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September 25, 2017

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Amodei: Nevada can sustain two medical schools

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Cathleen Allison / AP

Mark Amodei speaks at a victory party in Reno, Nev., Sept. 13, 2011, after defeating Democrat Kate Marshall in a special election for Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., on Tuesday pushed back on former Rep. Shelley Berkley's stance that the UNR School of Medicine should be closed because the state can't afford two medical schools.

The School of Medicine at UNLV welcomed its inaugural class this summer; the UNR School of Medicine has operated for 47 years.

Speaking on “Nevada Newsmakers,” Amodei said the Reno-based medical school has done well in turning out good doctors and questioned why it should be closed down.

“Is there a reason why what is going on at the University of Nevada up north is not working? Is it not paying for itself? I don't know why you can only make doctors in one place,” Amodei said.

Amodei has represented the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Reno and its surrounding area, since 2011.

Berkley, who represented the 1st Congressional District in Southern Nevada from 1999-2013, is now the CEO and senior provost at Touro University/Western Division, an osteopathic medical school in Henderson.

She said in a recent radio interview that the state can't fund two medical schools.

“We spend $60 million a biennium to keep UNR’s medical school going,” Berkley told Nevada Public Radio. “I don't think this state will want to sustain two medical schools.”

The sustainability of two medical schools in Nevada has long been debated.

Amodei, a former state assemblyman and state senator, said he hoped Berkley's comments would not open a debate about closing the Reno medical school.

“I hope we don't get too deep into that (debate about two medical schools in Nevada), unless it serves some function where we are going to get more doctors produced at a better rate, highly qualified doctors,” Amodei said.

Nevada has faced a shortage of doctors for decades. Nevada has an average of 198 doctors per 100,000 residents, according to 2010 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national average is 272 per 100,000, according to the CDC.

“Those folks in Reno have now established a tradition, which is a pretty proud one and have been pretty successful,” Amodei said. “So I don't see why you would shut them down if they're doing a good job.”

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who was critical of Berkley's comments, said he feels Nevada can sustain two medical schools for now.

“We (Southern Nevada) just got our (medical) school, so let's see how it goes. Our school (at UNLV) was approved with the idea that your school (in Reno) would still be there. I don't see any change,” Segerblom said.

“It (the medical school in Reno) is an essential program and frankly, every major city should have a medical school,” Segerblom said.

Amodei on DACA and Trump

Amodei, who praised President Donald Trump for some of his policy stances, said Trump is in a "communications war" with the national media.

“If you sit there and go, ‘You know, Charlottesville means he's a racist, the wall means he's a racist, DACA means ... Those are things, I guess, where everybody can see them a different way. It's pretty clear to me that no matter what, whatever this guy does is wrong in the eyes of a lot of national media folks,” Amodei said.

Amodei, who headed Trump's campaign in Nevada in 2016, told the Reno Gazette-Journal last month that Trump needs a “do-over” on his remarks after the protests in Charlottesville, Va., last month.

Tuesday, however, his personal approval rating for Trump was up.

“(I like) the different stance on foreign policy, tricky stuff there in Korea and other places,” Amodei said. “But if you talk about the issues ... it's like, you know what, I don't think (he's been) so bad.”

Amodei suggested Congress should deal with the immigration problem by “taking a bite at a time,” and that could start with DACA legislation.

The U.S. Justice Department said it is ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months. Trump has given Congress six months to come up with a solution. After that, he said in a tweet that he may revisit the issue. If DACA ends in six months, about 800,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. will be subject to deportation. About 13,000 live in Nevada.

“When you think back a few years, it was ‘comprehensive immigration reform (in Congress)’,” Amodei said. “But why not take a bite at a time? This (DACA) is as good a bite as there is to start with. It doesn't mean you stop there.”

Amodei is concerned the fix for the DACA recipients will get more complicated.

“I'm a little worried because you are talking about, ‘Well let's do a comprehensive bill now. Or let’s roll it in to border security. It’s like can't you deal with the DACA issues and immigration reform as a standalone thing?”

Ray Hagar is a retired political journalist from the Reno Gazette-Journal and current reporter/columnist for the Nevada Newsmakers podcast and website, nevadanewsmakers.com. Follow Ray on Twitter at @RayHagarNV.

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