Michael Zakula named SODAS 2015 Distinguished Dental Alumnus

Michael Zakula

Michael Zakula ('76) is a problem solver and a change agent whose efforts to support dental education and enhance access to dental care for northeastern Minnesota patients have resulted in initiatives that serve as models for the nation.

Zakula was instrumental in identifying an opportunity for the School of Dentistry to partner with the Hibbing Community College (HCC). The partnership resulted in an expanded teaching facility for HCC dental assisting students and the dental school’s first outreach teaching facility, which quickly became one of the most popular clinical rotations for School of Dentistry students. Since 2002, more than 1,000 dental and dental hygiene students have spent time at the clinic, caring for patients and learning about life and dental practice in Greater Minnesota.

Zakula also helped launch the Michael J. Till Dental Scholarship Program for dental students choosing to practice in northeastern Minnesota and, in 2010, worked to advance and pass legislation that established a loan forgiveness program to attract dentists to the Taconite Assistance Area (TAA). Today, Zakula is a director of the Minnesota Dental Foundation Board which administers the program.

Recently, he worked through Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation to create another program that provides loan repayments for dentists who commit to practicing general dentistry full-time for five years in designated dental health professions shortage areas. For these, and community and professional activities too numerous to mention, he is awarded the School of Dentistry’s most prestigious alumni award. He was similarly recognized in 2015 by the University of Minnesota when it awarded Dr. Zakula its Alumni Service Award.

Dr. Zakula received his Certificate in Orthodontics from Emory University School of Dentistry.