The Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV celebrated its first graduating class Friday, with speakers emphasizing the significance of the milestone moment.
The charter class participated in a graduation and academic hooding ceremony at the university’s Thomas & Mack Center. In total, 50 students who began their studies in 2017 earned their medical doctor degrees.
Before the medical school opened, Las Vegas was the largest metropolitan area in the nation without a MD-granting medical school.
“I want you to recognize that being a physician is a great privilege,” Dean Dr. Marc Kahn told graduates. “It carries responsibility. People are going to listen to what you say.”
Dr. David Skorton, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, delivered the keynote address via prerecorded video.
He told graduates they perhaps had a vision for what their medical training would be like, and then along came the COVID-19 pandemic and before that, the Route 91 Harvest festival mass shooting in 2017.
“Over and over again, we learn that life is unpredictable and so is medicine,” he said.
It is a wonderful but demanding career, Skorton said. He told graduates their own health and well being are paramount, and it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
Class President Toyokazu “Chris” Endo said the first class of medical students went through a “shared trauma with awesome people.”
Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson told graduates they were asked to be pioneers and they helped launch the medical school.
Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Melody Rose said graduates succeeded over a grueling medical school curriculum, the rigorous routine of clinicals and countless hours of lost sleep.
“And if that wasn’t enough,” she said, “you have endured this past year’s worldwide pandemic and yet, here you are graduating.”
UNLV is holding multiple in-person graduation ceremonies May 13-15 at Sam Boyd Stadium for undergraduate and graduate students in the classes of 2020 and 2021.