Roseman University of Health Sciences and the Nevada Cancer Institute Foundation have merged and will reopen the cancer institute building in Las Vegas with plans to create a medical school there by 2017.
“It allows us to continue with the cancer research mission, and researchers can stay right where they are,” Roseman President Renee Coffman said in an announcement Thursday. “It is also the most likely place to house a medical school.”
With the merger, the Nevada Cancer Institute name will cease to exist and the 184,000-square-foot facility in Summerlin will be known as Roseman University. The cancer research facility, which closed in February because of financial problems, has 24 research labs.
Roseman University, based in Henderson and Jordan, Utah, is a private nonprofit university that serves 1,460 students and offers degrees in pharmacy, dentistry, nursing and a master’s of business administration program. The college on Sunset Way opened for its first classes in 2001. For years it was called the University of Southern Nevada. Its Utah campus opened in 2006.
The school is unique in that students are taught in a circular setting and must receive scores of at least 90 percent before they can move on to other classes.
“We have been under the radar for the last 12 or 13 years, but we have been very successful at what we have done,” Coffman said.
She said that 181 of the 182 Roseman University pharmacy graduates passed the required exam to practice on their first try in May to August 2012.
The decision on whether to go forward on the medical school will be made in December by Roseman’s board of directors.
But Coffman said university officials have been working on that plan for more than a year. She added a Roseman medical school would have no negative ramifications if the state also opens a second state medical school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Roseman has been renting space for cancer research at the Nevada Cancer Institute and hired some of the institute’s staff. Its researchers include Dr. Oscar Goodman, the son of the current and past Las Vegas mayors. Goodman’s specialty is prostate cancer.
Coffman said a feasibility study on the UNLV school proposal found that three or four additional medical schools could be located in Nevada. Now there is only the private medical school at Touro University in Henderson and the public school at the University of Nevada, Reno.
The study also showed that the combined economic impact of having two public medical schools in Nevada would be $1.8 billion. The impact consists of jobs directly or indirectly created as result of the schools.
“There is room for more,” Coffman said. “We would like to collaborate with other institutions of higher learning. Together we can do a lot of great things. Las Vegas and the Valley gets a bad rap with respect to the quality of medical care.”
Nevada System of Higher Education Regent Mark Doubrava, a proponent for a UNLV medical school, said he welcomes a Roseman University medical school.
“I tip my hat to them,” said Doubrava, an ophthalmologist who went to medical school in Reno. “There are 2 million people in Clark County, and we are under-served medically. The need for doctors will be even greater once the problems with the federal Affordable Care Act are worked out.”
The regents are scheduled to meet Dec. 5-6 at UNLV to sign an agreement that has UNR and UNLV working together to establish the new state medical school on the Las Vegas campus.
When that school opens will depend a lot on the Legislature and its funding. Doubrava said there could be an $80 million startup cost and the need for $20 million a year in operational costs.
In 2011, Nevada had 200 medical and osteopathic physicians per 100,000 people. That is the sixth-lowest figure among the states and far below the 244 national average. The UNR school graduated 59 students last year and has a freshman class of 70 this year. Touro University, which opened in 2004, graduates about 130 osteopathic doctors a year and has freshman classes of 135.
Michael Yackira, chairman of the Nevada Cancer Institute board of directors, called the merger “a natural step in the evolution of the relationship between our organizations. We share the common goals of improving medical care, education and research in Nevada.”
Kevin Orrock, president of the Howard Hughes Corp.’s master-planned community of Summerlin, hailed the merger.
“Providing greater options for medical care is always a plus,” he said. “Roseman University’s intent to create a medical school, and the recent hiring of former Nevada Cancer Institute researchers is positive on many levels. It’s a sure sign of continuing economic recovery, makes excellent use of a beautiful existing building, taps into a brain trust that was previous developed at NVCI and creates jobs and opportunities.”
If she receives the go-ahead to continue with the medical school plan, Coffman envisions a first class of about 60 students and tuition comparable to other private medical schools in the West.
Besides a research building, two parcels of undeveloped land are included in the merger.
Having a facility puts Roseman a leg up in its goal to open a medical school, she added.
Coffman envisions a strong fundraising campaign in the next few months. Roseman also has its own resources that it could put toward the medical school effort, she said.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com of 775-687-3901. Follow him on Twitter at @edison vogel.