3 universities share large new medical building

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The largest academic building in Oregon opened Thursday with Dr. Joe Robertson, the president of Oregon Health & Science University, telling the assembled crowd to look above at the gleaming, modern structure and out toward the new car-free, cable-stayed bridge crossing the Willamette River.

Robertson then asked them what comes to mind. Without waiting for a response, he said: “I’ll tell you what comes to mind for me: Beam me up, Scotty!”

The audience laughed at the “Star Trek” reference, but was seriously impressed with the nearly 500,000-square-foot building - 650,000 if you include the parking garage - that is a joint venture between OHSU, Portland State University and Oregon State University. The Collaborative Life Sciences Building includes lecture halls, classrooms, labs, specialty research centers, offices. It will also house the OHSU School of Dentistry.

The $295 million project was funded by $110 million from taxpayers, $92 million in OHSU institutional funding, $83 million in OHSU philanthropy (including an anonymous gift of $40 million) and $10 million from the TriMet regional mass transit agency. It’s on riverfront property donated by the Schnitzer family to help OHSU expand over the next 30 years.

OHSU officials said the 12-story building will allow them to boost the medical school class from 120 students to 160 and the dental school class from 75 students to 90 students. They can also train 25 additional pharmacists and another 10 physician assistants. For Oregon State, it will expand instructional space for its College of Pharmacy program.

As for Portland State, it gets extra space to accommodate growth in its health sciences programs. Included is a 403-seat lecture hall that will be the university’s largest when it opens for classes this fall. Some of the invited guests at Thursday’s event took advantage of the lecture hall’s massive screen to watch the World Cup soccer match between Germany and the United States.

Besides being a partnership between three universities, it’s hoped that students from different health care professions will mingle and train together. The building design features suspended walkways connecting the disciplines and a student lounge that includes a deck with a river view.

Dr. Eugene Skourtes, the CEO of Willamette Dental Group who donated $10 million to the project, described the collaborative design as “revolutionary.”

Skourtes recalled that when he attended the OHSU School of Dentistry in the 1960s, many of his best times were studying at the medical library. He didn’t like the studying; rather, he liked to meet students from other disciplines.

“We used talk about other things, other than medicine and dentistry,” he said. “And it was just fun.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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