Even the dean of Nevada’s largest medical school acknowledges it flies under the radar of the public.
In recent months, a proposal to create a medical school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has captured plenty of attention, and will continue to do so into 2015, when the Legislature considers funding it.
But to those saying Southern Nevada needs a medical school, Mitchell Forman has an answer: It already has one. Touro University in Henderson, since 2004.
Touro, which graduates 130 osteopathic physicians a year and has more than 500 students at its College of Osteopathic Medicine, is considering expanding the number of students it admits a year to more than 200, up from 135 a year, and conducting extensive research on basic sciences, health services and patient care.
“I think our future is great here,” Forman said. “That’s the reason we came to Nevada. We’re about educating and graduating health care professionals that will make a difference in the health and lives of Nevadans. There’s no question we contribute a great deal, but not enough people know about it. We have not used publicity enough to define who we are. That’s going to change now with our new senior provost (former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley), who has a great presence. She has already made a difference in publicizing what we do here at Touro University in Nevada.”
While low-profile in Nevada, the Touro University system has 32 schools in five countries.
Touro University Nevada began as a branch campus of the Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Vallejo, Calif. In July 2003, Touro University Nevada received state approval to grant the degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, and the campus was accredited by the American Osteopathic Association the following year.
Total tuition and fees are $51,206 per year.
The nonprofit Jewish-sponsored private institution has 1,400 students. Its College of Health and Human Services offers degrees in nursing practice, physical therapy, nursing, and occupational therapy. The College of Osteopathic Medicine not only includes training for physicians, but also offers a master of science in medical health sciences and a master of physician assistant studies.
More than 60 percent of Touro graduates go into primary care, which includes family and internal medicine and pediatric care. The school receives 2,608 applications each year, with the majority coming from Nevada, California and Utah. In 2013, some 65 percent of students were male and 13 percent were from Nevada
Only 18 graduates entered residency programs in Nevada in 2013, Forman said. Most leave Nevada because the region lacks residency programs, he said.
Touro recently partnered with the Nathan Adelson Hospice for three graduates to serve on a hospice and palliative care residency program. It already has a residency program through Valley Hospital Medical Center.
“From my perspective, the thing that will make the biggest difference in the state is graduate medical education,” Forman said. “Studies have shown that the majority of physicians practice – I have seen 60 to 80 percent – within 50 miles of where they train. It’s not where they go to medical school.”
Expanding residency programs is difficult in Nevada because of limited federal funding, Forman said. To overcome that limitation, private practices should become more involved and the state should favor expansion of residencies over creating a new medical school, he said.
“The problem is getting hospitals to be creative,” Forman said. “They have the ability to develop a robust game but don’t. The culture isn’t developed here, and maybe people are uncertain about the Affordable Care Act. What will it be when it grows up. We’ve heard different things about whether federal funding will get cut. Hospitals say, ‘Why should I invest when the funding will get cut?’”