February is always a month full of commemorative events: Valentine’s Day, Black History Month, sometimes the Super Bowl, and people start gearing up for tax season. For UNLV this year, February brought notable events including the historic landing of NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover – whose future work will be assisted by two university geoscientists – and full accreditation for our School of Medicine. University experts also continued to offer insight as an end to the pandemic came into view. Below are a few highlights from the professors, students, and UNLV making history in February.
UNLV School of Medicine Gains Accreditation
The UNLV School of Medicine gained full accreditation before the charter class of medical students graduates in May. Approved by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accreditation certifies the university’s standards for structure, function, and performance. The three-step process began in 2016, a year before the first class entered the program in July 2017. The accreditation is yet another milestone as the School of Medicine projects to finish construction on its permanent facility in 2022.
- AP, The Nevada Independent, Las Vegas Review-Journal, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now (twice), KSNV-TV: News 3, KNPR, Las Vegas Sun
Black History Month
February marked Black History Month – a celebration of renowned African-American leaders, landmarks, and culture, as well the recognition of struggles African-Americans faced throughout our nation’s history. This year, new and ongoing crises, such as COVID-19 and structural racism, have overwhelmed the second largest minority in the country. UNLV professors, students, and staff addressed the dilemmas and identified positive steps for change.
- Cox Communications honored Oral History Research Center director Claytee D. White for making an impact in the Las Vegas Black community on KTNV-TV: ABC 13. White also:
- Hosted a virtual panel series “We Need To Talk” to address systemic racism, and disparities in health care and education: Las Vegas Review-Journal (twice), (three times), KTNV-TV: ABC 13 (twice), (three times)
- Along with Esther J. Langston, director for Family Support for the Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach, reflected on historic landmarks in Southern Nevada’s black communities, as well as architect Paul R. Williams’ legacy on KNPR (twice) and Las Vegas Review-Journal.
- UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield and Chief Diversity Officer Barbee Myers Oakes identified the steps UNLV will be taking to address structural racism in The Nevada Independent.
- Romeo Jackson, assistant director for Social Justice, explained how a UNLV podcast can bring awareness to racism during Black History Month on KVVU-TV: FOX 5.
- Public health professor Erika Marquez explained to KNPR, Capital Public Radio, and KLAS-TV: 8 News Now the steps Nevada is taking to address diverse communities and their hesitancy surrounding the coronavirus vaccine.
- African American and African Diaspora Studies historian Tyler D. Parry explained on KSNV-TV: News 3 the reasons behind low vaccine rollouts to the African-American population. He also talked about the significant contributions African-Americans have made in medicine on KSNV-TV: News 3.
- Melva Thompson-Robinson, executive director of the Center for Health Disparities Research at UNLV’s School of Public Health, spoke about ways to effectively promote COVID-19 vaccines to minority communities on KVVU-TV: FOX 5 and El Periodico.
- Graduate assistant Michael Hanson talked about the benefits of diversity education to The Salt Lake Tribune.
- Political science professor Tiffiany Howard explained the pandemic’s negative impact on black-owned businesses on CNBC and Quartz.
UNLV and the Mission To Mars
Hearts stopped this February as the world watched NASA’s rover, Perseverance, finally land on planet Mars. The mission: Collect rock samples and seek any signs of ancient Martian life. UNLV geoscientists Arya Udry and Elisabeth (Libby) Hausrath were selected by NASA to identify and research the rock samples — and in February they answered questions about their work with the rover and research on Martian geology.
- The Washington Post, KNPR, Nevada Current, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Sun, El Tiempo, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, KSNV-TV: News 3, KTNV-TV: ABC 13, Heidi.news
Super Bowl Stories
The 55th annual Super Bowl arrived amid worries of a COVID-related cancellation.The nation’s most beloved sporting event came with a series of questions, such as the pandemic’s influence in sports betting and the safety measures behind gatherings. Nonetheless, the Super Bowl brought solace to Americans as the nation inched toward a year-long quarantine. UNLV experts and a notable UNLV student found ways to make the most of the Super Bowl during the height of the pandemic.
- Gaming historian and associate vice provost for Faculty Affairs David G. Schwartz explained the impact of COVID-19 on the Super Bowl and sports betting to the AP.
- The Los Angeles Times, KTNV-TV: ABC 13, and KVVU-TV: FOX 5 highlighted UNLV student Christian Shelton’s fame as the voice of a Super Bowl ad.
- Michael Gardner, vice dean for Clinical Affairs at the UNLV School of Medicine, encouraged KTNV-TV: ABC 13 viewers to host virtual gatherings during the Super Bowl.
Vaccines, Double-Masking, and More
February brought yet more hurdles surrounding the coronavirus. While the number of vaccinated Americans increased, so did the dangers of the virus as several new COVID-19 strains arose throughout the country. UNLV experts talked about local vaccine distribution, as well as the extra safety measures that can be taken when engaging with the outside world.
- UNLV has taken part in distributing vaccines for Nevada residents. UNLV nursing student Bianca Rodriguez-Villanueva described her experience to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and nursing student Kelsey Thompson caught up with KVVU-TV: FOX 5.
- UNLV Medicine’s Dr. Michael Gardner explained to KVVU-TV: FOX 5 how vaccine distribution offers UNLV students clinical experience.
- Bioethics director Johan C. Bester weighed in on the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, AstraZeneca’s vaccine missteps, and vaccine hunters: ABC 6 On Your Side, Insider, Verywell Health
- Public health professor Brian Labus and Dr. Deborah Kuhls, director of the UNLV Medicine Surgical Critical Care Fellowship Program, encouraged double-masking amid higher COVID-19 numbers:
- Labus: Runner’s World, Aspen Public Radio, KSNV-TV: News 3, WSET ABC 13 News
- Kuhls: KVVU-TV: FOX 5
- Labus and Distinguished Fellow in Responsible Gaming Alan Feldman reviewed Las Vegas deaths and tourism declines in the AP.
- Labus reported the current statistics of COVID-19 cases in Nevada:
- Hospitality and Esports Laboratory director Robert Rippee explained how the pandemic has sped up casino innovations in The Press-Enterprise.
- Architecture professor Dak Kopec explained how COVID-19 can influence home design on BU News Service.
- Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine professor Edwin Oh explained how to detect COVID variants in sewage water on KVVU-TV: FOX 5 (twice) and KSNV-TV: News 3.
General Expert Roundup
- UNLV tackled cybercrime with a new cybersecurity boot camp for students. Heidi Erpelding Welch, director of program development, explained more on KSNV-TV: News 3.
- The Clark County Board of Commissioners approved a name change for Southern Nevada's airport from McCarran International Airport to the Harry Reid International Airport. UNLV history professor Michael Green and African American and African Diaspora Studies professor Tyler D. Parry spoke to the media, including KNPR, El Tiempo, and the Las Vegas Sun, about the history and significance behind the name.
- Law professor Francine J. Lipman explained processes for filing taxes and coronavirus relief checks on Bloomberg and Marketplace (twice). She also reviewed the legalities behind Cardinal Health’s opioid settlement and the company’s filing for tax breaks on The Washington Post.
- Law professor Nancy B. Rapoport offered insight to Yahoo! on the compensation for the victims of the Harvey Weinstein lawsuit.
- Political science professor Michael Bowers explained how Clark County’s population affects state representation in the Las Vegas Sun.
- DentaQuest donated $25,000 to UNLV in support of women’s dental clinics and Lily T. Garcia, dean of UNLV Dental Medicine, weighed in: KLAS-TV: 8 News Now.
- Center for Business and Economic Research director Stephen Miller talked about economic recovery in Las Vegas with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Vegas Inc.
- Entain and UNLV launched a program that encourages gender diversity in the gaming industry. International Gaming Institute chief executive in residence Jan Jones Blackhurst and Hospitality and Esports Laboratory director Robert Rippee explained more:
- Couple and Family Therapy Program professor Katherine M. Hertlein provided tips on dating during the pandemic on VegasNews.com and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
- Psychology professor Stephen D. Benning offered insight on how to combat hoarding in Las Vegas Weekly.
- History professor Michael Green reflected on the first atomic blast in Nevada in U.S. News & World Report.
- College of Education professor Bradley Marianno explained to The 74 the relationship between teacher unions and district leadership during the pandemic.