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It says a lot about our hair-trigger, hyperpartisan age that a word as seemingly benign as healthcare has become so fraught, so charged. The word used to refer to the machinery of the medical industrial complex — think healthcare industry, healthcare sector. Now, so often hitched to the word debate, it’s become shorthand for the big question of how a society should promote and protect the mental and physical health of its citizens.

I’m always down to get philosophical. So when Shelley Berkley called us to propose a roundtable discussion about the state of medical education in Nevada and its broader role in healthcare, I was intrigued. I’m also allergic to being bored to death. But Berkley, a seven-term congresswoman and now CEO and senior provost of Touro University, spoke with her signature cheerful urgency and forthrightness, pointing out that the ongoing development of three medical schools in Southern Nevada has the promise not just of solving our state’s dire doctor shortage, but enhancing our economy and transforming our community. Also, in the meantime, a presidential election happened, and healthcare all of a sudden became the No. 1 screamo topic for pundits and angry people with signs. In other words, newsy! For our feature, “A healthy discussion” (page 86), Heidi Kyser and I brought in Berkley, UNLV School of Medicine Dean Barbara Atkinson, and Roseman University President Renee Coffman to discuss those issues and more, from the policy dimension of training doctors to the challenges of rural healthcare. It’s more lively, relevant, informative and, yes, even more fascinating than you might expect. (Who knew they’ve invented a hypochondriac robot that complains on command, or that some docs still love them old-school cadavers when it comes to teaching anatomy?) We’ve also worked with the team at “State of Nevada” to produce a complementary radio story that highlights and expands on many of the insights in the print piece; find it at And, elsewhere in our health and medicine issue, don’t miss our annual Best Doctors and TopDentists lists, which give you a snapshot of the valley’s most recommended physicians and dental professionals — and, oh yeah, “Who moved my cheeseburger?,” the story on page 60 where  Scott Dickensheets and I tried a bunch of different wacky health food. (Who knew they’ve invented an antioxidant-rich smoothie that tastes just like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or flax crackers that taste like spiritual desolation?)

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Finally, a farewell of sorts — to the old Desert Companion. Next month marks Desert Companion’s 10th birthday, and our mega-special 10th Anniversary Issue, which will possibly be made of cake, will celebrate a decade of existence by existing even more intently and jubilantly than usual, stuffed with bonus features and basted in a rich, retrospective lookback sauce. It’ll also feature a complete redesign that focuses on freshness, fluidity and readability. But what won’t change is our commitment to telling the stories that define Las Vegas with well-chosen words and compelling photography. Heck, we’re just turning 10. We’re barely getting started!


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KNPR's State of Nevada