SOMETHING TO SMILE ABOUT

By Phil Sahm, University of Utah Health Sciences Public Affairs

A modest program begun 35 years ago to help aspiring Utah students become dentists came full circle on Wednesday, April 8, 2015, with the grand opening of the new home of the University of Utah School of Dentistry — the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Sciences Building.

Named for two Utah philanthropists whose kindness and vision were critical to the project’s success, the $36 million, 85,000-square-foot Research Park building provides advanced facilities for dentistry students, patients and faculty:

  • 62 dental operatories
  • Pediatric dentistry suite
  • Oral surgery suite
  • 100-seat auditorium
  • Three 50-seat tiered classrooms
  • Two 52-seat laboratories
  • Offices for faculty and staff
  • Expansive reception area

The School of Dentistry opened in 2013, joining the professional schools of pharmacy, nursing, health and medicine to complete the University’s offering of every aspect of a health sciences education. Opening the new building isn’t the end of the journey but rather the start of a new phase to train outstanding dentists, foster important research and work with the state’s diverse populations and dentists as a partner to ensure good oral health, according to Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., senior vice president for health sciences.

“Thanks to the great generosity of Ray and Tye Noorda and their children, our School of Dentistry now has the facilities both to provide an outstanding education for future dentists and to advance discovery in oral health science,” Lee says. “With the best dental students in the country, we expect to become one of the nation’s top dental programs while serving the people of Utah and those who cannot afford dental care. We are honored to steward this mission.”

The SOD also will serve as a resource for Utah dentists in ways ranging from providing meeting space to assisting in continuing education.

The SOD opened and accepted its first four-year class of students in 2013. The 20 inaugural students shared classroom space with others in medicine, nursing and pharmacy while the dentistry building was under construction. The building largely was funded by a $30 million donation from Ray and Tye Noorda and their children. Ray Noorda, who founded software giant Novell, died in 2006, and Tye passed away in 2014, not long after the groundbreaking for the dental school.

Completion of the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Sciences Building is a natural outgrowth of the University’s Regional Dental Education Program (RDEP). In 1979, G. Lynn Powell, D.D.S, received a federal grant to set up the RDEP in Utah. The federally funded program gave Utah dental students the opportunity to complete their first year of education at the U of U, then go to the University of Washington for their second and third years before returning home for their fourth year. More than 300 dentists began their education under the RDEP.

Under Powell’s leadership, the program officially began in 1980. Beginning in 1983, the University aligned itself with Creighton University School of Dentistry, a relationship that continued until the U of U opened its four-year school in 2013. Powell, a professor of dentistry, served as founding dean of the new school.

Glen Hanson, D.D.S., Ph.D., a longtime professor of pharmacology is serving as interim dean of the school. “We’ve had the academic skills and credentials for years to have a dental school but without the generosity of the Ray and Tye Noorda family, a place like this isn’t possible,” Hanson said. “Our students now have a sense of identity and home – a place where they can put on their dental student cap and truly realize their visions of becoming dentists.”

The grand opening celebration took place on Wednesday, April 8, 2015, with the ribbon cutting, reception and open house. Building tours were also offered. The Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Sciences Building is located at 530 S. Wakara Way in Research Park adjacent to the University of Utah.

MHTN, a Salt Lake City architecture firm, designed the building, which is eligible for LEED Gold certification. Okland Construction, also of Salt Lake City, served as general contractor.