His undergraduate days at West Virginia University resulted in less than stellar results.
"I graduated with a 3.1 grade point average," he said. "I applied to University of Virginia medical school, where my dad went. The dean called him and said, 'Your son's too damn dumb to get in here.' "
Plan B was WVU's new dental school and to this day, Haley says, "I don't know why I got in."
He focused on getting through his first year, unaware of his grades and more concerned with just finishing.
At the end of the year, the dean called him.
Haley thought he was going to be tossed out. On the contrary.
"He was calling to offer me an academic scholarship."
His oral surgery residency followed and then Haley immediately signed up for the Air Force. When he was honorably discharged three years later as a captain, he brought with him a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
Here's the short story behind those: "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I couldn't run fast enough."
And here's the longer version: In January 1968, the Viet Cong and North Vietnam launched a military campaign called the Tet Offensive. The series of surprise attacks targeted military and civil command centers.
Haley was working in a medical unit when an attack began. In the chaos, he decided to "get the hell out of Dodge," and take cover in a below-ground bunker. Just as he prepared to dive to safety, he felt a pain in his back. He was hit by shrapnel, twice in the back and once in the rear end.
His medic removed the metal from his back, but left his rear-end alone because Haley feared injury to his sciatic nerve. A short time later, he returned to the medical unit to treat patients, still bleeding and in pain from his injuries. A superior officer noticed, and the next day he got his medals.
Haley is more proud of the fact that he and his team saved many men.
In his entire career, he has lost two patients, both in Vietnam. One had meningitis and the other was so badly injured, "even Jesus couldn't have saved him," Haley said.
He has visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., where he looked for every name he could recall on the long wall. None was there.
Back in Charleston, Haley set up practice, first on Virginia Street and since 1989 at the St. Francis medical building. He has served as a clinical professor for WVU here and for many years taught at Charleston Area Medical Center's dental clinic.
Haley raised three sons from his first marriage. John is deceased. Travis is a lawyer in Charleston. And Patrick is a sergeant in the Air Force, serving in its Special Operations Warfare Group. An architect by training, he works to rebuild infrastructure.
Once he closes out the office completely, Haley figures he has enough to do. He's an avid motorcyclist. He enjoys gun sports. He's a scuba diver.
His stepdaughter, Robin Cooper, is his office manager and surgical assistant. Although their strong personalities have clashed on occasion, Cooper said she's been weepy since her stepdad announced his retirement.
"I don't know what I'm going to do next," she said. "He's a rare breed - he's brilliant. The patients have been coming in here boo-hooing just like me."
Haley's wife, Becky, said she has watched her husband take care of patients who lacked the means to pay.
"He's removed teeth for free. To me as a wife, that tells me a lot about my husband," she said.
Contact writer Monica Orosz at mon...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4830.