Barbara Atkinson

Founding Dean, UNLV School of Medicine
Expertise: Medical Research, Medical Education, Pathology


Dr. Barbara Atkinson is an accomplished researcher, teacher and administrator in the fields of medicine and medical education. 

As founding dean of the UNLV School of Medicine, Dr. Atkinson is responsible for the school's vision, academic and clinical practice plans, accreditation, community partnerships and fundraising. In 2015, UNLV raised $13.5 million in 60 days to fund 135 scholarships for future students - including the entire charter class in 2017. 

Before UNLV, Dr. Atkinson was dean of medicine and later also executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center campus, where she revitalized the school’s vision to better serve regional needs. Examples include the opening of a new campus in Salina to address the state’s physician shortage and expansion of the Wichita campus from a two-year program to a full, four-year program. In 2012 the University of Kansas School of Medicine became just the 67th school to earn National Cancer Institute designation.

An expert in the field of pathology, Dr. Atkinson's early work focused on the identification and characterization of tumor antigens in cells and tissues and to developing techniques to recognize and type tumors.

Dr. Atkinson is a life trustee and a past president of the American Board of Pathology. She was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1997, and in 2010 was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

Dr. Atkinson has held faculty appointments with the University of Kansas School of Medicine and Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Drexel University College of Medicine), MCP Hahnemann University, and Allegheny University of the Health Sciences.


  • M.D., Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University
  • Post-graduate work in Clinical and Anatomic Pathology, University of Pennsylvania
  • National Institutes of Health fellowship in pulmonary pathology, University of Pennsylvania
  • Certified by American Board of Pathology, with qualifications in clinical and anatomic pathology, and cytopathology
  • B.A., Biology, College of Wooster

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Barbara Atkinson In The News

KSNV-TV: News 3
July 16, 2019
On Monday, I met some very smart people.
March 12, 2019
The woman who has almost single-handedly forged UNLV’s new medical school is leaving her post.​
October 15, 2018
When it comes to the word education, what comes to mind? Maybe days as a child on the playground.
KSNV-TV: News 3
May 21, 2018
On Shadow Lane, it’s crunch time. The last exam of the semester is coming up in two weeks for the inaugural class of 60 students at UNLV’s new medical school.

Articles Featuring Barbara Atkinson

group of medical personnel surrounding a patient in hospital bed
PeopleAugust 7, 2019
A moment paying tribute to an organ donor helps families heal while raising awareness of the need for more donors.
Dr. Barbara Atkinson at podium
PeopleFebruary 21, 2019
Founding Dean Barbara Atkinson announces succession plan, will continue to lead during search for school’s next dean.
School of Medicine academic building rendering
Campus NewsOctober 18, 2016
The first allopathic medical school in the Las Vegas Valley was noted for its innovative curriculum, experienced leadership team, and comprehensive faculty development plan.
pills spilled out of a pill bottle
Campus NewsOctober 12, 2016
With overdose deaths at epidemic levels, the School of Medicine is ensuring its new doctors are well trained in pain management treatment.