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Monday 11 December 2017 1:33pm

Dental students will start a month early next year - to cater for the move into the new Clinical Services Building (pictured above) which should be completed late in 2018. Photo: Fiona McDonald.

Postgraduates and returning Dentistry and Oral Health students will be starting a month early at the Faculty of Dentistry next year, to cater for the move into the new Clinical Services Building later in the year.

Staff and students have been preparing for six months for the start in week five of next year – on 29 January, Faculty of Dentistry Dean Professor Paul Brunton says.

Lectures are already booked in several venues around campus, while work on clinic timetables and planning for the academic year are well underway.

Change is coming

All staff and students know 2018 will be the final push towards the completion of the building where patients will be treated, which is behind the existing Walsh Building in Great King Street.

The Faculty carries out about 60,000 treatments on the public from around the lower South Island annually and the building will herald a new era of development in dentistry – the faculty will lead Australasia in patient management and technology, Professor Brunton says.

The 8,000m2 Clinical Services Building will have:

  • New operating theatres and surgical suites that will cater for developments in surgical specialties
  • 214 new high-specification dental chairs, 61 more than now
  • Digital patient records that can be accessed on computers at the chairside instead of being paper files
  • Digital imaging that will reduce x-ray exposure and handling of potentially hazardous chemicals
  • Digital imaging technologies that will improve support for researchers, particularly for investigations involving sleep apnoea and movement of the jaw
  • More space to meet the demand from international students wanting to study at Otago
  • Tutorial spaces linked to patient treatment areas, which will integrate technology to enrich the learning experience.
  • Uniting the laboratories of the Sir John Walsh Research Institute into one area. Currently, researchers and students are divided among many small laboratories
  • Academics' offices being brought together on the floor below the laboratories, allowing ready access to clinics, students and research facilities
  • New projects and collaborations being sparked by the increased interactions between academics and students, and between students
  • Better performance, through better design, creating better flow.

The University has been home to New Zealand's only Faculty of Dentistry since 1907, but the faculty has been in its current building for 54 years so needed to move with the times, Professor Brunton says.

Extreme makeover

The Faculty's $130 million dollar extreme makeover also includes refurbishing the Blue Lecture Theatre, adjoining the Walsh Building in Frederick Street. That part of the project should be completed early next year.

After the Clinical Services Building is finished near the end of 2018, the Walsh Building's remaining clinical areas will relocate to the new facility.

Then, the 8,000m2 Walsh Building will be refurbished and the two buildings will be linked by an 1800 square metre atrium, which will be 'the heart' of the facility, used by patients, students and staff.

Moved and moving

The Walsh Building's laboratories for histology, clinical technology, and biomaterials and forensic research have already moved to the University's Centre for Innovation, in St David Street, he says.

Other facilities and staff will also shift from the Walsh Building next year to various locations around campus – and all Dentistry staff be will asked to help with those relocations.

The refurbished Walsh building will house the Sir John Walsh Research Institute, administrative support for the faculty, the management team, academic and support staff, and teaching laboratories.

In 2019, the simulation suite – where students develop their skills on sophisticated manikin heads – will shift from its temporary home in Dunedin Hospital's Children's Pavilion to its permanent location in the remodeled Walsh Building.

Professor Brunton knows change is challenging and says: “Your understanding and co-operation is appreciated – working together, we'll make this happen.”

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