UNLV medical school students celebrate milestone

Updated August 25, 2017 - 11:11 pm

UNLV School of Medicine’s first white coat ceremony was as much about recognizing founding Dean Barbara Atkinson as it was about the charter class.

The audience gave Atkinson — who suffered a major health scare last month — a standing ovation as she took the stage.

“We know none of us would be here today without Dean Atkinson,” class President Liz Groesbeck said. “We want to make you proud.”

Groesbeck presented Atkinson with a charter class T-shirt covered with signatures of all 60 students.

“The work of Dean Atkinson captured the imagination of this community,” said Kevin Page, chairman of the Board of Regents.

Friday’s ceremony served to formally welcome the charter class — all of whom received full scholarships — into the medical profession.

Atkinson was among many people who were recognized during the ceremony — a list that included current and former members of the state Board of Regents, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and the community.

“Today we celebrate the realization of many dreams,” Page said. “Necessity alone did not make it appear. We all needed to come together in a spirit of collaboration.”

Retired U.S. Sen. Harry Reid said that the day was “long overdue” and that when lawmakers chose Reno as the headquarters for the state’s first medical school in 1969, it was a “real big mistake.”

“To have a good medical school you need a lot of indigents,” Reid said. “We have a shortage of doctors here.”

The 60 students on stage have been touted for the past several years as the answer to the community’s doctor shortage.

“Each of you will be critically important to your patients and to your communities,” said Dr. Ellen Cosgrove, vice dean for academic affairs and education. “You will bring the best of science and medicine to healing the sick body, the broken mind, the wounded spirit.”

As part of the oath they took to close Friday’s ceremony, members of the charter class said they would “raise the standard of health in our society.”

“The longer they’re here, the more roots they establish, and the higher likelihood they will stay to practice one day,” said Regent Mark Doubrava, who was at the forefront of bringing the school to Southern Nevada.

After the ceremony ended, student Horacio Guerra said the first several weeks of school have opened his eyes to the needs of the local community.

“Getting to know our community so we can better serve it has been one of the key takeaways — knowing what health care access certain communities have,” Guerra, 26, of Las Vegas said.

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

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