The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has submitted its application for accreditation of its medical school, the first step in a years-long process, said Dr. Barbara Atkinson, dean of the burgeoning school.
Atkinson’s announcement came at a forum at UNLV’s Greenspun Hall Monday morning where proponents said building a public medical school in Southern Nevada will encourage graduates to practice in Las Vegas, where they will be an economic boon to the region.
As it stands, Nevada is ranked near the bottom of national lists in health care in most every category.
To turn that around, Nevada needs doctors.
The statistics are stark. About 80 percent of students who finish medical school stay to live in that same state.
“The key here is to keep more doctors here,” said Kevin Page chairman of the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents.
And while Monday’s forum highlighted how a public medical school will go a long way in providing needed health care professionals, there seemed to be more focus on how the school will swell the economic growth of the region.
Atkinson and the school’s proponents believe that a medical school could potentially generate 5,300 new jobs, have an $800 million economic impact a year and generate more than $250 million in revenue annually.
To get the school started, UNLV is seeking $26.7 million from the state Legislature.
Robert Lang, executive director of The Lincy Institute a research institute aimed at improving Nevada’s health care and social services that put on the forum, reminded those in attendance that the Kansas legislature recently spent $100 million getting a new medical school started in that state.
Of course, if the Legislature approves the request of about $27 million, it will not be enough money. A significant amount of money is being sought through philanthropy.
As part of the 10-year goal, the school is hoping to receive $350 million in philanthropic support. Atkinson said money is the primary barrier that could keep the school from becoming a reality.
Where the school will be located is yet to be decided, but it’s not for a lack of offers from area communities.
Clark County has offered 10 acres near University Medical Center. North Las Vegas has offered space in the swath of undeveloped desert near the new Veterans Affairs hospital. And St. Rose hospital has land in Henderson that has been discussed.
In all, Atkinson is hoping to have five buildings, including two research buildings, make up the school. Until then, the school may very well begin at the VA because they have space available to lease.
The school will likely have specialties in cardiology, neuroscience, cancer and orthopedics. Those are the money-making fields that hospitals are interested in, Atkinson said.
The last specialty will be in mental health and addiction. It’s not a money maker, Atkinson said, but Nevada does rank last in the nation in that area.
Atkinson is hoping for an inaugural class for the school in fall 2017.
The application for accreditation was submitted to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting body for all allopathic medical schools in the U.S. and Canada.
At the earliest, the school could hope for accreditation within four years.
Atkinson said the next step, between now and August, is to have the entire school planned, including student admissions, student support services and an outline of the curriculum for the first two years.
But until Southern Nevada has a school, Las Vegas will remain one of the most isolated cities in the U.S. when it comes to medical training, said John Hudak, a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
By training doctors in Las Vegas, “we will limit the medical brain drain,” Hudak said.
Contact Francis McCabe at email@example.com or702-224-5512. Find him on Twitter: @fjmccabe