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Delta Dental of Tennessee Building Wins Best Large Renovation in 2024 Building Memphis Awards

The Delta Dental of Tennessee Building at UT Health Science Center was recognized by the Memphis Business Journal for its architectural excellence, as well as the impact it will have on the oral health of Tennessee.

When the ribbon was cut last April during the grand opening of the new Delta Dental of Tennessee Building at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, it ushered in a new day for the oral health of the people of Tennessee.

More than a location for Tennessee’s future dentists to study and train, the building allows the College of Dentistry to expand its classes and produce more dentists and dental hygienists for Tennessee. It also increases the college’s clinic space, where faculty care for patients and student and resident dentists develop skills.

Tuesday night, the Memphis Business Journal recognized the Delta Dental of Tennessee Building as the Best Large Renovation in its 2024 Building Memphis Awards. Each year, the publication recognizes the best in new developments and renovations in Memphis based on their design and impact on the community. Winners were chosen in six categories: small, medium, and large new construction projects and small, medium, and large renovations. A project of the year and a community impact honoree were also selected during the event at Memphis Botanic Garden.

The Delta Dental Building supports the $52 million Healthy Smiles Initiative, an ambitious collaborative effort by UT Health Science Center, Delta Dental of Tennessee, the state of Tennessee, and many other outstanding community partners to improve access to dental care across the state, particularly in rural areas with great need.

“The Delta Dental of Tennessee Building is architecturally a beautiful addition to our campus,” said James Ragain, DDS, dean of the College of Dentistry. “Beyond its stunning appearance, it is a key facility in our university’s vision of Healthy Tennesseans. Thriving Communities. It is the gateway for our efforts to increase the dental workforce in Tennessee and expand our educational programs across the state. We are now able to increase our dental class size up to 130 students and our dental hygiene class to 48 students. Additionally, our students now train in a state-of-the-art facility, as they learn and hone their clinical skills.”

The Delta Dental Building adjoins the Dunn Dental Building. Together, they make up the Delta Dental of Tennessee Oral Health Complex. The names of the building and the complex honor the outstanding support from Delta Dental of Tennessee and its former Chief Executive Officer Philip Wenk, DDS. Dr. Wenk is a 1973 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; a 1977 graduate of the College of Dentistry; and the chair of UT Health Science Center’s Advisory Board.

 “Tennessee is in great need of more dentists and Delta Dental is committed to helping meet that need,” Dr. Wenk, CEO and executive director of Delta Dental’s Smile180 Foundation, said after learning of the recognition by the Memphis Business Journal. “The Delta Dental Building ensures that can start happening. This building will have a tremendous impact on the Memphis community, as well as on our entire state.”

Delta Dental of Tennessee provided $6.3 million for construction costs and $1.4 million for equipment for the building. Generous support from the state and other donations ensured that the $45 million building became the latest addition to UT Health Science Center’s Memphis campus.

“We’re proud to have our brand associated with this amazing building,” said Jeff Ballard, president and CEO of Delta Dental. “As a Tennessee native, I’m personally excited about the potential that this building has for impacting the health of all Tennesseans and ensuring thriving communities from Memphis to Mountain City.”

The 68,000-square-foot Delta Dental Building, constructed by Turner Construction Company, has four floors, and has space for a clinic for patients with special needs, an expanded faculty practice for treating patients, and dental technique labs for first- and second-year students. 

“As a Tennessee native, I’m personally excited about the potential that this building has for impacting the health of all Tennesseans and ensuring thriving communities from Memphis to Mountain City.”

Jeff Ballard, CEO of Delta Dental of Tennessee

Under the leadership of Ken Brown, JD, PhD, former executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer for UT Health Science Center, construction on the building began in early 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic and shortly after the Historic Quadrangle at the center of the Memphis campus was completed. Clinical care and educational training had to continue in the existing Dunn Dental Building adjacent to the construction site. Dental student education and patient care remained uninterrupted despite construction. Entrances and parking were rerouted, so students, faculty, and patients still had easy and safe access to the college and its clinics.

To position the new building and its entrance prominently on Union Avenue, one lane of the street was blocked off during construction. The new building, designed by 4FDesign and landscaped by Ritchie Smith Associates, was planned to connect seamlessly to the Dunn Building, which already housed the college’s clinical and patient care space and continues to do so in large part.

Representatives from the College of Dentistry, as well as the building’s construction and design firms, shared honors at Tuesday’s Building Memphis Awards. From left, Jonathan Vess, Turner Construction; Doug Dixon, DMD, associate dean for Research in the College of Dentistry; Jeremy Harville, Turner Construction; Curt Pierce, 4FDesign; Ken Tilashalski, DMD, professor and executive associate dean in the College of Dentistry; Donovan Middlebrook, Turner Construction; Jeff Borgsmiller, Turner Construction; and Staley Colvert, DDS, vice chair of General Dentistry in the College of Dentistry.

The modern design of the building blends well with the late 1970s design of the Dunn Building, and features a striking, light-filled entry visible from Union Avenue and streamlined spaces throughout.

“It is refreshing to come in each day to the beautiful Delta Dental of Tennessee Building,” said Ken Tilashalski, DMD, professor and executive associate dean of the College of Dentistry, who attended the event and accepted the award on behalf of Dean Ragain, who was out of town. “The architects and builders did an amazing job, as the result is welcoming, attractive, captures natural light, and adds a positive aesthetic to the campus and Memphis.”