Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2019

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Dose of Rogers for ailing UMC

Reid taps business, education expertise of former chancellor


Tiffany Brown

Jim Rogers, second from left, County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, second from right, and Commissioner Steve Sisolak at Wednesday’s news conference.


Wednesday news conference

UMC Press Conference

County Commission chairman Rory Reid, from left, Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor, Dan Klaich, board of regents chairman James Dean Leavitt and commissioner Steve Sisolak announce plans to transform UMC Hospital into public-private teaching hospital, during a press conference at the Government Center in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Launch slideshow »

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In tapping Jim Rogers to attract a prestigious health care partner for University Medical Center, Clark County gets a messenger with big ideas, a big profile and a big personality.

Although that didn’t always work to Rogers’ advantage as the state’s chancellor of higher education, those who have worked closely with him said it might be the right combination for this job.

Thom Reilly, a former Clark County manager whom Rogers tapped as vice chancellor of the university system health sciences arm, said the task plays to his strengths. As a former chancellor, a successful businessman and a prominent philanthropist, Rogers has connections in academia and business that could be key in luring a top-tier academic medical organization to Southern Nevada.

“As a visionary, he’s a good choice,” said Reilly, now a professor at San Diego State University and a Harrah’s vice president. “He has enough contact with the major health care players out there, he’ll be able to bring in different models — teaching hospitals that work. In some respects, he’s the logical choice.”

Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid announced Wednesday that the county will seek to transform the financially troubled UMC into a “top-flight teaching hospital,” with the dual goal of improving medical care in Southern Nevada and the public hospital’s budget. To accomplish that, Rogers will study successful hospitals nationwide and draw on the expertise of the education and medical communities.

The proposal is just beginning to take shape, but it could involve UMC entering a venture with a prestigious academic medical institution such as Johns Hopkins or Cleveland Clinic.

Bringing people together “is what I’ve done for 40 years,” Rogers said after the announcement. “When I was chancellor, I had to get those eight institutions together, and we did that.”

Indeed, Dr. Maurizio Trevisan, executive vice chancellor and CEO of the Health Sciences Center for the Nevada System of Higher Education, said Rogers is an expert at surrounding himself with knowledgeable people and finding solutions.

“He doesn’t stop at obstacles thrown in his way,” Trevisan said. “He has energy and he has vision and he has passion for this thing.”

People scoffed when, several years ago, Rogers challenged UNLV to raise $500 million to improve its research and education activities. The “Invent the Future” campaign reached that goal in November.

But that’s not to say it wasn’t sometimes a bumpy ride. Rogers’ tenure as chancellor was marked by several public spats.

A type-A personality, Rogers came to figurative blows with Gov. Jim Gibbons as he defended the university system against proposed cuts of 36 percent in the run-up to the 2009 legislative session. Rogers called Gibbons, among other things, a “greedy, uninterested, unengaged human being.”

Some regents said the remarks were counterproductive. Others, however, said it was Rogers’ relentless fighting with Gibbons that led to the higher education cuts being reduced to 10 percent.

In January 2007, after two regents asked him to resign, Rogers, who volunteered his time as chancellor, sent a two-word memo: “I quit.” He returned to the job 36 hours later.

Rogers owns Sunbelt Communications, which operates 16 television affiliates in five states, including KVBC Channel 3 in Las Vegas. (In October, Sunbelt and The Greenspun Corporation, which owns the Las Vegas Sun, entered a news-sharing partnership.)

Rogers has given about $275 million of his fortune to higher education and often talks about the importance of education to the state economy and its overall well-being.

“No one in the state of Nevada has a greater passion for education than Jim Rogers,” Reid said in a statement Wednesday.

His connections in academia will be helpful, said Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who served on the university system’s Board of Regents during Rogers’ tenure as chancellor. Rogers “knows these people — he can get a hold of these people at Johns Hopkins or the Cleveland Clinic, and he can get them here.”

Rogers also “has access to an enormous donor base who are friends of his,” Sisolak said.

Donor money might be needed if the plan calls for hiring top-notch but expensive doctors, who could drive more paying customers to the hospital. That, in turn, could ease the hospital’s burden of caring for the indigent, the uninsured and the underinsured.

Rogers, who is providing his services for free, said he wants a preliminary plan for UMC in place within 90 days. He doesn’t think it is far-fetched to envision having a final plan in place by fall.

He promised to be tireless.

Right after the 10:30 a.m. news conference, Rogers said he had set up meetings with County Manager Virginia Valentine and others.

“I’m going to be all over the place, I’m not just going to have a meeting today and then go back in 10 days and go over the same things again,” he said. “We’re going to go hot after it.”

Sun reporters Marshall Allen and Emily Richmond contributed to this story.

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