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January 23, 2018

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UNLV taps ‘planning dean’ for proposed medical school

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Barbara Atkinson

UNLV officials announced a new dean who is charged with shepherding a proposed UNLV medical school into reality.

Barbara Atkinson, who formerly served as emeritus vice chancellor and dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, will become the “planning dean” for the UNLV School of Medicine, effective May 19.

Atkinson, 71, will work with the university campus to develop a vision for the first public allopathic medical school in Southern Nevada. She will oversee preliminary planning for curriculum, raise funds for construction and establish a community advisory committee to align regional needs to the school’s mission.

“Barbara is a dynamic leader with a unique mix of research, academic and administrative experience,” John Valery White, UNLV’s executive vice president and provost, said in a statement. “We’re confident in her ability to develop a comprehensive vision for the UNLV School of Medicine that will serve the health care and workforce needs of Southern Nevadans.”

Atkinson comes to UNLV after leading the University of Kansas medical school for a decade, from 2002 to 2012. Under her tenure, the University of Kansas medical center campus adopted a new curriculum, opened a state-of-the-art research building and medical office building and increased research funding and doubled donations to the school.

To address Kansas’ physician shortage, Atkinson opened a new campus in Salina, Kan., and expanded the Wichita, Kan., campus from a two-year program to a full, four-year program. In 2012, the University of Kansas School of Medicine became the 67th school nationally to earn National Cancer Institute designation.

“From the moment I engaged in discussions about this position and the UNLV School of Medicine, it was clear that the university and the Nevada System of Higher Education are deeply committed to expanding public medical education in Southern Nevada,” Atkinson said in a statement. “There is no doubt we need to enhance health care capacity in Southern Nevada, and I believe that by fusing the passion of Nevada’s higher education leadership with an increasingly engaged medical and business community, we can turn this vision into reality.”

A national expert in the field of pathology, Atkinson has researched the identification and characterization of tumor antigens in cells and tissues, and developed techniques to recognize different types of tumors. She is the first female trustee and past president of the American Board of Pathology, and was appointed in 2010 by President Barack Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

After graduating from the Jefferson Medical School in 1974, Atkinson has held faculty appointments with the University of Kansas School of Medicine and Medical Center, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine, MCP Hahnemann University and the Allegheny University of the Health Sciences.

A statewide steering committee of higher education and community leaders is working on the creation of a UNLV medical school and expanding the existing University of Nevada School of Medicine. A joint budget for medical education will be submitted to the Legislature in 2015.

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