Fresh Start: 2013 School Year Kicks Off With Exciting Changes
Aug 26, 2013 1:00 PM
The past few weeks have marked some important beginnings for us at the University of Utah.
We celebrated the start of our new dental school with the welcoming of our first class of 20 students in a memorable white coat ceremony at the Rice-Eccles stadium, which was followed the next week by the groundbreaking ceremony for their future home, the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Education Building. At that groundbreaking, Lynn Powell, inaugural dean of the dental school—as well as my predecessor, Lorris Betz—shared stories of the winding road that brought us to that day.
The ground breaking ceremony also enabled us to acknowledge and thank the remarkable Noorda family. Tye Noorda’s personal experience with inadequate dental care when she was a young, newly married bride, moved her and her family to commit to ensuring that dental care be accessible to all, regardless of their abilities to pay for it. To have her sitting on the front row at the groundbreaking, with her children and grandchildren by her side, moved us all. I am grateful to Dean Powell and to Marilynn Paine in the School of Medicine, who have navigated the approvals process in the past couple of years. Their efforts have resulted in establishing the first new college at the U. in more than 40 years. I am also humbled by the capable Academic Senate leadership of Patricia Hanna, who helped the project along in part by gaining the enthusiastic approval of the dental school accrediting body at a lightening-like pace over 9 months.
At both these historical events, we witnessed another remarkable advance, the appointment of Rena D’Souza, our first permanent dean of the dental school. She electrified the crowds with her articulate and well-crafted vision of the dental school as a hub of collaboration, excellence, and innovation. With her ideas and passion, it’s clear the dental school is on its way to becoming a world leader in education, service, and research. It’s not an exaggeration to say that all eyes are on Utah right now. I’m confident the high expectations of those watching us will be met, and I’m in good company, if our first year class of 20 dental students is any indication. Selected from more than 800 applicants, the students’ track records already put us at the top, when compared to other dental schools around the nation. That’s a remarkable start.
Our newest crop of dental students is in excellent company. For the first two years, they will spend much of their classroom time with the newly expanded class of 102 medical students. Among the most competitive classes in the medical school that we’ve ever enrolled, we know that these students will develop an interdisciplinary appreciation that will serve them well as dentists who understand the pathophysiology of systemic diseases that impact oral health and physicians who appreciate the critical role of oral health across a range of conditions from heart disease to pregnancy to autoimmune diseases. Thanks to the support of the legislature and the generous contributions of our community, we are building a learning environment at the U. that will serve the people of our state well for years to come.
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