New UNLV medical school building will bring more students, lessen doctor shortage

Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 10:59 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A brand new UNLV Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine education building has a goal to help everyday Nevadans get better access to a doctor: by adding more students and churning out more medical graduates, the school will in turn help relieve the doctor shortage plaguing Nevada.

The economic and healthcare impact of the new educational facility and a budding “UNLV Medical District,” all beside UMC, were highlighted in UNLV’s The Lincy Institute report: “Driving the Southern Nevada Health Economy Forward: Benefits of a Transformational UNLV Academic Health Center.”

The report states some of the ways Nevada is lagging behind the nation in healthcare, citing a study describing the Silver State as ”the fifth-worst state for healthcare” with the “highest percentage of one-star acute-care hospitals.”

There is also a low number of Las Vegas locals working in healthcare and the medical sector, lagging behind Forth Worth Texas, Oklahoma City, Kansas City and Omaha.

A 2020 Nevada study from the Patient Protection Commission to legislators found that Nevada ranks 49th in the nation in primary care doctors per capita, and 50th for surgeons and psychiatrists per capita.

“Wait times to get an appointment are really extreme. If we increase the number of physicians, that shortens wait time, and hopefully in turn increases the quality of care,” said Dean Dr. Marc J. Kahn of the UNLV School of Medicine. “Hopefully with this increased space to train the next generation of physicians, we’re going to be able to increase our class size,” Dr. Kahn said of the 135,000 square foot, state-of-the-art teaching facility off Shadow Lane.

The class size for medical school students will increase by 50% from 60 to 90 students, Dr. Kahn said; if the state funds more teaching positions, the building can eventually be utilized to its full capacity and have up to 120 students per class.

More state funding is also needed to increase the number of residencies for training at local hospitals, encouraging students to eventually work in the Valley.

“Data from our friends up north in Reno are, a medical student is about 50% likely to stay and practice in Nevada if they’ve gone to medical school here. If they do residency here as well, that number goes up to almost 80%. So clearly having residency positions is going to better allow us to keep and retain physicians here,” he said.

More buildings are in the works for the budding medical district. A brand new ambulatory care center and laboratory must be built by 2026.

The study states that the impact of the additional buildings and students will bring more resources to pediatric care and mental healthcare, as well as thousands of jobs. According to the study, a number of these changes and others will bring 4,570 jobs to the region by 2030.

“One of the things that we learned during the pandemic, is having an economy that is focused really in one area-- hospitality and tourism-- when we have a shock, it can put us at great risk. So one of the things we need to do is diversify the economy. And one of the ways to diversify the economy is in technology, and healthcare,” Dr. Kahn said.

The new education building will open to students in November.