Powell family creates scholarship to bring more dentists to rural areas

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Zach Powell, DMD ’99, a first-generation dentist, feels extremely blessed to be part of the profession of dentistry. His group employs nearly 50 team members and is one of the largest private practices in southeast Georgia, serving patients across nine counties, in some of which his office is the only dental provider.

Passionate about rural healthcare initiatives, Powell wants to encourage other first-generation dentists to practice in rural and underserved parts of Georgia as well. To help bring more access to care to the patients of our great state, he and his wife, Elizabeth, who heads up his group operations, have established the Zachary J. Powell Scholarship Endowment.

“We need people to serve all over Georgia, not just major markets like Atlanta, Savannah and Athens. I think that’s something that is often overlooked, and we’re trying to bring attention to that,” explained Powell.

Powell knows all about the rural health care crisis in Georgia, particularly in dentistry. Not only does Powell have a dental group that services several rural communities in southeast Georgia, but he also traveled all over the state as the 2022 President of the Georgia Dental Association, speaking with hundreds of dentists as well as our legislators at the state capital.

“We have 20 counties in Georgia that currently do not have a dentist. We have over 30 counties that might have one dentist, so you’re talking about 20-25% of our counties that lack dental care,” said Powell. “I’ve witnessed so many great practices struggling to find doctors to come back to serve in these wonderful communities.”

Powell hopes the scholarship endowment will encourage more dental students to practice in rural and underserved areas, because the need as well as the appreciation is there. Choosing to practice in a disproportionate area can be a win for both the practitioner and the region.

“Serving these communities has brought so much abundance to my life – forging relationships with the great folks in our agricultural counties has enriched my family’s life incredibly. Additionally, we bring health care jobs back to these communities, many of which are thriving and seeing renewed growth as people move out of more urban areas in search of quality of life.

“Prospective students see it as a risk going to an underserved area, but they don’t realize the level of success that they’ll be able to find in these communities – much, much more substantial than in a more urban area,” said Powell. “And this scholarship will hopefully inspire first-generation new dentists to consider practicing in those communities.”

Powell was awarded a leadership scholarship and became a Hinman scholar in his fourth year of dental school at the Dental College of Georgia.

“I’ve been incredibly blessed by this profession. I still to this day remember getting a leadership scholarship award and I remember driving home thinking, ‘This is going to help us so much!’  If there was a young person, considering going back to a rural community, what would a scholarship do for that person and how could it help him or her bring their talents and gifts to an underserved region?”

With those thoughts in mind, and with the values passed down to Powell from his parents – who were also entrepreneurs and strong advocates of serving other people – it’s no wonder that he and his wife started looking for ways to give back.

To make a gift to support the Dental College of Georgia or the Zachary J. Powell Scholarship Endowment, please call Philanthropy at 706-721-4001 or email philanthropy@augusta.edu.

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Written by
Valerie Emerick
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