Sixty boxes, clad in gray wrapping paper and topped with a scarlet bow, were piled artistically atop a table in the Student Union ballroom Monday.
Inside, the tool of the trade: stethoscopes. The UNLV School of Medicine’s inaugural Class of 2021 were given their instruments the day before settling in for their first day of classes.
“It’s still seeping in. Things have happened so suddenly, I actually forgot to invite my parents,” said Johnnie Woodson, who did his undergraduate work at Rice University. “I’m just excited to see what happens. For me personally, I wanted to come home. I didn’t realize how much I loved the city until I went away for four years. I had a friend who was part of an inaugural class in Austin, Texas. He was telling me how amazing it is for future medical students. It’s a big honor to be a part of a class like that. I wanted to come back home and be part of the first class, be a part of the history of Las Vegas.”
UNLV’s medical students will put the scopes to use immediately. Their first day of classes includes working in small groups on how to apply the CPR training students have already been receiving. Their student experience will include completing emergency medical technician certification in their first year, projects to immerse them in community issues, and intensive hands-on learning.
It was the first ceremony to welcome the inaugural class — made up entirely of students who are from Nevada or have strong ties.
“It took a lot of people a decade or more to get to this day,” President Len Jessup said. “This is an incredibly important occasion in the history of this university, not just for the Top Tier strategic plan, but it’s important for this community.”
The stethoscopes were donated by Dr. Constantine George, a native Las Vegan who went to med school in Reno before returning to Las Vegas to practice. George has served on the community engagement board for UNLV’s new medical school since Day 1.
“To see (the school) come together is an honor,” George said at the event. “It’s going to take time, but to have these students when they finish residency want to stay in town, hopefully, will help alleviate the doctor shortage.”
Nevada is ranked near the bottom in the number of physicians per capita. One of the primary goals of the UNLV medical school is to train specialists committed to serving the region and improving access to high quality health care.