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COMMENTARY: Medical schools vital to Nevada’s future

With the recent news that Nevada’s population has surpassed 3 million residents, the demand for health care has never been greater.

For years, our state has been unable to meet its health care needs. And with the accelerating population growth, an inadequate number of physicians, nurses and allied health professionals remain.

The Nevada System of Higher Education and the Board of Regents are addressing the health care provider shortage found in our urban and rural counties. Nevada now has two flourishing public medical schools and seven public nursing programs that supply desperately needed health care providers to serve the Silver State’s surging population.

The importance of our public medical schools in Northern and Southern Nevada cannot be overstated.

The University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine, established 50 years ago, currently has nearly 300 students enrolled and has trained more than 3,500 physicians. Many of these physicians practice in Nevada. The school, with start-up support from Renown Health and other donors, has recently launched a Physician Assistant Studies Program. This 25-month master’s degree program will provide PAs that can treat patients upon graduation.

Our rural Nevada counties are also served by our two medical schools. Elko is home to the UNR School of Medicine’s new Rural Family Medicine Residency Program. Winnemucca is the location of the UNLV School of Medicine’s Rural Family Medicine Residency Program. Both programs are led by experienced faculty physicians and will help alleviate severe rural physician shortages.

The nascent UNLV School of Medicine is thriving on all levels, with 180 students representing the first three cohorts of the school. The new medical school recently earned provisional accreditation status, leaving one final phase to achieve full accreditation.

And welcomed is the announcement that local philanthropists will build the new medical education building on Shadow Lane. This new building will allow the UNLV medical school to triple in size and become a major tenant of the Las Vegas Medical District.

The success of Nevada’s public medical schools has a direct positive effect on both UNR and UNLV receiving the “R1: Doctoral Universities-Very High Research” designation from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education in 2018. This designation is helping both universities attract top researchers from around the world and will broaden existing research efforts. It is widely accepted that having “R1” universities spurs economic development and assists in economic diversification.

The faculty and staff members of both medical schools have done extraordinary work to get to the point we are at today. But there’s much more to accomplish, and the Board of Regents intends to remain focused on educating and training future health care providers. The board and the Nevada System of Higher Education will collaborate with the governor’s office, Legislature, local governments and philanthropic community to ensure continued success.

— Mark Doubrava, M.D., is vice chair of the Nevada Board of Regents.

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