School of Dentistry caps major Blue Renew building project with open house and ribbon-cutting celebration14 min read
Ann Arbor, Mich., Sept. 20, 2022 – The newly remodeled and expanded University of Michigan School of Dentistry was a popular destination for members of the public and the university community on Friday, Sept. 16, during an open house and ceremony celebrating the completion of the major building project.
Dental school organizers estimated that more than 1,000 people toured the school during the two-hour open house Friday afternoon, with about 250 people joining school and university leaders for the ribbon-cutting program that followed.
University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and U-M Provost Laurie McCauley, the former dean of the dental school, joined the school’s interim dean, Jan Hu, in recognizing the importance of the first major renovation of the dental school in nearly 50 years. Speakers praised the foresight and commitment of school and university leaders and staff who spent more than a decade planning the $140 million project, called Blue Renew. Construction workers and the school’s students, faculty and staff also were applauded for their flexibility and resilience in completing the project on the original timetable despite the myriad difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which arrived halfway through the four-year construction schedule.
President Coleman noted the dental school’s longstanding commitment to improving public health by educating dentists and dental hygienists who provide high-quality healthcare to patients throughout the state of Michigan. About 160,000 dental appointments are held within the school each year and thousands more are completed around the state when dental students travel to more than a dozen clinics as part of the school’s Community-Based Collaborative Care and Education curriculum. Last year, students and faculty treated patients from 82 of the state’s 83 counties.
Scientific research is another way the dental school stands out, Coleman said. The school has in recent years led the nation’s dental schools in research grants from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in areas such as preventing cavities in children, treating head and neck cancer, and regenerating damaged or diseased dental, oral and craniofacial tissue. “This cutting-edge work by faculty and students, including undergraduates, helps position us as a leading research university that addresses the most-pressing medical needs in our nation,” Coleman said.
She highlighted the school’s leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion, both for its internal community and its commitment to providing care for underserved communities. “We should never forget that oral health is critical to everyone regardless of background or zip code,” Coleman said. “And it is critical that we train a diverse group of professionals who fully reflect all of the patients we serve.”
Provost McCauley, who served as dean of the dental school from 2013 until earlier this year when she was appointed provost, called Blue Renew a milestone that will be forever marked in the long and impressive history of the school, which was founded in 1875.
“We are proud that today the University of Michigan School of Dentistry represents the citizens of Michigan as a top dental school not only in the nation but in the world,” McCauley said. “We take great satisfaction in knowing that we have educated nearly 13,000 dentists, more than 3,500 hygienists and thousands of graduate students who have chosen to improve the oral and overall health of millions of patients in Michigan, across the country and around the world.”
McCauley noted that the first official renovation request within the university was 14 years ago, in 2008, when a capital needs assessment was submitted to the Provost’s office during the tenure of the former dean, Peter Polverini. McCauley then led the project when she became dean.
“Our planning group focused on the patient experience, which is at the heart of all we do, by coordinating a welcoming environment when patients first arrive, moving and remodeling clinics, and installing the latest clinical care equipment,” she said. “With these new facilities, I envision the future with hundreds of thousands of patients from all walks of life who will be served here and the thousands of students who will be educated here and go on to take care of literally millions of patients. In order to optimize this vision, we studied innovative ways to teach students about changing technologies and new dental procedures. A strong scientific foundation and built-in flexibility were key. We highlighted collaborative research and how many disciplines have evolved into vibrant communities of contemporary shared science.”
McCauley said the school is grateful to the hundreds of people who contributed to the successful completion of the project. Students, faculty and staff served on numerous committees, endured constant construction noise for four years and many were asked to move temporarily to new offices, classrooms or clinics, sometimes multiple times, as construction advanced around the building.
Among the many people who deserve thanks at the dental school, McCauley named several key contributors:
• Chief of staff Erica Hanss, who was central to the project, helping to shepherd it through 26 phases and countless decisions “with determination, grace and great taste.”
• Building manager Mike Folk and facilities coordinator Mary Ann Gietek, for coordinating the many moves over the four years while making sure the building remained operational throughout.
McCauley also thanked the school’s external partners, which included:
• The university’s team from Architecture, Engineering and Construction, particularly lead design manager Ken Clein and, during construction, Ken Silverman.
• Architects, builders and designers, including a team at SmithGroup, that brought world-class expertise to the project.
• Construction management from Granger Construction, which turned the architectural plans and phased timeline into a reality, finishing on the projected timeline despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
• The university’s Office of Government Relations and former vice president Cynthia Wilbanks, for advocating for the project in the early stages.
• Hank Baier, U-M’s Associate Vice President for Facilities and Operations, for his guidance throughout the process.
• The U-M Provost’s Office, and particularly former provost Martha Pollack, for a commitment of significant university resources that were approved by the U-M Board of Regents.
• The Michigan Legislature, Governor’s Office and the state’s taxpayers for the public funds that were used as part of the revenue that paid for the project.
• School of Dentistry alumni and corporate partners who made financial and in-kind gifts to help fund the cost of the project and ensure it was “comprehensive, first-rate, and attainable.”
In closing her remarks, McCauley said the history of the School of Dentistry shows that its leaders have never wanted it to be just another dental school. “Even before the term ‘Leaders and Best’ was coined for the university’s athletic fight song, the founders and first professors here aspired to lead the profession of dentistry and provide the best dental care possible,” she said. “We continue that mission today. Blue Renew re-launches us, advancing and strengthening our students, faculty, staff and patients with even greater resources for our mission of advancing health through education, service, research and discovery.”
Later Friday evening, the school held a reception to thank alumni and friends of the dental school who made leadership gifts to the Blue Renew project. Interim Dean Hu and Provost McCauley spoke at the event, as did Carrie Towns, the school’s Chief Development Officer, and Dr. Stephen Stefanac, a retired faculty member, who gave a summary of the goals, new designs and latest equipment that were incorporated as clinics were renovated for Blue Renew.
Interim Dean Hu said the Blue Renew project reinforces the common knowledge that the U-M School of Dentistry is an amazing community on many levels. “Starting from the early days of the school, we have always had incredibly smart and resilient students, highly accomplished and collaborative faculty, and supportive and resourceful staff. But what consistently has set us apart from other dental schools is the incredible network of enthusiastic and generous alumni and corporate partners who support the school in so many ways.”
From the outset of Blue Renew, she said, alumni and friends were generous in supporting the project. “Alumni from coast to coast wanted to give back to ensure that today’s students continue to have the best facilities, the best resources and the best faculty – just as they had experienced when they received their training here,” Hu said. “Their vision has been achieved with this wonderful renovation and expansion.”
McCauley reinforced the school’s gratitude to its alumni and corporate donors by citing several examples among their many and varied gifts, including:
• Drs. Scott Schulz and Gary Scott were more than just classmates in the DDS Class of 1996. Because their last names both started with “Sc” they were seated next to each other in various classrooms and labs during their four years at the school, creating a fast friendship. So when it came time to contribute financially to Blue Renew, they specified that the clinic cubicles they would fund needed to be situated next to each other for old times’ sake. Patients entering the first-floor West Victors Clinic will find the two doctors’ donor nameplates on adjacent cubicles Nos. 20 and 22. Schulz and Scott are Michigan dentists practicing in Traverse City and Caledonia, respectively.
• One of Blue Renew’s goals was to improve the patient experience, in part by making it easier to enter the school, reach the proper waiting area and navigate to the correct clinic. The large waiting area just inside the new north entrance to the school carries a new designation, displayed prominently near the entrance: the Dr. Richard A. and Rose Marie Shick Registration Area. The Shicks, who split their time between homes in Flint and Florida, attended the open house, ribbon-cutting and alumni reception, where McCauley thanked the couple for their significant financial support of the school. Richard Shick earned his DDS in 1954 and his MS in periodontics in 1960. Over the many years he operated his Flint periodontal practice he was a leader in numerous professional dentistry organizations, including president of the Michigan Dental Association, First Vice President of the American Dental Association and President of the U.S.A. section of the International College of Dentists as well as International President of the organization. He was well known for a long-time interview segment about dentistry on a Detroit radio station. A fellow dentist once described Shick as “Mr. Dentistry in Michigan” because of his activism and commitment to the profession.
McCauley said the examples she shared were a small sample of the devotion and generosity among the school’s accomplished alumni who continue to support the school years and decades after their education. “I want to say how impressed I am with the engagement and loyalty of our alumni and friends of the school,” McCauley said. “As dean and now provost, I continually find people who believe in advancing excellence in dentistry through our school. Your camaraderie and support for your alma mater inspires me and make me optimistic about the future of the school.”
Earlier in the day, the School of Dentistry was crowded with visitors touring the new facilities.
Tour guides explained how the renovation and expansion allows the school to incorporate the latest developments in patient care, dental education and research into the existing facility, which was designed during two eras – the 1930s and 1960s – when technology and priorities were much different than they are today. The project was given final approval by the U-M Board of Regents on March 29, 2018. Construction began later in 2018. About half of the existing building was renovated and a new addition with 48,000 square feet was built in what was previously the school’s courtyard. Construction was coordinated in several major phases to allow the school to continue its educational, clinical and research mission during the renovation.
More information and a video on the Blue Renew project is available on the project page of the dental school website.
Photography coverage provided by Leisa Thompson Photography.
The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral healthcare education, research, patient care and community service. General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan. Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies. Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide. For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at: www.dent.umich.edu. Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at email@example.com, or (734) 615-1971.