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Going For It

Once the Nevada System of Higher Education set its sights on expanding medical education in the state, things have moved fast. Here’s how far the UNLV School of Medicine has come and what’s next.

Campus News  |  May 18, 2015  |  By Cate Weeks

Concept rendering for the UNLV School of Medicine academic building.

UNLV's School of Medicine will improve access to health care and make our economy stronger. By 2030, it will have created 8,000 new jobs and will be bringing in $60 million in new revenues for the state annually. It's total economic impact will be $1.2 billion annually.

Here's a timeline of our progress so far. For more details, visit the School of Medicine website.

The Start

Fall 2013 -- Making the Case

After months of work across the state, the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) approves a detailed plan for public medical education that includes the new UNLV School of Medicine. The case is easy to make. A report commissioned by The Lincy Institute notes the state's ranking of 48th in primary care physicians per capita. "Nevada is unable to support the current health care needs of residents let alone the projected population growth," the economic impact report by national consultant Tripp Umbach states.

May 2014 -- Finding A Leader

UNLV hires Dr. Barbara Atkinson as the planning dean. She previously led a major expansion at University of Kansas Medical Center. Within months, she crafts the school's vision statement, recruits key staff, and develops its budget. "There's really not much pushback on building this school -- the need is so apparent," she said.

August 22, 2014 -- It's Official

The UNLV School of Medicine is officially established when the NSHE Board of Regents approve a two-year budget and submits it to the governor and the Legislature. The next month, UNLV begins the 18-month accreditation process and submits its application to allow it to welcome its inaugural class in fall 2017. "Close to 80 percent of students who complete medical school ... will stay to live and practice in that state," says Regent Kevin Page. "We have been working diligently over the past year to develop a coordinated and comprehensive plan for expanding public medical education throughout Nevada."

October 2014 -- Building Engagement

The school establishes its Community Advisory Board with nearly 40 members from the health care, education, and business sectors. "Those in the medical community here are just as frustrated as patients," Atkinson says. "Early major supporters of this new school have been the large physician groups and hospitals ... They can't recruit fast enough to fill the extraordinary demand, particularly for specialists."

December 2014 -- Identifying A Potential Home

Ten acres of land in the heart of the Las Vegas medical district is reserved as the possible location for the school's central facility. It is located a block away from the UNLV School of Dental Medicine and the system's Clinical Simulation Center near Charleston Boulevard and Shadow Lane.

April 2015 -- Student Recruitment Strategy

The school announces its "60 by 16" campaign to fund full-tuition scholarships for the entire 2017 charter class. Within weeks, local philanthropists, business leaders, and UNLV administrators commit to funding more than three-quarters of the scholarships. They are part of the school's recruitment strategy. "In a state starving for doctors, expectations will be high for the school's first students," Atkinson says. "We need to attract high-quality students in Nevada and across the nation who will elevate the school's reputation and set the tone for long-term success."

What's Next

June 2015 -- Budget Set

The Nevada Legislature, with authorization from Gov. Brian Sandoval, will determine how much the state will fund for the 2016-17 fiscal years. When fully built out, only 18 percent of the school's budget will come from the state. The remaining revenues will come from clinical services, grants, tuition and fees, and philanthropy.

August 2015 -- Modern Curriculum

The School of Medicine will submit its curriculum for review as part of the accreditation process. "Building the medical school from scratch allows us to take all the best ideas in medical education and put them together in a new way," Atkinson said. "We won't have many lectures or routine dissections in gross anatomy. We'll have virtual gross anatomy with MRIs and CT scans, the same technology doctors use every day in practice. Our curriculum will be problem-based. (Students) will be focused on solving the problem, in much the same way that they'll have to as practicing physicians."

June 2016 -- The Green Light to Accept Students

After an 18-month process, the accreditation agency for medical schools will determine if the school has its approval to begin accepting students in the fall with full accreditation by 2021, the same year its first doctors will graduate.

August 2017 -- Instruction Begins

The inaugural class of 60 will start their medical education at UNLV. "The School of Medicine is one of the best investments we can make in our own community," said UNLV President Len Jessup. "It will bring direct economic impact in terms of fostering a biotech economy and keeping our health care dollars local. And beyond that, it will help make this a healthier place to live."