The UNLV School of Medicine recently launched a "60 by 16" scholarship drive to cover tuition costs for its entire 2017 charter class. Just days after the campaign's formal launch, the school is nearly two-thirds of the way to its goal of 60 scholarships.
The Engelstad Family Foundation committed $2.5 million to fund 25 scholarships, and local businesses, physicians, families and UNLV administrators have added 13 to bring the current total to 38. With each four-year scholarship estimated at $100,000, school officials are seeking a total of $6 million for the program.
"In a state starving for doctors, expectations will be high for the school's first students. We need to attract high-quality students in Nevada and across the nation who will elevate the school's reputation and set the tone for long-term success," said Dr. Barbara Atkinson, UNLV School of Medicine planning dean. "The few schools who have taken this approach significantly increased the quality and volume of applicants they received. This benefits the UNLV School of Medicine and our future student pool."
Investing in Southern Nevada's Future
The Engelstad Family Foundation's commitment of 25 scholarships continues its long-standing support for UNLV students. In 2009, the foundation committed more than $12.6 million to create the UNLV Engelstad Scholars program, the largest active scholarship endowment in Nevada.
"Helping students receive a medical degree fits perfectly with our mission to support higher education opportunities in Southern Nevada," said Kris Engelstad McGarry, trustee of the Engelstad Family Foundation. "UNLV's School of Medicine is one of the most important developments in the history of higher education for Southern Nevada. We are excited to be a part of it."
UNLV Foundation trustee Tom Gallagher and his wife Mary were the first multiple scholarship donors and have been instrumental in the campaign's immediate success. Gallagher is a longtime UNLV donor and active supporter of many UNLV programs, including service for eight years as chair of the board for UNLV's Black Mountain Institute. His family's commitment has inspired others to fund scholarships, including UNLV President Len Jessup, former UNLV president Donald Snyder, and UNLV vice president William Boldt.
Local business leaders and education advocates Duncan and Irene Lee, and the Children's Heart Center Nevada - the state's largest pediatric cardiology group with offices in Las Vegas and Reno - were also among the first to commit funds for scholarships.
"Children's Heart Center Nevada has supported medical education since its inception in 1980 through training for residents, medical students, and other health care providers," said Dr. William Evans, co-director of the Children's Heart Center Nevada. "We provide free continuing medical education for physicians, nurses, and ancillary providers. A scholarship is the next logical step as the state of Nevada addresses the physician needs of its residents, and we are honored to be a part of the future of medical education in Nevada.
Duncan and Irene Lee have a long history of supporting efforts to improve education and say supporting the scholarship program was a natural progression of their philanthropy.
"Southern Nevada's growing population desperately needs more primary care physicians and specialists to provide care. We need to recruit the best and brightest students for the medical school's first class so they will in turn invest in the future health of our community," said Duncan Lee. "Creating a word-class medical school will have a huge economic impact for generations to come."
When fully operational, the school will create approximately 8,000 jobs, boast an annual economic impact of more than $1 billion, and drive close to $60 million in annual revenue for the state.
More Doctors, Less Debt
The scholarship program will help the first class to graduate with little or no debt -- another major incentive for students to attend a program in the accreditation phase. In 2014, the average debt for students graduating from public medical schools was $167,000; at private medical schools it was even higher, averaging $190,000.
The school will teach a diverse group of future Nevada physicians how to work in health care teams, apply new technology, and develop treatment solutions for diseases of the present and future.
"Our goal is to integrate public undergraduate medical education and graduate medical education - or residencies - to cultivate more doctors staying to serve Southern Nevada," said Dr. Atkinson.
The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents has requested $26.7 million in startup funds from the Nevada Legislature for the next biennium. Funds for capital and academic program development will come from private donations and other revenue sources. UNLV plans to admit a charter class of 60 students by Fall 2017 with expansion to 120 students within four years of the school's opening.