Dr. Michael Gardner, recently named president and CEO of UNLV Medicine — the 21 clinics making up the clinical practice of the new UNLV School of Medicine — calls his position “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with all the advantages and disadvantages of a startup.”
“Since we’re new and small, we’re not held to business deals that were made 20, 30, or 50 years ago,” said Gardner, who was also appointed vice dean of clinical affairs for the medical school. “At some level that’s our weakness, but also our strength. We can do things differently.”
The clinical practice offers Southern Nevadans access to a full range of faculty physicians who represent more than 20 research specialties, including pediatric surgery and diabetes.
Gardner is responsible for the management of clinical activities of approximately 160 faculty physicians, 260 resident physicians, and 25 physicians in graduate medical education fellowships. Their specialties range from cardiovascular medicine to critical care.
The clinics — which were previously managed by the University of Nevada, Reno, Medical School — see about 10,000 patient visits a month with annual revenues around $60 million. Gardner expects both numbers to grow substantially as the community learns about the excellence of UNLV Medicine.
“We want to get where the people say, ‘Oh, I know if I have problems, UNLV Medicine is going to be an excellent solution.’ …People (should) feel comfortable that we’re a great place for quality care, where there’s innovative thinking, where people are working as teams across specialties, not siloed — that’s the vision,” he said. “We need to come together and provide people with a practice, a location, and a brand that people feel comfortable in.”
A serious health scare in Gardner’s own family — his youngest son was 12-years-old when diagnosed with a brain tumor — helped shape his thoughts about medical care. He was particularly impressed with the nursing staff at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, California, and reflected on what elevated the care his son received.
“I couldn’t help but notice the nursing staff, when they were coming in and out of the rooms, washed their hands 99.9 percent of the time (to help keep infections at bay). I used to be the director of quality for three hospital systems. I’m the more-than-the-average educated consumer, and I recognized that ‘little things’ were contributing to him getting better,” he said. “It was attention to detail. What the nurses were doing was ‘cultural.’ It was not something they thought about, they just did it.”
Fostering such a culture in the clinics at UNLV Medicine will be among his top priorities.
“Everyone deserves that kind of care, and we need to teach that to our students and residents and fellows early on.”
Gardner, who will also practice medicine in his specialty of maternal fetal medicine (high risk obstetrics) one day a week, moved here from Houston, where he was executive vice president and administrator for Harris Health System’s Ambulatory Care Services. He’s also served as professor and director of the Perinatal Institute at Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California.