of Ridgeland

Jeff Cumberland (’86) of Richland; daughter Lynsey Cumberland (’14)

David Curtis (’86) of Columbus; son D. Kennon Curtis (’11) of Southaven

and daughter Katie Lee Curtis, D4

Andy Dulaney (’86) of Byram; son Andrew Dulaney (’14) of Byram

Michael Ellis (’83) of Vicksburg; daughter Kaitlyn Ellis, D3

John Goolsby (’97) of Clinton; son John Goolsby (’02) of Clinton

Lewis Grubbs (’83) of Jackson; sons Lee Grubbs (’09) of Clinton

and Clay Grubbs (’03) of Clinton

Mike Harkins (’84) of Clinton; son Michael Harkins, D3

David Henderson (’83) of Carthage; daughter Laura Kathryn Henderson, D2

Carey Johnston (’82) of Ridgeland; son Daniel Johnston (’13)

Felda Jones (’85) of Forest; son Trey Jones (’14) of Forest

Theresa Jones (’83) of Gulfport; daughter Brittany Jones Varney, D2

Michael Keel (’82) of Long Beach; son Stephen Keel (’14) of Long Beach

John Lamberth (’86) of Tupelo; daughter Lisa Lamberth, D2

David Lee (’84) of Greenville; daughter Ellen Brister Lee, D3

Eric McCormick (’85) of Bay Springs; daughters Laura McCormick Dixon, D4,

and Alice McCormick, D2

Marty Myers (’81) of Kosciusko; son Warner Myers (’13) of Kosciusko

Roger Parkes (’79) of Jackson; son K.B. Parkes (’09) of Nashville, Tennessee

Paula Stewart (’96) of Jackson; son Clarke Stewart Strange (’12) of Houston

Raanne Tindle (’87) of Cleveland; daughter Trevor Tindle, D4

Edward Wheeler (’83) of Gulfport; son Tyler Wheeler, D1

Lloyd Wolfe (’84) of Jackson; daughter Alyssa Wolfe, D1

Charles Young (’80) of Tupelo; daughter Elise Young (’12) of Tupelo