Oct. 25, 2012 – University of Utah officials have announced its new School of Dentistry building will be located in Research Park and named after Ray and Tye Noorda in recognition of a $30 million donation. The school was approved by the Utah State Board of Regents in July 2012 and will enroll its first four-year class of 20 students in the Fall of 2013.
“This is a historic step forward for dental education in Utah and we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Ray and Tye Noorda and their family for making this school possible,” said G. Lynn Powell, D.D.S., founding dean of the new school. “The quiet generosity of this remarkable couple and their family will have a lasting impact on the health of all Utahns. The University is committed to furthering the Noorda’s legacy by providing high-quality dental education at a reasonable cost for Utah students, as well as providing improved access to dental care for those in rural and other underserved areas of the state.”
According to the Noorda family, the donation exemplifies Ray and Tye Noorda’s passion for contributing to the public good, as well as fostering innovation and research that drives economic development and job creation. “This gift is about helping improve the human condition. This new dental school will train top Utah students and offer affordable tuition, it will provide underserved citizens from across the region with better access to dental care, and it will spark innovative dental research that will benefit patients around the world. We’re pleased to be a partner with the University of Utah in this important endeavor,” said the family. Ray Noorda founded the software company Novell in the 1980s and died in 2006. His wife Tye and four surviving children all participated in making the decision to donate to the dental school.
Establishing a dental school has long been a goal of University leaders, according to Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, senior vice president for health sciences at the University of Utah. She says the dental school will be an important partner with the University’s other clinical, research, and training programs in nursing, pharmacy, health, and medicine.
“This new dental school helps move our health sciences programs to the next level. By leveraging existing partnerships and ongoing collaborations with other colleges and programs my expectation is that within 10 years this school will be among the top 10 dental schools in the country in terms of research funding and reputation,” says Lee.
The new 70,000 square foot building, currently in the design phase, will feature a dental clinic, classrooms, research laboratories, and administrative offices for faculty. The building will be named the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Sciences Building and construction is expected to begin in early 2013. Prior to the building’s completion in late 2014, dental students will share classroom and laboratory space with their medical, nursing, and pharmacy colleagues.
Powell estimates the school will receive more than 500 applications in its first year from students hoping to enroll in the school’s inaugural class. “We’re hitting the ground running in terms of our reputation and applicant pool. We have tremendously talented and well-prepared Utah students and the chance to keep them in Utah for their training is really a dream come true for our program,” he said.
Despite not having had a dental school, Powell says dental education has a long tradition at the University. Since 1980, the University has run the Regional Dental Ed Program (RDEP). The program provides Utah students with the opportunity to train at out-of-state schools and then receive financial reimbursement for tuition if they return to Utah to practice. The program provides slots for 20 students (10 to Creighton University and 10 for other accredited dental schools) each year but will end once the current group of RDEP students complete their education in 2016. The University also has a one-year dental residency (postgraduate) program thattrains 10 graduate dentists each year at University of Utah Health Care facilities. That program is expected to continue.
Powell says one of his top priorities is recruiting new faculty and staff. In addition to Powell, Glen Hanson, D.D.S., Ph.D., is the school’s new associate dean for research. Many faculty members and community dentists who have been part of the existing Regional Dental Ed Program are expected to join the faculty in the coming months. The school has already received initial accreditation from the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).