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University of Utah set to open state's first public dental school in fall of 2013

January 21, 2013

By Karen Fox, ADA News staff

Salt Lake City—The state of Utah is getting its second dental school.

The University of Utah School of Dentistry, a public school, will welcome its first class of 20 students this fall. Construction is expected to begin soon on a new dental school building that will be named for a benefactor who donated $30 million for the program.

Dr. Powell 
Utah's first dental school, the Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine, a private school, opened its doors to 64 students in 2011. Roseman is located in South Jordan, Utah, south of Salt Lake City.

Dr. G. Lynn Powell, University of Utah School of Dentistry founding dean, estimates the school will receive more than 500 applications in its first year.

“We're hitting the ground running in terms of our reputation and applicant pool,” said Dr. Powell. “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.”

The new dental school builds on the University of Utah's long-running, successful dental education programs that include a postgraduate dental residency program, which will continue, and a 32-year-old Regional Dental Education Program directed by Dr. Powell. The RDEP recruits dental students who attend their first year of dental education at the University of Utah's School of Medicine then complete their final three years at Creighton University School of Dentistry in Omaha, Neb. Under the terms of the agreement, some of the students' tuition can be reimbursed if they return to Utah to practice. With the opening of the new School of Dentistry, that program will be discontinued when the final class of the RDEP graduates in 2016.

The new dental school building, the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Sciences Building, is slated to open in the fall of 2014. The Noordas made a $30 million donation in the interest of contributing to the public good and fostering innovation and research that drives economic development and job creation. Mr. Noorda founded the software company Novell in the 1980s and died in 2006. His wife Tye and children made the decision to donate to the dental school.

“The quiet generosity of this remarkable couple and their family will have a lasting impact on the health of all Utahns,” said Dr. Powell. “The university is committed to furthering the Noordas' 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.”

University of Utah officials say the dental school will be an important partner with its 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,” said Vivian S. Lee, M.D., senior vice president for health sciences at the University of Utah. “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.”

The Commission on Dental Accreditation granted initial accreditation to the University of Utah School of Dentistry in 2012.