Alumni National Awards


CummingsZazell Staheli Cummings, D.D.S., Dent ’16
Kiana, Alaska

After completing her degree, Dr. Zazell Staheli Cummings traveled more than 3,000 miles back to provide public health dental care in her home of Northwest Alaska. As lead dentist at the Maniilaq Health Center Dental Clinic, she serves Kotzebue and the 11 surrounding villages. This remote area is a part of the world where travelling annually is done by airplane and seasonally by boat or snowmobile.

Working in a village, 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Zazell leads a team of four dentists tasked with providing culturally competent and compassionate dental care for a 40,000-square-mile area with a population of over 7,500 people.

It is an area where dental health aides are often used in conjunction with qualified dental professionals. “Only two of the surrounding villages have full time mid-level dental providers. This leaves a large gap for treating patients with serious dental concerns. I love being a homegrown provider where many of us don’t get out, and even fewer of us come back after higher education to help make things better,” she says.

For Zazell, success means finding something in life that you love doing. “If you do, then work is not a chore,” she says. She also credits Marquette in helping her become the dentist, leader and role model she always aspired to be. “Marquette’s motto has been instilled in my heart. Every day I strive to Be the Difference,” she says.

Beyond her practice, Zazell and her husband love watching their kids play basketball. Zazell is a chosen member of the American Dental Association’s Institute for Diversity and Leadership and was selected in 2021 as a New and Emerging Speaker for the American Dental Association’s Smilecon annual convention. She is a licensed pilot, and her family operates a third-generation air taxi business.

Name someone (past or present) you’d like to have dinner with.
My grandma Bonnie or Elvis.

Name a Marquette faculty or staff member who had an impact on you, and how.
So many faculty and staff were crucial in molding me educationally, clinically, socially, and economically. It is hard to name one without leaving out so many.

Leave a congratulatory message for Zazell!