Sign here

Make your mark

In late October, the U-M community literally marked a new phase of construction on The Pavilion at U-M Health. An all-day beam signing drew nearly 2,000 employees, each of whom autographed one of the structural beams, forever making their mark on the future of health care at Michigan Medicine.

Am I the only one who’s never heard of a “beam signing?”

Reviewing Michigan Medicine’s coverage and slideshow of the medical staff, executives, and President Ono gleefully defacing the maize and blue beams, I was reminded of a childhood friend’s recent trek to Egypt. Traveling with colleagues from her tony international school in Denver, she used social media to chronicle each day’s adventure at the pyramids, the ruins, and the subterranean tombs — all covered in ancient messages left by long-lost civilizations.

What is it about humans and their need to “leave a mark?”

Of bricks, mortar, and sharpies

Petra, Egypt

My childhood friend visited the ancient city of Petra earlier this year. It’s almost as beautiful as the new Pavilion at Michigan Medicine. (Image D. Hughes.)

The University’s modern-day signing took place in the courtyard between the Frankel Cardiovascular Center and the Medical Science Building. The Pavilion, an adult inpatient facility designated for complex and high-acuity care, is progressing toward an expected opening in fall 2025. It will include 264 private inpatient rooms capable of converting into intensive care, a top-notch neurosciences center, and specialty services for cardiovascular and thoracic care. The site also will feature 20 surgical and three interventional radiology suites. The plan, of course, is to improve patients’ safety and experience.

Imagine some futuristic schoolteacher combing through these Go Blue! ruins thousands of years in the future. What clues will they find to enlighten them about our existence in Ann Arbor? They’ll have no hieroglyphics to decode, just individuals’ names scrawled with sharpies.

That’s it, right there: Individuals. Fascinating people dressed in scrubs and suits with complex lives and backstories and futures they’ll be hard-pressed to imagine. It’s those people, represented by those signatures, who will animate that space. They will own it. They are it.

The bricks and mortar of the new Pavilion may crumble one day in the far-distant future. Evidence of the medical miracles, the joys, and the heartbreaks will exist only in memory and “the Cloud.” But the collective legacy of those people — and their stories — will always remain. It’s the people who captivate our imaginations. It’s the people who make the place. They knew it back in the day, and we know it in 2022.

Hand me the sharpie.


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