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

June 23, 2021
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.
May 7, 2021
The Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV celebrated its first graduating class Friday, with speakers emphasizing the significance of the milestone moment.
March 3, 2021
“We are writing to share good news. At its February 2021 meeting, the LCME (Liaison Committee on Medical Education) voted to grant full accreditation to the medical education program of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Medicine.”
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.

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.
group of medical personnel surrounding a patient in hospital bed
People | August 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
People | February 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 News | October 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.