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University of Utah breaks ground on dental school, welcomes new dean


Breaking ground: Members of the University of Utah School of Dentistry's class of 2017, the dental school's first group of students, pose Aug. 23 at the groundbreaking of the Ray and The Noorda Oral Health Sciences Building. The 80,000-square-foot facility, set to open December 2014, will house the state's first public dental school.
Salt Lake City—The University of Utah broke ground Aug. 23 on the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Sciences Building—a $36.4 million facility set to house the state's first public dental school.

The 80,000-square-foot facility, named after the founder of software company Novell and his wife, Tye, is scheduled to open December 2014. The Noordas donated about $30 million to the project.

Among the attendees at the groundbreaking were the school's first 20 students, and Dr. Rena N. D'Souza, the University of Utah School of Dentistry's first permanent dean who assumed the role Aug. 1.

"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 said.


Dr. Rena D'Souza
Dr. D'Souza was named as the school's first permanent dean in May. She was a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Baylor College of Dentistry and served as chair from 2006-12. In addition, Dr. D'Souza has lead federally-funded institutional research training grants, and supervised the training of dentist-scientists at the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels, the University of Utah said in a statement.

"I am wonderfully excited and humbled by the opportunity to lead the school of dentistry at the University of Utah where the spirit of collaboration and entrepreneurship is exemplary," Dr. D'Souza said.

The school has already landed more than $5 million in two research grants: one focused on drug addiction and the other to study system involved in pain regulation and reward functions in the brain.

The ADA's Commission on Dental Accreditation granted initial accreditation to the school in 2012.

The class of 2017 is currently sharing classroom and lab space with UT nursing, pharmacy and medical students until the new building is completed. The inaugural class held its white coat ceremony Aug. 16.