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Phil Sahm

Phone: (801) 581-2517

Aug 23, 2013 3:48 PM

Architectural rendering of the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Education Building
Architectural rendering of the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Education Building

(SALT LAKE CITY)—The University of Utah on Friday broke ground on the $36.4 million Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Education Building, which when completed in December 2014 will house the University’s newly founded School of Dentistry.

Being constructed with $30 million in donations from Ray and Tye Noorda and their children, the nearly 80,000-square-foot building in Research Park will provide state-of-the-art lab and classroom facilities, administrative and faculty offices, and a dental clinic. The School of Dentistry opened this year welcomed its inaugural class of 20 students at an Aug. 16, 2013, white coat ceremony.

The University 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,” 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 school already has received two National Institutes of Health research grants for more than $5 million to study addiction and pain regulation in the brain.

Ray Noorda, who founded the software giant Novell in the 1980s, died in 2006. His wife, Tye, and their four surviving children made the decision to donate $30 million to help construct the building that houses the new school.

In May, Rena N. D’Souza, D.D.S., Ph.D., a highly regarded dental researcher, educator and mentor, was named first permanent dean of the school, starting Aug. 1, 2013. She comes from the Baylor (Texas) College of Dentistry and is an expert in craniofacial genetics tooth development and regeneration.

The SOD will strive to seek and practice innovations in inter-professional education, science and health care delivery that will guide high quality and evidence-based dental practices, according to D’Souza. In the next several months the SOD will recruit a cadre of outstanding faculty 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,” she says. “I am proud that our founding DDS Class of 2017 ranks as the most qualified among dental students in the nation and that these students will uphold the traditions of academic excellence set by the University of Utah.”

D’Souza anticipates working closely with the University of Utah, state legislators, dental practitioners and other stakeholders to improve the oral health status of Utah citizens, which will contribute to the betterment of overall health and the quality of life for all the patients and communities the school serves. 

“By caring for the needs of our diverse communities, the School of Dentistry will honor the legacy of good will and trust placed in us by the Noorda family,” she says.>

Establishing the School of Dentistry is a natural evolution of the University’s Regional Dental Education Program (RDEP), begun in 1980 to provide Utah dental students the first year of their schooling before going out of state to complete their degrees at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. In its 30-plus years the RDEP has 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.

Dental School Facts

  • Number of students: 20 (same as the REDP)
  • Class breakdown: 16 men and 4 women
  • Average GPA: 3.81
  • In-state tuition: $30,243 a year
  • Out-of-state tuition: $60,000

MHTN is the building architect and designer and Okland Construction is general contractor. Both firms are based in Salt Lake City and have worked on a number of construction projects at the University of Utah.