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
December 4, 2019
Talk about opening up a collective wallet. “They've gone above and beyond, very above and beyond with a current contribution commitment total of $155 million and numerous other pledges in place,” said Gov. Steve Sisolak last Tuesday, announcing a huge gift to the UNLV School of Medicine.
November 27, 2019
Research — there’s no question the UNLV School of Medicine is a true believer in its importance.
Las Vegas Review Journal
September 26, 2019
The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents held a series of forums Wednesday and Thursday to gauge public opinion on the search for a new chancellor to succeed Thom Reilly when his contract expires next year.
KSNV-TV: News 3
July 16, 2019
On Monday, I met some very smart people.

Articles Featuring Barbara Atkinson

A woman with red hair rests her hadn on her chin
PeopleNovember 6, 2019
School of Medicine founding dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson reflects on launching the school, and what comes next.
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.