When Lionel Sadowsky, D.M.D., answers a question, his sharp sense of humor typically comes shining through.
One of his favorite stories goes back to his days in his native South Africa. Sadowsky, an orthodontist, was explaining to a mother the work he was going to have to do on the mouth of her child. She listened intently as Sadowsky explained in detail everything he had to do. When Sadowsky finished, she asked him a simple question: "I understand. But are you any good?"
|Lionel Sadowsky was once asked if he was a good orthodontist. Well, we’d say so. Based on his more than 30 years of service to UAB and to the specialty orthodontic profession, Sadowsky was honored as the 2010 Earl E. and Wilma S. Shepard Distinguished Service Award recipient.
"I told her, 'Sure, I'm good. Ask my mother,'" Sadow-sky says. "I mean, whose mother isn't going to say their child is good at what they do?"
Sadowsky, chair and professor emeritus in the School of Dentistry, actually is very good at his profession. He has been at the forefront of the orthodontic specialty since his arrival at UAB more than 30 years ago, conducting lectures, seminars and encouraging more rigorous education and training for future orthodontists at the national and international levels in addition to his teaching and clinical duties at UAB.
Now, the American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) has honored Sadowsky as the 2010 Earl E. and Wilma S. Shepard Distinguished Service Award recipient. Sadowsky was presented the award May 1 in Washington, D.C., at the annual American Association of Orthodontists national meeting. The intent of the award is to recognize achievement and encourage future efforts that advance the mission of ABO certification in the pursuit of excellence.
"It's a very nice honor," Sadowsky says. "It's nice that your peers think enough of you and your work to recognize you in such a kind way."
Sadowsky has served as chair of the School of Dentistry Department of Orthodontics and director of the advanced education program in orthodontics. He was academic leader in pre-doctoral education and graduate thesis supervision, and he served on the dental staff of Children's Rehabilitation Services in Birmingham and was an orthodontic consultant for the Birmingham Veterans Administration.
Sadowsky retired from full-time duty in 2008 but still maintains clinical duties one day a week in the School of Dentistry.
"I still enjoy working with the students," Sadowsky says. "I conduct seminars, teach them and carry out clinical supervision. And I annoy them a little bit also - tell them to keep the place clean, don't break anything and treat everybody nicely. I've always believed if you treat every patient like a family member you're bound to do the right thing."
Sadowsky worked in general dental practice in South Africa and England before joining UAB's faculty in 1976. Then School of Dentistry Dean Charles "Scotty" McCallum recruited Sadowsky and Alex Jacobson from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. "I didn't even know where the state of Alabama was," Sadowsky says. "I had to look it up on a map."
Jacobson and Sadowsky revamped the Department of Orthodontics upon their arrival, and it became an internationally recognized department.
Sadowsky says coming to the United States was one of the best decisions he ever made.
"When I spoke to my parents in South Africa about the opportunity I had to come here, they said if I didn't go they would be disappointed in me," Sadowsky says. "This is a great country - the most amazing in the world. They let people come in from anywhere and let you do what you want, and this is not the norm. When I return from an overseas trip, I really appreciate the immigration official saying, 'Welcome home, sir.' It really means something to me.
"This is a country of tremendous opportunity, and I don't think I would have been given the opportunities I've had if I didn't come here," he says.
Sadowsky also is the editor of the international journal Seminars in Orthodontics. He says he intends to keep working as long as he can.
"I have a great feeling for this department," Sadowsky says. "Something that you've helped develop and build - you want to keep it going and pass it along and let the next guys take it to the next level. And it's nice to be working with smart young people and doing something good. I enjoy it."