Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost

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UNLV School of Medicine Planning Dean Announced

Posted: May 7, 2014

The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost announced today that Dr. Barbara Atkinson will serve as planning dean for the UNLV School of Medicine effective May 19, 2014.

In this role, Dr. Atkinson will work with the campus to develop a vision for the school, oversee preliminary academic planning and fundraising, and establish a community advisory committee to align regional needs with the school’s mission.

Dr. Atkinson is emeritus vice chancellor and professor with the University of Kansas School of Medicine. As dean of the school and then executive vice chancellor of the Kansas City medical center campus for much of the past decade, Dr. Atkinson refocused the school to better serve regional needs. This includes opening a new campus in Salina, Kan. to address the state’s physician shortage and expanding the school’s Wichita campus from a two-year to a full four-year program. In 2012 the University of Kansas became just the 67th school nationwide to earn National Cancer Institute designation.

“Barbara is a dynamic leader with a unique mix of research, academic and administrative experience,” said John Valery White, UNLV executive vice president and provost. “She successfully revitalized and expanded the University of Kansas School of Medicine during a state and nationwide recession by garnering community, state and philanthropic support. We’re confident in her ability develop a comprehensive vision for the UNLV School of Medicine that will serve the healthcare and workforce needs of Southern Nevadans. ”

Under Dr. Atkinson’s leadership from 2002 to 2012, the University of Kansas School of Medicine also adopted an innovative, modern curriculum; its medical center campus opened a state-of-the-art research building and medical office building; and significant gains were made in overall research funding.

“From the moment I engaged in discussions about this position and the UNLV School of Medicine, it was clear that the university and the Nevada System of Higher Education are deeply committed to expanding public medical education in Southern Nevada,” said Atkinson. “There is no doubt we need to enhance health care capacity in Southern Nevada, and I believe that by fusing the passion of Nevada’s higher education leadership with an increasingly engaged medical and business community, we can turn this vision into reality.”  

An expert in the field of pathology, Dr. Atkinson’s research focuses on the identification and characterization of tumor antigens in cells and tissues and to developing techniques to recognize and type tumors.

She was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1997, and in 2010 was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. In 2011, the University of Kansas Medical Center established the Barbara F. Atkinson Professorship in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Dr. Atkinson has held faculty appointments with the University of Kansas School of Medicine and Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Drexel University College of Medicine), MCP Hahnemann University, and Allegheny University of the Health Sciences.

"Barbara Atkinson is a strong leader who has a proven record of planning and operating medical schools.  She is an excellent selection and will be an asset to UNLV as it continues its development of a medical school," said Paul Umbach, consultant to the Chancellor and Nevada System of Higher Education.  "Barbara's experience and vision will help UNLV achieve its goals."

Planning for the expansion of public medical education in Southern Nevada began in November with a Memorandum of Understanding between UNLV, the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

A statewide steering committee of higher education and community leaders is currently guiding the process, which includes founding an independent UNLV School of Medicine and expanding the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno. A joint NSHE budget for medical education will be submitted to state legislators during the 2015 Nevada Legislative Session.