True to Price’s words, the School of Medicine offered a destination for those seeking the best care, as well as a launching pad for discoveries, innovations, and breakthroughs that would change the state, the country, and the world.
Among the innovations was the creation of the first neonatal intensive care unit in the Mountain West in 1968. Led by August Jung, M.D., University of Utah’s NICU was the first of its kind between Denver and the West Coast. As funding was in short supply, hospital administrators begged and borrowed equipment from wherever they could find it. There was even a bake sale conducted to help purchase a heart monitor.
The best equipment, though, doesn’t guarantee quality outcomes for patients: the best people do. Thanks to the work of Jung and his staff, the infant mortality rate within the NICU’s service area was halved in one year.
In December 1982, all eyes were on the University of Utah as William DeVries, M.D. prepared to attempt the first successful permanent total artificial heart implant surgery on a human. The procedure had been attempted twice previously in Texas, but unfortunately both patients had passed way without ever regaining consciousness. Now it was Barney Clark, D.D.S., a dentist from Seattle with congestive heart failure, who would next go under the knife.
For the seven hours the operation lasted, the world waited to hear of Clark’s condition. Success would be achieved if Clark survived the surgery and regained consciousness, which he did. In fact, Clark, whose life expectancy before the surgery had been measured in days, lived for an additional few months before an infection eventually took his life. Though natural hearts remain the best option for transplants, since DeVries and Clark’s monumental day in 1982, thousands of patients have been kept alive by an artificial heart while awaiting a natural heart transplant.
As the calendar moved toward the turning of a new century, the accomplishments and milestones would continue for what is today know as University of Utah Health. Bolstered by a reputation for the highest quality education, innovation, and care, U of U Health would grow at an increasingly rapid pace. From a 14-student, two-year medical program was born a health system that today prepares 1,250 healthcare providers and welcomes over two million patients in its dozens of statewide health centers and hospitals every year.
The School of Medicine has served the patients, faculty, staff, and students of University of Utah Health well, but after more than five decades the time has come to replace the aging building. Replacing the building, coupled with the extraordinary growth that U of U Health is experiencing, called for big ideas and a lot of work. It called for U of U Health to be transformed.
At its heart, the School of Medicine is just that: a school. Before the School of Medicine comes down, the Medical Education & Discovery Complex (MEDX) will be built as the new home for medical students, faculty, and staff for years to come.
MEDX will be the flagship facility for medical education and innovation. This landmark building will modernize medical education and training efforts across the health sciences. Once completed, U of U Health will have a building that equals the high quality of its teaching and research faculty. Students will have a leading-edge place to learn, inquire, and train to become the healthcare leaders of tomorrow. MEDX will not only continue the tradition of excellence that has become the hallmark of University of Utah Health, but allow those who work and study within its walls to reach farther than has ever been possible before, thus continuing the tradition of excellence that has become the hallmark of University of Utah Health.
The opportunities the new building will create has drawn the attention of leading individuals and organizations across the state. For example, MEDX will include a specialized innovation and discovery center named for the late James Levoy Sorenson, the renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist.