Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015 | 4:06 p.m.
A recent $2 million donation to the UNLV School of Medicine will help hire faculty for a critical new surgery program, school officials announced this week.
The gift came from Dr. Anthony Marlon, a member of the fledgling medical school’s community advisory board. Marlon came to Las Vegas in the 1970s to work at University Medical Center as a cardiologist before he founded Sierra Health Services, the oldest HMO company in the state before it was acquired by UnitedHealthcare.
The money will go toward bringing aboard faculty for a new department of orthopedic surgery. The medical school is still in the planning phase and is not expected to offer its first classes until fall 2017.
In the meantime, the new orthopedic surgery program will be incubated at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. UNSOM surgery chief Dr. Michael Daubs will oversee its formation before it officially transitions to the UNLV School of Medicine on June 2017, and Daubs becomes the department chair.
“This is a really critical part of the school,” said Maureen Schafer, chief of staff to medical school planning dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson. “It’s the building blocks of academic medicine.”
Nevada ranks 51st in the nation for the number of orthopedic surgeons practicing in the state. It also has critical shortages in a number of other medical specialties, including pediatrics and ophthalmology, which was a major factor in the push to create a medical school in Southern Nevada.
The new department also will come with an orthopedics residency program, allowing graduate medical students to gain further experience in the field. According to Schafer, UMC is in the process of finding space on its campus for patients to receive orthopedic care from the future department’s surgeons and residents.
“To have this happen at this early stage is absolutely critical,” Schafer said. “It’s our first significant donation outside of the scholarship program.”
The gift comes months after Atkinson and her team closed out a wildly successful fundraising campaign for scholarships. They had originally set out to raise $6 million to pay for full-ride scholarships for all 60 students in the school’s inaugural class, but managed to raise $13.5 million after just two months.
The campaign put to bed fears that a proposed UNLV medical school would garner little support in the community.
“The medical school at UNLV is one of the most important things that’s happened in Las Vegas since I moved here 45 years ago,” Marlon said. “I am so impressed that the whole community has gotten around it.”
Marlon said he was delighted with Atkinson’s leadership on the project, but said there was still a lot of work required to get the school up and running. After receiving $27 million in state startup funding from the Legislature this year, officials must find funding to build the school’s first facilities near UMC.
“Somebody has to step up and make the hospital piece of this happen,” Marlon said. “It’s critically important.”