Danielle PowellAs the daughter of an elementary school teacher and plumber, Dr. Danielle Powell’s parents instilled in her three things that would become an integral part of who she is: 
- The importance of education
- To have a career that she could be passionate about
- To value everyone she meets

As a kid, Dr. Powell remembers her mom buying her toy stethoscopes and microscopes. Then, when a dermatologist came to speak to her 8th-grade class, Powell knew for sure she wanted to pursue medicine. While she no longer wants to create a skincare line, the intentions of Dr. Powell’s career path still resonate with one of her personal mission statements—to “make a difference in people’s lives through expert advice, personal empowerment, and compassion.”

Raised in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, Powell had always known of her Alabama roots. Still, it was not until she attended undergraduate school at Alabama A&M—a school in which her maternal grandparents were alumnus—that the significance of her family’s role in education took hold.

Powell’s maternal great-grandfather was one of the first African-American men in the Oxford, Alabama area to pursue higher education. However, he did not stop there. Powell’s great-grandfather used his voice to help educate other African-American men on the importance of higher education. It was this legacy that moved local school, C.E. Hanna Elementary, to name itself in his honor.

After graduating from Alabama A&M, Powell attended medical school at the University of South Alabama and did her residency at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Here she served as chief resident during her training. During her time in medical school, she had the opportunity to study neurology neuroscience—which served as the spark for her passion for physical medicine and rehabilitation. During these rotations, Powell posed the question, “what happens to these patients after they have had a stroke and we save their lives?”

For this, Dr. Powell was able to pull experiences from her own life.

During high school, Powell’s grandmother suffered a stroke. Unsure at the time if her grandma received the physical or occupational therapy she needed, Dr. Powell was able to reflect on the knowledge she gained in medical school and recognize that the change in demeanor she saw, was likely due to depression.

A couple of years after her grandmother’s stroke and transition into a nursing home, she passed away. When Dr. Powell combines her life experiences with the knowledge she gained in medical school, she asks herself, “if there was someone like me who could have intervened at that time, would her [grandmother] life have been different?”

After her residency in 2011, Dr. Powell started her career at UAB. To this day, she continues to work toward ensuring families receive the level of care and services needed to be successful after their physician appointment. This success includes a holistic view of care that encompasses the physical and mental health of the patient and caregivers.

With Dr. Powell’s most recent accomplishment—being named interim chair for the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation—she looks forward to how she can use her passion, determination, and resilience to take the department to the next level.

While on a mission to reach new heights within her department, Dr. Powell can also be found mentoring the next generation of physicians. As one of only eleven Learning Community Lead Mentors for UAB School of Medicine, Powell urges students to seek out mentorship and sponsorship; she advises, “Don’t wait for someone to come to you. Don’t be afraid of ‘No’ because the ‘Yes’ can be life-changing.”