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October 23, 2014

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Dean details plans for $220 million medical school building near UMC

Site for proposed medical school building

Plans for a new 280,000-square-foot building in Las Vegas could significantly improve the University of Nevada School of Medicine’s academic offerings in the valley. But building the new space near University Medical Center will come with a steep price tag, the medical school’s dean, Thomas Schwenk, told Clark County commissioners on Wednesday.

Currently, the medical school’s academic spaces are spread across a series of leased buildings and “jerry-rigged” classrooms and conference rooms near the UMC, which is owned by the county, Schwenk said.

The proposed $220 million, six-story building, on county-owned land at the northwest corner of Charleston Boulevard and Shadow Lane, would provide a central location for the school that includes classrooms, offices, a library, lecture halls and some lab space.

During his presentation, Schwenk referred to the building as another “campus” for the medical school, noting that the proposed Las Vegas building covers as much space as the four buildings that make up the medical school campus in Reno.

“I believe this is a major campus that establishes the school as a major presence in Las Vegas; it’s not just another building,” Schwenk said. “We have very strong clinical programs – lots of physicians, medical students and residents— but we don’t have the academic space. That’s the issue in Las Vegas.”

Construction of the building will require a mix of state and donor funding, Schwenk said, which could be a challenge at a time when the state budget is tight.

Planning for the building is still in the preliminary stages, but it will likely be at least five years before it is completed.

The new Las Vegas building would improve the quality of education students receive and also could be a place for UMC staff to receive continuing education, Schwenk said.

“By having a major academic facility right next to hospital, you increase opportunities for collaboration between our faculty and the hospital. You increase collaboration between all the residents that we train and the hospital,” he said. “This is the way you get better residents, better faculty members. It improves research that contributes to better quality of care. All of the things that we’re missing right now, this supplies that.”

County commissioners expressed excitement and enthusiasm for the project, tapered with a dose of reality.

“I’ve been down this road at University of Nevada-Reno before. They have grandiose plans and then they don’t fund it,” said Commissioner Steve Sisolak, a former Nevada Board of Regents member. “I think it’s long overdue that a building of this magnitude be built on the (UMC) campus. I just hope the regents buy in and UNR buys in. That’s where the hiccup has been in the past.”

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