On May 7, the members of the charter class at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV will accept their diplomas and add the appellation “M.D.” to their names. I am filled with pride for what this accomplishment means for them, for our university, and for our community.
Nevada took a big chance on an ambitious idea — to transform health care in Southern Nevada by establishing an allopathic medical school at UNLV. And now, that ambition — and the incredible investment in time and resources from many — is paying huge dividends.
The pandemic has demonstrated why those with vision were right to insist on creating a homegrown medical school in Southern Nevada and to place it at UNLV. From the beginning, this school has been a product of our Rebel spirit and the fortitude of Nevada’s Battle Born people.
Its founders recruited stellar students with Nevada ties and then embedded them in local nonprofits to cultivate a sense of responsibility to our citizens. So when UNLV Medicine launched its COVID-19 testing operation and followed that with its vaccination site, these students volunteered their free time to serve the community alongside their counterparts in nursing, public health, and other disciplines across our university.
They recruited education leaders and challenged them to devise a curriculum that incorporates principles of integrative medicine, wellness, pain management, and even hospitality. In February, the school earned its full accreditation in the shortest time possible. And on Match Day in March, we applauded as all members of the charter class were offered residencies to continue on their paths to becoming practicing physicians. A 100 percent match rate was no small feat.
They established UNLV Medicine and expanded clinical practices to address critical shortages in fields such as geriatrics, psychiatry and behavioral health, and pediatric emergency medicine. By partnering with organizations such as University Medical Center, the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, Sunrise Medical Center, Mike O’Callaghan Military Medical Center, and numerous other hospitals and private physician offices, we are training more than 330 residents and fellows within our community.
Thanks to the incredible commitment of key donors, the charter class received full-ride scholarships, and a new medical education building is under construction in the heart of the Las Vegas Medical District.
They have stepped in during an economic crisis to ensure that the School of Medicine continued its development and can expand its teaching, research, and clinical practices. I am also grateful to the Board of Regents for its vision and leadership, and to all my predecessors, including President Marta Meana, who worked tirelessly to ensure the school achieved accreditation and the charter class stayed on track to graduate in 2021.
In the coming decade, Southern Nevada will indeed see a transformation in the quality and access to health care. UNLV’s schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, Nursing, Integrated Health Sciences, and Public Health will bring research breakthroughs, clinical trials, and much-needed new therapies to our community. Finally, that ambitious idea to bring academic medicine to our community is a reality.
Keith E. Whitfield,