U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen toured UNLV’s medical school Monday and used the occasion to address the low doctor-to-patient ratio in Nevada and across the country.
Wearing a white lab coat, Rosen told students and faculty members that the school will be vital to Nevada’s health care industry as it expands.
“What happens is when people train somewhere, that’s where you put down your roots,” said Rosen, D-Nev. “It’s where you make your friends. It’s where you invest in your community.”
She spoke about the Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act, which would increase the number of international physicians and students who can be brought into a state to study underrepresented specialties and treat underserved communities.
“For every state, 30 to 35 new physicians is a huge deal,” she said, especially for states like Nevada with large rural communities removed from major cities.
All 17 Nevada counties are considered health professional shortage areas because of low patient-to-physician ratios, according to the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health.
According to a 2018 report, Nevada is 47th nationwide in number of active physicians and 48th in number of active primary care doctors per 100,000 residents. There are just over 180 full-time doctors in Southern Nevada per 100,000 residents, the report said, compared with 303 per 100,000 on average in the U.S.
Rosen said new physicians who settle in Nevada will create more jobs in the medical field as they hire technicians, nurses and medical assistants.
“And our whole community is enriched for it,” she added.
During the tour, Rosen sat in on a lecture with first-year students about end-of-life care. Afterward, she told the students about her experience caring for her parents before they died.
“When I was going through this a couple years ago, I was very lucky to have many angels out there between nursing homes and rehab centers and the hospitals,” she said.
Dr. Neil Haycocks, assistant dean of biomedical science integration, introduced Rosen to the technology used by students at the school, including anatomy tables — large touch-screen devices that students use to view and study materials such as 3D models, cross-sections of bodies and tissue samples.
The school’s first class of 60 students started in 2017, and the number of enrolled students has since doubled. The school also has more than 300 residents and fellows who treat patients while studying specialties. About 10,000 patients visit UNLV clinics each month, according to the college.
“It’s a great medical school, and I can’t wait to see what our graduates accomplish,” Rosen said.