Estate gift revamps Wayne State's medical library

Former Wayne State University professors Robert Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., and Diane Sasaki, Ph.D., dedicated their lives to educating students in medicine and science. They were also active researchers who understood the power of libraries. A gift from their combined estate totaling close to $600,000 has provided the Vera P. Shiffman Medical Library in the School of Medicine with a major upgrade.

Students in redesigned library
New design includes spaces for group work

Originally constructed in 1970, the library is located next to the Detroit Medical Center, within the Richard J. Mazurek, M.D., Medical Education Commons, and serves as a critical information resource for students and faculty from the School of Medicine and the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

The renovations made possible by the planned gift from Mitchell and Sasaki have modernized the library with new furnishings and technology, doubling its available study space. Collaboration booths featuring wooden roofs and siding, stylish tables and leather sofas line the wall of the atrium. Farther in, alongside the first-floor bookshelves, more than 80 single-person study carrels and focus rooms with screencast-ready monitors provide added seclusion and workspace.

The School of Medicine administration surveyed medical students on the project and offered different furniture selections from which to choose. The students' top choices were installed. LaVentra Danquah, director of the Shiffman Library, said Mitchell and Sasaki's donation has made the library a more welcoming haven for study and research.

"Shiffman provides an indispensable collection of health education resources, and the new improvements allow medical students and DMC-Wayne State residents to focus on their work in a comfortable and convenient environment that better meets their diverse needs," Danquah said.

Doo Hee Kim, a class of 2025 medical student, said the new Shiffman Library has "transformed" his medical school experience.

photo of students in the renovated Shiffman library
Students in the new library.

"Whether it's studying independently in a quiet study space or collaboratively with peers, the revamped space has made significant improvements to accommodate both," Kim said. "Our library has truly become the heart of our campus and the place for medical students to gather."

Mitchell was a professor of biochemistry at the School of Medicine until he retired in 2007. Sasaki, an alumna of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Medicine, graduated with a Ph.D. in biochemistry and was a research scientist at Oxford Biochemical and Wayne State's Department of Chemistry. Mitchell and Sasaki passed away in 2019 and 2018, respectively. In addition to their gift to Shiffman, the couple bequeathed personal items to Wayne State that include books, model ships and an antique balance.

"We are grateful that Drs. Mitchell and Sasaki included the Shiffman Library in their estate plan," said Jim Dauer, associate director of philanthropy for the Wayne State University Library System. "Arranging an estate gift is easier than many people realize - it can be as simple as adding one sentence to your will."

For more information about opportunities to support the libraries at Wayne State University, contact Jim Dauer directly at or 313-577-2822.

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