When Match Day occurred last week and students from the UNLV School of Medicine charter class gathered at the Shadow Lane campus to learn where they were going for postgraduate residencies, Dr. Mark Doubrava participated as chairman of the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents and as a member of the school’s community faculty, the physicians who donate and volunteer their time on behalf of the school.
“It was so gratifying to see how far the school has come,” said Doubrava, '85 BA Liberal Studies, who in his remarks to the crowd noted that the gamble students took in attending a new school that had yet to be fully accredited had paid off. (Full accreditation, a three-step process that began before the charter class arrived in 2017, was achieved in February.) ”I’m so proud to be part of the school, helping teach the next generation of medical professionals.”
Early in the 21st century, Doubrava had taken exception to attempts by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and others to have satellite facilities from the Cleveland Clinic and (or) the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center providing medical care in Las Vegas. He had long been a voice heard in the community on the necessity of a “homegrown” medical school from a health care perspective. And he was a voice on the Board of Regents discussing a medical school at UNLV but he admits it didn’t gain traction until a 2013 economic impact study found that a local public university-based medical school could have a $1.2 billion annual economic impact and could add 8,000 jobs to the Southern Nevada economy by 2030.
“If you build a medical school, you not only improve local health care and medical access, you improve the medical vitality of the region,” he said, recalling the pride he felt in 2015 when then-Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Senate Bill 514 into law, providing startup funds for the school. “What so many in our community had hoped for was becoming a reality.”
Importance of Donors
While attending the Match Day festivities, Doubrava said seeing the crane on the site of the five-story Medical Education Building that will be completed in 2022 brought home just how important philanthropy is to the School of Medicine. It is because of philanthropic funding commitments totaling more than $150 million that construction is underway.
“Donors are very important to the success and expansion of the UNLV School of Medicine,” he said. “I think it is fair to identify different categories of donors. Donors will donate large sums of money to assist in construction of buildings or create new programs that require hiring of new professors. Some people will support the school by donating their time and special political, business, or medical knowledge. Many community physician volunteers will contribute to the educational mission of teaching medical students.”
While obviously able to help support the medical school through policy decisions in his position on the Board of Regents, Doubrava, an ophthalmologist, said he receives a great deal of satisfaction from being part of the more than 300-member community faculty that supplements 150 full-time faculty.
Medical students with an interest in his specialty visit his Eye Care for Nevada offices and family and internal medicine residents come to learn about vision concerns that could affect their patients. “Working with them is great,” he said. “Their enthusiasm to learn and ask questions is contagious.”
Dr. Mark Guadagnoli, who in his position as associate dean for faculty affairs and director of learning performance oversees community faculty who not only teach but also engage in research, student mentorship, and community and committee support, said the diversity of experiences that community faculty bring cannot be overstated. He said that without such volunteerism, educational opportunities would be severely limited. “Having so many full-time medical professionals on staff just wouldn’t be financially possible. It would bankrupt a school.”
Doubrava, who moved to Las Vegas from South Dakota at age 10, said his father, a retired anesthesiologist, is largely the reason he went into medicine. “He has always been my role model. From about age 9, I can remember accompanying him as he made patient hospital rounds or watching him as he prepared his lecture slides for anesthesia students.”
A family trip to Massachusetts General Hospital also played a large role in Doubrava’s becoming a physician. There he saw the Ether Dome, the surgical amphitheater where Dr. William T.G. Morton made history in 1846 by demonstrating the first public surgery using an anesthetic (ether). “I saw it and I was hooked.”
Doubrava’s father loves photography and converted a storage room into a darkroom. “I think my exposure to photography and cameras is one reason I took a liking and became interested in ophthalmology. It’s a wonderful specialty because I see patients from all ages and many of the eye ailments can be successfully treated.”
A 1981 graduate of Clark High School, Doubrava went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from the UNLV in 1985 and his MD degree from the University of Nevada School of Medicine in 1989. He completed his internship at Baylor College of Medicine and an ophthalmology residency at Louisiana State University Eye Center. He also completed a fellowship in Cataract and Refractive Surgery at the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital of New Orleans.
After his post-graduate training, he came back to Las Vegas to practice medicine. He ran for a regent position and became a member of the Nevada Board of Regents in 2010.
“As an alum of both UNLV and UNR, I wanted to contribute and help advance the universities by advocating for increased funding. I believe investing in high education pays dividends as far as economic diversification and improved quality of one’s community. As a physician, I knew that the regents set policy, and being on the board, I could be a voice and direct efforts to improve the quality of public medical education in Nevada.”