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

Search For Other Experts On

health & medicine

Barbara Atkinson In The News

K.S.N.V. T.V. News 3
It's $125 million of cutting-edge medical education that could put Las Vegas on the medical map.
Las Vegas Review Journal
Kris Engelstad McGarry has made no secret of her difficult relationship with the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents.
Las Vegas Review Journal
Robert E. Lang, a UNLV professor credited with helping Las Vegas recover from the Great Recession and diversify its economy, died Monday of complications from cancer. He was 62.
Las Vegas Review Journal
The Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV celebrated its first graduating class Friday, with speakers emphasizing the significance of the milestone moment.

Articles Featuring Barbara Atkinson

A woman with red hair rests her hadn on her chin
People | November 6, 2019

School of Medicine founding dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson reflects on launching the school, and what comes next.