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The UNLV Shadow Lane Campus sign as seen on Friday, March 23, 2018. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

The dean of the new UNLV School of Medicine has signed a contract to work another year, with a renewal option.

Dean Barbara Atkinson came out of retirement to take a job as planning dean and help start the school in 2014, but became seriously ill just as the initial class of medical students started last summer. She returned to work in November. Her contract renewal, which the school described as standard for deans, was first reported by KLAS.

“Her intention has always been to stay on as Dean to see our first class of students graduate in 2021,” said medical school spokesman Paul Joncich about the contract, which was signed last week. “This is a step in that direction.”

The UNLV Medical School, a project years in the making because only UNR had a medical school previously, offered full-ride scholarships to the 60 students in its initial class. It also touts its diversity: 20 percent of the students are Latino and 8 percent are African American, groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the field.

But it hit headwinds earlier this year over questions about a contract that would have tied a $14 million donation to the school’s building to her and President Len Jessup’s continued employment. Donors upset over what they perceived as regents and the chancellor chasing away a president they supported withdrew millions of dollars in pledges.

Atkinson has said she believes there was nothing wrong about the arrangement. Jessup announced in March that he was taking a job as president of Claremont Graduate University in Southern California after the school year ends.

Last month, lawmakers were told that fundraising for a $232 million building had slowed and remained at the $50 million given by an anonymous donor and the state itself, something that fundraisers attributed to the presidential transition.

“It’s not uncommon that during university presidential transitions that at times, those fundraising efforts slow down a bit and donors sometimes take moments to pause and gain clarity on the next steps for the university,” UNLV Foundation executive Scott Roberts said at the April 12 Interim Finance Committee meeting. “We’re seeing that as well at UNLV and for this project at this time.”

Atkinson, 76, has previously held faculty positions at University of Kansas School of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, among other institutions.

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