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A student walks to the UNLV School of Medicine located in the Health District on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (Jeff Scheid-Nevada Independent)

Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick pushed for more progress on the long-awaited UNLV School of Medicine building during a board meeting Tuesday.

The vexed commission chair expressed concern about project delays, saying her constituents haven’t gotten what was promised, including space for the UNLV Ackerman Autism Center. She asked for monthly updates to the commission’s management team.

“I need more than a commitment. I need a hard date, a hard timeline, a hard communication expectation, because what I will tell you is that for me, I am super-frustrated with this whole thing,” Kirkpatrick said. “I have been waiting for financing for 10 years. That’s where we’re at.”

The university’s land-transfer agreement with Clark County states that construction of the medical education building on a nine-acre site on Shadow Lane must begin by July 1, 2021.

UNLV’s Associate Vice President for Planning and Construction, David Frommer, said the University’s goal is to have the building open by the fall semester of 2022.

UNLV President Marta Meana presented a concept for the medical building during the commission meeting. The 140,000-square-foot, four-story facility is a scaled-down version of previous plans, which called for an eight- or nine-story building. The projected cost is $125 million, and the building would include classrooms, space for clinical simulations and a resource center. The facility is not planned to be used for clinical services and would be used for education purposes only.

Changes to the original building plan came about after an expectation of a large gift to the school did not materialize, Meana said. The new plan has yet to be approved by the UNLV board of directors, but Meana said it’s a feasible project that it would accommodate a class of 120 students in comparison to their at-capacity classes of 60 students.

“This is not a pipe-dream. This is a do-able project,” Meana said.

Commissioner Jim Gibson reaffirmed the importance of having a medical school in Southern Nevada, commending UNLV’s efforts to build a facility that serves the public and gets the students involved.

“I hope that you’ll go back and let them know how much we really appreciate the ability to work with these students,” Gibson said. “I salute you and them for a novel approach to addressing a really significant need.”

UNLV’s medical school comes at an urgent time. Although the population of Las Vegas continues to grow, there is still a massive shortfall in the number of doctors per patient in the state. Nevada is ranked 47th in active doctors per 100,000 patients, and 48th in the country for its ratio of doctors to residents.

The medical school building will be near University Medical Center in an area dubbed the Las Vegas Medical District. It’s also close to UNLV’s dental school.

“The concept is not only practical and works for the education of the students, but is also very much a part of the Las Vegas Medical District and the whole area including UMC and hospital facilities,” said Frommer.

Commission Vice Chairman Lawrence Weekly commended the school’s students for their outreach work in the community. He also expressed concern that the plan for UMC to be actively affiliated with the medical school in joint promotional efforts had not come to pass.

“What are we doing as part of that affiliation agreement to ensure that UMC will have an opportunity to have a voice, to continue to be a part of the joint marketing and branding of this project?” asked Weekly.

The UNLV School of Medicine is in the midst of a leadership transition as they search for a new dean. Barbara Atkinson, the medical school’s founding dean, announced in February that she plans to step down and transition into a “founding dean emerita” role, where she would stay engaged with community outreach and support for the school. She will remain dean until her successor is chosen.

 

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