Sorrell Center wows visitors

by Karen Burbach, UNMC public affairs | June 27, 2008

picture disc.
From left: Michael Sorrell, M.D., and his wife, Shirley, and Omaha philanthropists Bill and Ruth Scott prepare to cut the ribbon for the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education on Thursday as UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D., back, looks on.
Some said it would never be built.

But, on Thursday, UNMC opened the doors to a new era for medical education with its latest gem -- the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education.

"It's up to you to make it sparkle from coast to coast," said Ruth Scott of Omaha, who, along with her husband, Bill, provided the lead gift on the $52.7 million project.

"Today serves as a launching pad for those faculties and students who no doubt will achieve new highs in teaching and learning within this facility," said Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D. "Needless to say we are all very proud of this facility."

The dream for a 21st century building originated in 1999 and despite some early naysayers, ground was broken in April 2006.

"This is the most sophisticated learning environment in the nation," Dr. Maurer said during Thursday's dedication ceremony. "There is no other college of medicine building opening at this time and only three others under construction among 125 medical centers."

Admiring a gem

Dr. Steven Wartman, president and CEO of the Association of Academic Health Centers, comments on the effect the Sorrell Center will have on students, faculty and patients during a dedication ceremony for the new building.

Gov. Dave Heineman talks about what the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education will mean to the state of Nebraska.

University of Nebraska President James Milliken remarks on the tremendous growth on the UNMC campus at the grand opening of the Sorrell Center.

UNMC's Michael Sorrell, M.D., talks about the honor it is to have the new health science center named after him.

Ruth Scott talks about the UNMC trained physician that saved her husband, Bill's life, and the couple's gift to the Sorrell Center.

UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D., discusses the vision behind the Sorrell Center and what it will mean to UNMC students.

John Gollan, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the College of Medicine, talks about what the new Sorrell Center will mean for the faculty, students and administration.

"The Sorrell Center for Health Science Education will serve as the centerpiece and an anchor for this campus as it continues to grow," said Gov. Dave Heineman, who was joined at the dedication ceremony by Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey, state senators and members of the Board of Regents. "This center will have a lasting impact on the health and wellness of many Nebraskan residents."

Situated on the northeast corner of 42nd and Emile streets in Omaha, the four-level, 134,183 square foot home to the UNMC College of Medicine was funded entirely by private donations through the University of Nebraska Foundation - a fact which drew a smile from Heineman during the dedication ceremony.

The Sorrell Center centralizes educational programs in a state-of-the-art facility with clinical skills laboratories that resemble hospital and exam rooms, large amphitheaters, small-group interaction rooms, conference space for continuing education and student interaction space that provides enhanced interdisciplinary educational opportunities.

In addition to medical students, it also will serve nursing, allied health and pharmacy students.

The building is named in honor of Michael Sorrell, M.D., a UNMC physician world-renowned in liver disease and transplantation, and gastrointestinal disorders. Dr. Sorrell, who received his medical degree in 1959 at UNMC, has served at the medical center for 37 years.

"I love the University of Nebraska," a humbled Dr. Sorrell told more than 500 people Thursday inside the Dr. Stanley M. and Dorothy Truhlsen Campus Events Center. "My grandchildren are the fifth generation to graduate from the University of Nebraska. We're grateful for all the education given to our family ... we have a magnificent medical center."

Dr. Sorrell was instrumental in helping UNMC become one of the world's leading liver transplant programs, and is responsible for recruiting some of UNMC's top physicians and researchers.

The nine principal benefactors - whose names lit up on the wall behind the podium -- were saluted again and again for their generosity in making the Sorrell Center a reality.

The Scotts, who were among more than 1,200 donors to the Sorrell Center, provided the lead gift. Other principal benefactors were:

  • The Nebraska Medical Center;
  • Richard D. Holland;
  • Dorothy and Stanley M. Truhlsen, M.D.;
  • The Lozier Foundation;
  • UNMC Physicians;
  • Dr. C.C. & Mabel L. Criss Memorial Foundation;
  • UNMC College of Medicine Alumni Association; and
  • Karen and Jim Linder, M.D.

In all, 22 physicians contributed $100,000 or more through the Edward A. Holyoke, M.D., Ph.D., Society, which is dedicated to the memory and contributions of the late Dr. Holyoke, a legendary professor and mentor at UNMC.

Nearly 1,000 College of Medicine alumni contributed to the project.

"To all the individuals who made the Sorrell Center possible ... the enormity of your generosity overwhelms us," Student Senate President Curtis McKnight said. "Speaking for all past, present, and especially future medical students, we promise to honor your commitment to our education with an equal commitment to learn and practice the highest standard of health care."

Steve Wartman, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of the Association of Academic Health Centers (AAHC), praised Dr. Maurer for his leadership in seeing the Sorrell Center become a reality.

"I hope you appreciate, as we do from a national perspective, that he is a visionary leader who knows how to move institutions ahead," Dr. Wartman said. "His work at the University of Nebraska is both highly respected and admired."

Dr. Wartman shared what Dr. Maurer said when he took the reigns of the AAHC.

"One of the first things he said to me was 'Steve, don't fly over us.' And he was right. I visited the medical center two years ago and learned a tremendous amount and said 'this place is on the rise.' Now, it's hardly recognizable with so many things going on."

Public open house

Employees and their families are invited to tour the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. An open house for the general public will be held Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m.

Visit http://www.unmc.edu/sorrellcenter/ for more information about the Sorrell Center including a complete video of Thursday's dedication ceremony.

The Sorrell Center is a "necessary step" in addressing the shortage of health care professionals, Dr. Wartman said, because it will help attract more students and provide them with the education to, not only succeed, but, excel.

The center also exemplifies another key to success: partnerships. "The Sorrell Center is one of the best examples I can find of a true public-private partnership," he said. "The Sorrell Center will be a major catalyst in moving the University of Nebraska Medical Center to the next level of academic health centers in the U.S."

Following the ceremony, medical center employees got their first glimpse of the new building and its two 220-seat auditoriums; four 80-seat classrooms; clinical skills laboratory with 16 simulated clinic rooms and eight-bed hospital area.

They also saw a variety of paintings, photographs and sculptures by Nebraska artists or artists who have ties to the state. A special mural by renowned Omaha artist Stephen Roberts hangs on the third floor. The 6 ½ by 8 ½ foot painting shows Dr. Sorrell and two medical students (one of whom is his granddaughter, Emily) at the bedside of a patient.

"My goal for the University of Nebraska is that we are the best public university in America as measured by the impact we have on our state," University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken, J.D., told the audience. "This state-of-the-art facility is an important part of this goal and is the latest in a long line of accomplishments by Chancellor Maurer and his team."

College of Medicine Dean John Gollan, M.D., Ph.D., emphasized the importance of having the entire College of Medicine under one roof, as well as the face-to-face interaction between students and faculty members. "How many ways can you say fantastic?" he said.

He also echoed the chorus of praises for Dr. Sorrell.

"This is the man who showed me the Good Life and extracted me from Boston," Dr. Gollan said.