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September 3, 2015

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Nevada Wonk

Chris Giunchigliani: Southern Nevada needs a medical school

Chris Giunchigliani met with a group of doctors, nurses and medical researchers Tuesday to brainstorm ideas for improving health care in Las Vegas.

They came to two conclusions: Southern Nevada needs a medical school, and it wouldn't be difficult to establish one.

But like much in Nevada, it all hinges on politics.

"When we started talking about this in the Legislature in the 70s, we were outfoxed by the North," said UNLV Regent Jack Schofield, who attended the roundtable and supports the proposal. "As long as Bill Raggio was in there, we'd never get a medical school down south. But now he's out."

Giunchigliani, who is running for Las Vegas mayor, and the doctors agreed that it would be relatively easy to establish a medical school here.

UNLV already has a dental school with professors that could train medical students. The classroom curriculum for each is nearly identical.

The second step would be requiring the state medical school's dean to live in Southern Nevada. Both the Clark County Commission and the Board of Regents will discuss such a mandate next month.

As for money, late UNR President Milton Glick said before he died that the university set aside $20 million to $30 million in capital funding to create a Southern Nevada medical school.

Giunchigliani and the doctors suggested the money be used to develop a housing complex for medical students and residents, as well as a cadaver center, physician's assistant program, dialysis center and other medical ventures that could turn a profit.

Every medical student that attends UNR has to do at least a portion of their clinical rotations in Las Vegas. Southern Nevada has housing stock to spare, the doctors argued, and dorm-style living would foster a sense of community among the students, keeping them from relocating.

"Once you establish roots, you're not going to leave," said panelist Michael Hill, who will start medical school at UNR in the fall.

A medical school in the south would also ease the burden on emergency rooms as medical students could staff clinics and help treat uninsured patients. Training programs for physicians' assistants and nurse practitioners would pay for themselves with tuition revenue.

Giunchigliani said a relatively small start-up fund could leverage bonds to create a world-class medical campus.

"It's the will" that's missing, she said.

Advocates hope a tweaked approach in arguing the merits of a Las Vegas medical school will make this latest round of bargaining successful.

"If you don't threaten UNR and explain that we can have them both and work together, it could be embraced," Giunchigliani said.

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