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New School of Dentistry White Coat Ceremony and Groundbreaking at University of Utah

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In August, the University of Utah (U of U) celebrated two historic events when it held the White Coat Ceremony for the inaugural class of its School of Dentistry and broke ground on the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Sciences Building, which will house the dental program.

At the White Coat Ceremony, the school’s first permanent Dean, Rena N. D’Souza, D.D.S., Ph.D., told the 20 students of the class of 2017 that they represent the future of dentistry and must safeguard its status as a science-based profession through a lifetime of constant learning and dedication to improving the oral health of the people of Utah and elsewhere. She emphasized that this will require a commitment to dedicate the best of their minds (knowledge), hands (technical skills) and hearts (compassion) to the profession of dentistry. “By developing these qualities concurrently, you will be best positioned to develop into the outstanding oral health professionals you wish to be,” she says.

Guests at the White Coat Ceremony included ADEA President and CEO, Richard W. Valachovic, D.M.D, M.P.H.

The following week, U of U broke ground on the future home of the School of Dentistry, the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Sciences Building. This $36.4 million facility is scheduled to open in December 2014. The building is named in honor of the late Ray Noorda, who founded the software giant Novell, and his wife Tye, who with their children contributed $30 million to construct the 80,000-square-foot facility. When finished, the building will provide state-of-the-art classroom and lab facilities, administrative and faculty offices and a dental clinic. The SOD opened this year. Its inaugural class is sharing classroom and lab space with nursing, pharmacy and medical students until the new building is completed.

With the opening of the new dental school, the U of U now offers every aspect of a health sciences education and the dental program will be an important part of the other clinical, research and training missions in pharmacy, nursing, health and medicine, according to Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., U of U Senior Vice President for Health Sciences, Dean of the Medical School and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. 

“With the opening of the School of Dentistry, highly qualified Utah students no longer have to leave state to finish their education at a first-rate, four-year dental school,” Dr. Lee says. “We expect the School of Dentistry to become a top 10 institution in reputation and research and to serve as a resource for the entire Utah dental community.”

The new School of Dentistry is a natural evolution of the University of Utah’s Regional Dental Education Program (RDEP), which was founded in 1980 to provide the first year of dental training to 20 students a year. After finishing their first year, students went to Creighton University to finish their dental education. In its 30-plus years, the RDEP helped launch the careers of hundreds of dentists under the direction of G. Lynn Powell, D.D.S, who also is the founding Dean of the School of Dentistry and continues to serve on the faculty of the new school.

The School of Dentistry will strive to seek and practice innovations in interprofessional education, science and health care delivery that will guide high-quality and evidence-based dental practice. By harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of the U of U’s highly collaborative and integrated campus, the School of Dentistry will develop new algorithms for innovation in dental education and scholarship, according to Dr. D’Souza. In the next several months the School of Dentistry will recruit a cadre of outstanding faculty leaders who, along with founding faculty, will build strong and sustainable programs to reach those goals.

“The School of Dentistry will shape the future of dentistry worldwide by developing exemplary oral health professionals who are clinicians, educators, researchers and community leaders,” Dr. D’Souza says.

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