Blue Renew: School holds groundbreaking for major renovation and expansion10 min read
Ann Arbor, Mich., Oct. 10, 2018 -– School of Dentistry administrators and university officials led a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday that kicked off construction of the school’s $140 million renovation and expansion.
The event signaled the beginning of a four-year construction phase that the school is calling Blue Renew. After several years of planning and fundraising, this will be the first major update of the dental school’s main building since it was completed nearly 50 years ago in 1971. About half of the existing facility will be renovated and approximately 48,000 square feet will be added, primarily by building a three-story addition in what is now the central courtyard of the school.
About 200 people attended the groundbreaking in the school’s central courtyard, in front of the main entrance along North University Avenue. Dean Laurie McCauley led a program that included U-M President Mark Schlissel, U-M Provost Martin Philbert, dental student Thomas Havlichek, state Rep. Yousef Rahbi (D-Ann Arbor), state Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) and U-M Regent Andrew Richner.
“Since the school’s founding in 1875, generation after generation of outstanding faculty and students have established the school as a national and international leader in dentistry and dental education,” McCauley said. “Our success in providing and advancing healthcare for the people of Michigan -– and for those around the world through our research and discoveries -– demonstrates the power of people dedicated to the common good. But our people need outstanding facilities in which to work.”
McCauley said it was time for the school to commission a major upgrade that reflects the evolution of dentistry and dental education and sets the standard for dental school facilities well into the future. “We first focused on patient care, which is at the heart of everything we do here,” she said. “We studied innovative ways to teach students about changing technologies and new dental procedures. We highlighted collaborative research and how the many disciplines have evolved into vibrant communities of contemporary shared science.”
McCauley thanked the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder for the initial state funding that kick-started the project, and the U-M Board of Regents for its ongoing support. The U-M Office of Government Relations and Vice President Cynthia Wilbanks were instrumental in the early stages, as was the U-M Provost’s Office, under Dr. Martin Philbert and his predecessor, Martha Pollack. Former Dean Peter Polverini and former Senior Associate Dean Dennis Lopatin initiated the project. McCauley thanked Chief of Staff Erica Hanss who is coordinating myriad details and input from staff, faculty, students, alumni and the Dean’s Advisory Board. McCauley cited university experts in planning, construction and finance, including Ken Clein of the university’s Architecture, Engineering and Construction office. Architects and designers from SmithGroup have brought invaluable structure to the process, she said. Generous gifts from alumni and friends of the school continue to bolster the project, led by a significant and early lead gift from the Delta Dental Foundation for the creation of a specially-equipped clinic for patients with special needs.
President Mark Schlissel noted the impact the school has on residents of Michigan: 44 percent of dentists in the state are U-M alumni; the school’s dental clinics log 191,000 patient appointments annually; dental students and faculty treat patients at 16 outreach clinics around the state, often treating those with limited access to dental care. The dental school served patients from 82 of Michigan’s 83 counties last year. “The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is a place where the best and brightest come to study, practice and conduct world-class research. And the people of our state are the first beneficiaries,” Schlissel said. “With the excellent training they receive here, our students improve lives in communities all across the state.”
“Thanks to the generous support and dedication of so many, the school continues its life-changing momentum with today’s groundbreaking,” Schlissel said. “Together we confirm our mutual belief in the powerful combination of an excellent education and devotion to improving the quality of life for all.”
Provost Martin Philbert cited the school’s extensive research in many areas of oral health. He noted that it led U.S. dental schools in funding from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research last year for projects on head and neck cancer, childhood caries prevention, and regenerating dental, oral, and craniofacial tissues lost to disease, injury or congenital disorders. The school’s work has a global reach, Philbert said. “Dental students are regular participants in programs that provide oral care in parts of the world where people may never have seen a dentist,” he said. “In addition, the school draws students from around the world to its dental and dental hygiene programs, helping to expand the availability of care throughout the world.”
State Rep. Yousef Rabhi said it is important to acknowledge previous leaders of the state, university and dental school who had the foresight to “lay each brick” in the foundation of a university that would help not only Michigan residents but people around the world. By renewing the dental school, Rabhi said, “We have an opportunity again to lay new bricks, to lay new foundations, and to build on that legacy that has made the university such a strong institution in our state.” State Sen. Rebekah Warren described the bipartisan support in the Legislature to move forward with dental school funding that supports the school’s teaching and high-quality dental treatment that benefits the citizens of Michigan. “I know it’s going to be an additional new jewel in the crown of what we do here at Michigan,” she said. Regent Andrew Richner thanked the Legislature and Cynthia Wilbanks in the U-M Office of Government Relations for advancing the project.
Thomas Havlichek, a first-year dental student who is president of the Class of 2022, spoke as a representative of the more than 700 students at the school – dental, dental hygiene, various graduate specialties and internationally trained dentists who come to the school to further their training. Because the renovation will last for the duration of his class’s four years at the school, Havlichek said he was initially apprehensive about what to expect. “But as the school unveiled its plans in greater detail, we learned that a lot of thought has gone into how to keep educating students and treating patients as work goes on throughout the building,” he said. “In typical Michigan fashion, we examined the problems and found solutions that transform what could be a negative experience and turn it into a positive one.”
Students will have the opportunity to provide input and feedback on the renovation, which helps shape the future of dentistry, he noted. Another advantage is that while clinics are renovated, students will be assigned rotations at outreach clinics around the state, which is a significant educational benefit, Havlichek said. Dealing with construction is not unique to the Class of 2022; several classes in the late 1960s experienced the inconvenience when the current building was built. “We hear that those class members have had great careers as dentists, so we’ll keep reminding ourselves of that over the next four years,” Havlichek said.
For the ceremonial groundbreaking with shovels bearing the “M Dentistry” logo, McCauley introduced Nola Doak, an Ann Arbor resident who has received dental care at the school for 30 years. “It’s only appropriate that a patient would help commission the project that will improve the experience of thousands of patients for decades to come,” McCauley said.
The building project addresses a wide variety of needs, with a particular emphasis on patients -– both their oral health treatment as well as how they navigate into and through the building to their appointments. The school’s north entrance, next to the Fletcher Parking Structure, will be redesigned with a covered drive-through. A new reception area will more efficiently direct patients to the various clinics. Clinical space was redesigned with a larger and more efficient configuration. The school’s south entrance, along North University Avenue, will also be changed to integrate with the new building in the courtyard. The Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder approved $30 million in state funds for the project in fiscal year 2017; the rest of the funding will come from the Office of the Provost, School of Dentistry resources and university investment proceeds.
More information on the project can be found on the renovation page of the school’s website or in this previous coverage of the project when it received final approval of the Board of Regents in March 2018.