John Locher / AP
Published Thursday, June 11, 2015 | 11:32 a.m.
Updated Thursday, June 11, 2015 | 1:18 p.m.
Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill Thursday that authorizes $27 million for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Medicine, a project that could take a bite out of a doctor shortage that's exacerbated by a growing, aging population and health care reform laws.
Sandoval approved SB514 in a ceremony at UNLV. The bill funds a wide range of state budget items, including an International Center for Excellence in Gaming Regulation, extra support for the Boyd School of Law and a new academic building at UNLV's Harrah Hotel College.
While Nevada has a medical school in Reno, UNLV says Las Vegas is the largest urban area in the U.S. without a public medical school. The state also has a low ratio of doctors to residents, ranking 45th in the country in 2010 for the number of physicians per 100,000 people.
"Nevada is unable to meet the health care needs of its citizens," proponents wrote in a vision statement for the school. "Bringing a medical school to Southern Nevada will be one of the single greatest achievements at UNLV in terms of benefiting the community by ensuring residents have access to care."
The school plans to launch in the fall of 2017 with 60 students, and grow to as many as 180. Supporters plan to offer fully funded, four-year scholarships to all 60 members of the inaugural class.
Sandoval's budget initially set aside $8 million over the next two years for the school — less than two-thirds the amount that UNLV officials requested.
But with the passage of a bill that would legalize ride-hailing companies like Uber in Nevada and impose a 3 percent fee on taxi and ride-hailing fares, the state is expected to draw in at least $70 million more over the next two years than originally expected.
As a result, lawmakers opted to fund UNLV's full request — a move that proponents say will keep the school on track to launch in 2017.
Rindels reported from Carson City.