The University of Maryland Eastern Shore marked the half-way point of construction on its newest classroom building on Friday with “Hard Hat Day,” an event that substituted for a ground-breaking ceremony cancelled a year ago by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
When the $90 million structure is completed, the School of Pharmacy now spread among six buildings will be consolidated under one roof and feature state-of-the-art laboratories for training and pharmaceutical research.
University leaders envision the three-story building being the first of two phases to create an allied health sciences complex on the east side of campus.
UMES offers eight such programs, including graduate degrees in physical therapy and physician assistant studies and undergraduate instruction in exercise science and rehabilitation services, which long-range planning recommends be clustered together to foster greater collaboration.
It was a sentiment emphasized in remarks by UMES President Dr. Heidi M. Anderson and University System of Maryland Chancellor Dr. Jay Perman.
Because of Covid-19 mitigation protocols, UMES organized a low-key, invitation-only event that included a small gathering of university supporters and elected officials, including state Sen. Mary Beth Carozza and Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes, Speaker Pro Tempore of the Maryland House of Delegates.
“You are well aware of the healthcare professionals' shortage we have here on the Eastern Shore and the state of Maryland,” Sample-Hughes said, turning to six UMES current pharmacy students sitting socially distanced on the front row. “We need you.”
It was a theme repeated by an appreciative parade of speakers invited to participate in the celebration.
Afterwards, guests -- donning hard hats -- toured the first floor of the 65,000-square-foot structure across College Backbone Road from the university's Engineering and Aviation Science Complex, which opened in 2016.
UMES launched its Doctor of Pharmacy program in 2010 under former President Thelma B. Thompson, who enlisted then-state lawmaker Page Elmore as an ally to help the university secure mandatory approvals and funding to create the graduate program.
Dr. Carolyn Elmore, the late Delegate’s wife, traveled from Florida to attend the event and sentimentally shared that she wished he had lived to see the fruition of one of his favorite constituent service projects.
In its first 10 years, UMES’ pharmacy school has produced some 440 licensed pharmacists -- and most recently six doctorates in pharmaceutical science.
One doctorate graduate is engaged in promising research to create a reliable test that hopefully will help physicians shape an early treatment regimen for patients starting to exhibit Covid-19 symptoms.
Dr. Brandy Inkrote Taylor, an alumna who graduated in 2015, said the new building “is quite impressive. When I was here, people really didn't know there was a pharmacy school at UMES.
“It's encouraging to hear that the university sees the value in having the various health profession students working together,” she said. “It's so important.”
In fall 2020, the Maryland State Arts Council announced UMES qualified for a $260,000 grant through its Public Art Initiative to help the university with coordinated aesthetics for interior décor as well as entrance plazas and sidewalks.
Construction was halted for Hard Hat Day ceremonies so guided tours of the partially completed building could be conducted safely. The building is on schedule to be completed by mid-2022, with the first classes expected to be held starting with the fall semester.