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December 16, 2018

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Ceremony for UNLV medical school’s inaugural class marks progress

UNLV School of Medicine's Charter Class White Coat Ceremony

Christopher DeVargas

Students from the charter class, 2021, of the UNLV School of Medicine recite the class oath, led by Dr. Johan Bester, during the White Coat Ceremony at Artemus Ham Mall, Friday Aug. 25, 2017.

UNLV School of Medicine's Charter Class White Coat Ceremony

Shawn Gerstenberger, Ph.D., Acting Dean, UNLV School of Medicine, speaks to students, family and friends during the school's charter class White Coat Ceremony at Artemus Ham Mall, Friday Aug. 25, 2017. Launch slideshow »

UNLV School of Medicine’s charter class of 60 students received their white doctor coats and took their formal oath, marking their official induction to the medical profession.

Former Sen. Harry Reid, UNLV President Len Jessup and the school’s acting dean, Shawn Gerstenberger, were on hand Friday at Artemus W. Ham Hall on the UNLV campus to mark the occasion.

A surprise guest made an appearance at the ceremony, as the medical school’s dean, Dr. Barbara Atkinson, addressed the crowd from a wheelchair onstage in an unannounced visit.

“I get to see them (the students) mature as part of the student body,” Atkinson said. “It’s amazing to see them growing and I’m really pleased to be part of it. Thank you so much for all that you do.”

Atkinson missed the stethoscope ceremony the school had last month due to being hospitalized with unspecified medical issues. That led to the appointment of acting dean Gerstenberger. A UNLV spokesperson said there was no timetable to when Atkinson would return to her helm of the school of medicine.

Landing a medical school at UNLV has been talked about for years and Reid applauded all involved for finally seeing it come to life.

“It’s long overdue,” Reid said. “We have a shortage of doctors here and all the students are residents here, so you’ll work in areas you’re interested in and you’ll stay here when you’re finished.

“Is this the Camelot? Is this the impossible dream? Probably.”

The main building of the UNLV School of Medicine, planned for West Charleston Boulevard across from University Medical Center, is still a few years away from coming to fruition.

To begin the first phase, Jessup said the school needs $111 million to $125 million, which he said they could secure before the end of the year.

The medical school addition will serve as a critical step to UNLV’s goal of achieving Tier 1 university status.

Of those in attendance happy to see Atkinson onstage, none were happier than the students themselves, who welcomed her with a class T-shirt, which all 60 had signed.

“We recognize that none of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of Dean Barbara Atkinson,” said Liz Groesbeck, president of the class of 2021. “We can all remember the time when we went to ask people for donations … let’s take a moment to remember how incredibly awkward those moments were.

“Dean Atkinson did just that but on a statewide level … None of us would be here today without Dean Atkinson. We won’t let you down.”

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