As Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, ’73 M.Ed., sat in her office the other day, she talked about the importance of the UNLV School of Medicine to Southern Nevada. She also talked about the importance of the school's founding dean, Dr. Barbara Atkinson.
The daughter of a physician in New York City, Goodman said she was surrounded by “all the specialties taught in the medical schools where you live — I thought the whole world was like that. To be a quality city, great medical care and research is absolutely paramount — that’s what we want the UNLV School of Medicine to bring to Las Vegas. That’s what Dr. Barbara Atkinson and her team can do. She already brought the highest quality of medical care and research to Kansas. The proof is in the pudding.”
The Las Vegas of today, Goodman said, is far different than the one she and her husband found when they moved here in 1964. She recalls the population was less than 100,000. By the time her husband, attorney Oscar Goodman, became mayor in 1999 (Carolyn Goodman succeeded him as mayor in 2011), the city’s population had quadrupled to more than 400,000. Both Goodmans knew that to be a world-class city “the medical component was top of the line to attend to,” she said. “(Oscar) didn’t want to hear that to get quality care you had to go to McCarran Airport, go out of town for your medical care.”
On the Right Path
Though the political struggle for Las Vegas to get its own allopathic medical school has been a long one, Goodman said Atkinson has quickly put the UNLV School of Medicine on a path “to becoming a preeminent institution. We don’t want to just have a medical school or center; we want to be preeminent, with excellence in every area, where we train residents in critical specialties and do important research. That’s what Dean Atkinson is committed to.”
Goodman said she has been impressed with how Dean Atkinson has hired the right people to “cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ ” in the accreditation process. “She been there and done that in Kansas,” Goodman said, noting how Atkinson opened a new University of Kansas School of Medicine campus in Salina to address that state’s physician shortage while also expanding the Wichita campus from a two-year program to a full, four-year program.
“She was very well vetted before she was brought here,” Goodman said, pointing out that Atkinson’s ability to lead the University of Kansas School of Medicine to a National Cancer Institute designation in 2012 impressed politicians and educators alike.
Proud that her son, Dr. Oscar Goodman Jr., graduated from the same medical school as Atkinson, Philadelphia’s Jefferson Medical College, Goodman said that as the UNLV School of Medicine winds its way through the accreditation process there is no doubt in her mind that Dr. Atkinson is the right leader for this time.
Keep in mind, she said, that Atkinson was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1997 and then in 2010 was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.
“We all realize how devoted and fastidious she is to making a commitment to success,” Goodman said. “She has walked the walk.”
The mayor said she knows how important it is that the head of a medical school actively engages the community in the school. “She has a warm personality that can help pull people together instead of being divisive. She helped ensure that both the Legislature and governor came through with support for the school,” Goodman said. “She’s become an incredible force in the community in so many ways, including in the philanthropic area. Four year scholarships for the first students and financial support for faculty was and is so important.”
Goodman said she’s looking forward to the community recommitting itself to the work of Atkinson and her team so “we can get the rest of the money for that beautiful, magnificent medical school building that is planned. I’m looking forward to the bulldozers getting to work, to the economic boom that the medical school will create for the Las Vegas Medical District and the entire community.
“Our city needs that. Our people need it.”