About the Dean

Barbara Atkinson

Barbara Atkinson, MD

Founding Dean

Dr. Barbara Atkinson is an accomplished researcher, educator and administrator in the fields of medicine and medical education. She has spent her entire career in medical school leadership, creating innovative learning environments for future physicians.

As UNLV School of Medicine Founding Dean, Dr. Atkinson has overseen all aspects of the formation and launch of the new medical school, inclusive of leading the school’s charter accreditation, faculty recruitment, planning and implementing the school’s educational blueprint, managing overall school operations, philanthropy and community outreach.

Atkinson also worked to develop concurrent frameworks for the school’s faculty practice plan, graduate medical education program, hospital affiliation agreements and community clinical teaching sites. The School of Medicine and the 21 clinics that make up the practice plan currently employ more than a thousand people.

Dr. Atkinson was appointed planning dean for the UNLV School of Medicine in May 2014. Since that time she has created an innovative vision and education program for the school, garnered strong regional and legislative support, hired a core team of academic faculty and staff, and assembled a Community Advisory Board to align regional needs with the school’s mission. In 2015, the university raised $13.5 million in less than 60 days to fund 135 scholarships for future medical school students - including the entire charter class expected to begin classes in 2017.

Before coming to UNLV, Dr. Atkinson was 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, Dr. Atkinson refocused the school to better serve regional needs. This included 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, which involved raising $500 million over 10 years.

She was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1997 now known as the National Academy of Medicine, 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.


  • M.D. – Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University (1974)
  • B.A. in Biology – College of Wooster (1964)
  • Post-graduate work in Clinical and Anatomic Pathology, University of Pennsylvania (1974-78)
  • National Institutes of Health fellowship in pulmonary pathology, University of Pennsylvania (1976-78)
  • Certified by American Board of Pathology, with qualifications in clinical and anatomic pathology, and cytopathology
  • Licensed in Kansas and Nevada

Noteworthy Appointments/Achievements

1992 - Elected as the Trustee of American Board of Pathology

1994 - Elected to membership in the Institute on Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, now known as the National Academicy of Medicine.

1996 - Appointed Annenberg Dean of the MCP Hahnemann School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA

2000 - Named Professor and Chair, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Kansas School of Medicine

2002 - Appointed Executive Dean and Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs, University of Kansas School of Medicine

2005 - Named Executive Vice Chancellor, University of Kansas Medical Center and Executive Dean of the School of Medicine

2010 - Appointed by President Barack Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

2012 - Retires, named Emeritus Executive Vice Chancellor and Professor, University of Kansas School of Medicine

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