The Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans Center for Health Education

published by:
May 23, 2012

After nearly five years of planning, the Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans Center for Health Education officially opened for classes on January 2, quickly becoming the heart of Duke’s newly transformed medical campus.

“This facility brings together faculty and health learners from across the School of Medicine and the University,” says Stacey McCorison, Associate Dean for Medical Education Administration. “Its design spares no detail in the creation of an academic atmosphere that puts medical innovation front and center.”

The eagerly anticipated 104,000-squarefoot, glass and stone building cost approximately $53 million, which was largely made possible by generous donors and The Duke Endowment, who named the center in honor of University friend and benefactor Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans. Semans, who died on January 25, 2012 at the age of 91, had deep roots with the University. Her grandfather, Benjamin Newton Duke, his brother, James B. Duke, and their father, Washington Duke, were the chief benefactors of Trinity College, which later became Duke University. In 1924, James B. Duke established The Duke Endowment, one of the largest private foundations in the country. Semans was a trustee of The Duke Endowment for 55 years and served as its first female chairman from 1982-2001.  

“Mary Semans’ unwavering support for the school’s missions of research, education and patient care was always a source of inspiration to our faculty and students,” says Nancy C. Andrews, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the Duke University School of Medicine. “It is fitting that Duke Medicine’s new home for health education be named in her honor so that her legacy will be a constant reminder, now and in the future.”

There is state-of-the-art technology throughout the facility and most prominent in the fifth-floor, medical and surgical simulation suites. The second floor’s impressive Learning Hall features moveable tables and chairs to facilitate large and small team-based learning programs. Conference rooms, classroom and lab space can also accommodate various sized groups. The Great Hall, on the ground floor, will seat up to 440 for large School events.

“The new building offers a wide variety of spaces that brings health professions learners together so that they can realize practical benefits from communicating and learning from each other,” said Edward G. Buckley, M.D., Vice Dean of Medical Education. “The center hopefully will serve as a resource for medical, physician assistant and physical therapy students, as well as alumni and faculty and other life-long learners.”