The Art of Building a Business

Drs. Deanne Vail and Julie Webb are the faces of Homewood

Article by Denise K. James

Photography by Sam Evans, Rhythm Creative

Originally published in Birmingham Lifestyle

Even while Dr. Deanne Vail was growing up in Huntsville, she already had an idea of the kind of life she wanted – and it wasn’t one where she’d be woken by her smartphone in the dead of night to rush off to a hospital, leaving family wondering when she’d return. Although she was interested in medicine and had volunteered at a hospital in college, when pondering what field suited her best, she chose dentistry for the work-life balance. “I always knew I wanted kids,” she says. “I took a realistic look at what different careers would entail — plus, I knew I wanted my own practice one day.” 

One hundred miles away, Dr. Vail’s future practice partner, Dr. Julie Webb, felt the same way as she embarked on her life path in Birmingham. Dr. Webb, too, wanted to work in medicine, but it wasn’t until she shadowed a dentist that she saw how dentistry mirrored her own skills and interests. “I love to help people, and I love to build things and work with my hands,” she says. “And actually, my favorite character on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was always the dentist!” 

Fast-forward a few years after dental school  – with Dr. Vail accepting an associateship in Huntsville and Dr. Webb also working in Huntsville, followed by Gulf Shores — and the two dentists reconnected in the Magic City while working for American Cast Iron Pipe Company, a firm known for its unorthodox approach to employee health care. Since its inception, American Cast Iron had offered on-site health, dental and wellness for staff without any insurance companies involved — benefits were simply included as part of compensation. However, due to rising costs, the company was forced to cease health offerings in 2005 — a serendipitous moment for Drs. Vail and Webb, who were swift to reassure the employees they would continue to be their dentists. Dr. Vail had already eyeballed a spot that she felt would be ideal for her dream: the very corner where the practice is now located. Clearly, it was all meant to be. 

“Dr. Clark, who had been in this space prior, was buying on Lancaster Road, so this spot was open for rent,” Dr. Vail explains. After she rented the practice location, Drs. Vail and Webb renovated the space together, opening the practice doors two months later. 

If you ask them, the dentists agree it feels natural to work as a team – they complement one another in medical beliefs and approach. Both feel that dentistry is an art form – particularly cosmetic dentistry, which is the practice’s current focus. “You have to be able to look at someone's smile and see the potential adjustments to enhance it,” remarks Dr. Webb. “Dentistry requires a combination of art, engineering and even physics. There’s a lot involved!”

“I didn’t realize how much artistry I needed in my life until I found myself painting at home during the pandemic,” Dr. Vail adds. “I never thought of whitening and veneers as art, but when I came back to work, I had a better understanding.” 

Both Dr. Vail and Dr. Webb agree the surrounding community of Homewood has been a large part of the practice’s success. Not only are the myriad dental and cosmetic services offered at Homewood Family & Cosmetic Dentistry an art form in their own way, but so is building a base of happy, loyal patients who wholeheartedly trust the practice. Doing the right thing by every patient is a cornerstone philosophy for Drs. Vail and Webb – after all, their patients are often their neighbors, and good neighbors build good communities. 

“If we have to spend a little bit of extra time on getting something right, that’s OK,” Dr. Webb emphasizes. “I tell my patients, ‘Let me check it one more time.’ I want it to be the best it can be. And my personal philosophy is the golden rule — I feel like our patients are part of my family, and I treat them all like family.”

“We care deeply about our patients and about this practice – because it is ours,” Dr. Vail adds.  “Homewood is our community, and giving back to this community is one of our favorite things.” 

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