Candidates vying for 11 spots on UMC advisory board

A soon-to-be formed advisory board for the financially strapped University Medical Center attracted a slew of applicants in the past month, with 123 candidates vying for 11 spots.

In early July, 14 people had applied for a board that will oversee many of UMC's functions and whose members will work at least 12 hours a month for a $100 per diem.

County officials put out the word that they wanted more applicants, and they got them.

The board is being created to help Clark County commissioners, who aren't medical experts, manage the hospital's day-to-day operations.

Hospital executives have interviewed the candidates and will recommend three for each of the 11 seats to the commissioners, who are scheduled to pick the 11 finalists Wednesday.

County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said a couple of hospital staffers had questioned whether it was a conflict to have UMC Chief Executive Kathy Silver and other officials screening candidates for a board that will oversee the hospital.

"It's a legitimate concern," she said.

But she said she felt comfortable with UMC executives recommending board members because the commission will have the final say.

The original guidelines called for hospital officials to choose board members. Giunchigliani said both she and Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who leads the UMC Board of Trustees, objected and asked that the commission appoint members.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak, though, said he disliked the entire approach. Each commissioner should pick one or two finalists and avoid the task of sifting through 123 applications, he said, calling it "totally unwieldy."

He also learned that Silver had recruited a few of the candidates.

"How fair is that?" Sisolak said. "She said she wanted to make sure they got good people."

Silver didn't return phone calls seeking comment Monday.

The board will have a blend of experts, such as a doctor, lawyer, health care leader, labor representative and a businessperson.

Among those who applied were 21 doctors, six attorneys, 14 business people and 23 people in the health-care field.

Some of the well-known applicants are Thalia Dondero, former county commissioner; Ole Thienhaus, acting dean of the University of Nevada School of Medicine; John Ruckdeschel, chief executive officer of the Nevada Cancer Institute; and Amber Lopez Lasater, chief of staff of the local Service Employees International Union, which represents many UMC workers.

"I think I have the skills and qualifications to make UMC a better place," said one applicant, Dr. Ronald Kline. "UMC is a community resource. It's the final safety net for people that don't have health insurance."

Although called an advisory board, it will have the power to determine medical policies, contracts with vendors and quality control. It will oversee the hospital's finances and ensure UMC complies with state and federal laws.

The commission will have the final word about UMC's budget, labor contracts and whether to eliminate services.

Malcolm Berman, 68, said he applied because he thought the 40 years he spent as administrator of a nonprofit hospital in Pennsylvania could be of value.

"I know about some of the problems," Berman said, "so I thought I could be of help."

Malik Ahmed, an attorney, said he heard a commissioner refer to UMC as "a sinking ship" and yearned to help. He said he has a prosperous law practice and can afford to volunteer his time.

"I'd like to let the community know that there are people who care for this hospital," Ahmad said.

Forming this board is an important step in turning UMC into a teaching hospital and solving some of the entrenched financial problems, said Jim Rogers, former chancellor of the state higher education system.

He agreed with having UMC executives vet the candidates. If left solely to commissioners, they would choose a mirror image of themselves, Rogers said.

"This has to be a board of experts," Rogers said.

But Commissioner Tom Collins opposed creating what he called an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

"It's just dumping our responsibility on someone else," Collins said. "We pay an administrator and staff to run a hospital."

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at or 702-455-4519.