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University of Utah breaks ground on $185M medical school building

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Spencer F. Eccles, third from left, pumps his fist along with a band playing the University of Utah fight song after conducting the groundbreaking ceremony for the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022. With Eccles are President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left, University of Utah President Taylor Randall and University of Utah Health CEO Dr. Michael Good, right.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Fifty years after the University of Utah opened the doors of the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library, the university on Wednesday broke ground on the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine.

The $185-million, state-of-the-art facility will serve as the center of the U.'s nationally recognized health sciences campus.

Dr. Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health and dean at the university’s School of Medicine, said that the groundbreaking represents a turning point in the university's history.

"We are working to address the physician shortage in Utah. We do and we will continue to train the majority of physicians who will be our state's future doctors, who will train in this new medical school facility," Good said. "They, in turn, will provide Utahns with world-class, state-of-the-art, compassionate medical care for generations to come."

The administering of state-of-the-art patient care will require a state-of-the-art facility to learn, and the new facility will certainly provide that, university officials said Wednesday.

The 185,000-square-foot building will house flipped classrooms, or learning studios that can be divided and subdivided to accommodate both small and large group learning, as well as a laboratory for modern gross anatomy (study of human structures that can be seen with the naked eye) "only steps away from the classroom," Good said. "This will let the students move from theory to practice."

Additionally, the facility will include an "advanced patient simulation training center," which will allow students to learn skills and face mock life-and-death situations in an environment that will allow them to safely review their medical decision-making afterward.

"This building will challenge you to be great," university President Taylor Randall told students on Wednesday. "I know you can and we're looking forward to seeing how you care for us in the future."

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University of Utah medical student Jasmine Banner talks at the groundbreaking for the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Jasmine Banner, a second-year medical student at the university, said that the "human aspect" of medicine is what's appealing to her and is why she decided to pursue a career in medicine.

"Thank you for your investment in the future of our fellow citizens who will learn the art of medicine, perhaps in ways never before imagined, in this building and out in our statewide communities," Banner said.

The new building was made possible in large part to a landmark gift of $110 million from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation.

Speaking at the groundbreaking Wednesday, Spencer Fox Eccles said that the occasion was "truly an over-the-top, exciting day that I never could've imagined in my wildest dreams."

Even if he couldn't have imagined it, Eccles, his family and their numerous foundations have helped pave the way for medical studies at the university for "more than half a century," Good said.

In the 1950s, Spencer S. Eccles — Spencer Fox Eccles' father — secured approval and funding for the medical center to be built at the university while serving on the university's board of regents.

A decade later, he led an effort that saw the "much-needed" medical library to go along with the medical center.

"It was the Eccles' family first major contribution to the university and, wow, what an amazing journey it started," Good said.

The George and Dolores Eccles Institute of Human Genetics was dedicated in 1990 and it would serve as the home to much of the "landmark research" of Mario Capecchi — the university’s first Nobel Prize winner.

Even since then, the Eccles have continued to push medical studies at the university further and further.

Spencer F. Eccles said that he hopes the building — that will bear his name — will distinguish Utah, along with the entire Intermountain West, as a place to receive a top-notch medical education and that no state or region can become "truly first-class" without an academic medical center at its nucleus.

"I can only imagine what these talented young students will do over the coming decades to improve the human condition, what discoveries and treatments they'll uncover, what will be taught and learned within these walls (and) what innovations will move forward to improve health and wellness for everyone," Eccles said.

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Spencer F. Eccles, left, talks with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before the groundbreaking ceremony for the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Eccles was joined in breaking ground for the new medical school building by President Russell M. Nelson, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — a graduate from the university’s School of Medicine — though Nelson did not make any remarks.

Construction of the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine was approved by the Utah Legislature in 2017 with a $50 million commitment from state funds; an additional $60 million appropriation was approved earlier this year.

More than $50 million in added philanthropic pledges for the project have also been secured.

"When you think about the things that happen in our lives, whether we have a loved one (with) a brain injury or a heart issue, we want them to have the very best medical care possible and that's what this building helps us provide," Utah Senate President Stuart Adams said.

The building is expected to be completed in 2025.