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The Med School Learning Curve

For the August issue of Desert Companion, I checked in with the state’s higher ed officials to find out where they are in the ever-evolving effort to get a new public medical school in Southern Nevada. (Check back for that story, coming any moment to this very page.) You can’t talk medical education without talking graduate medical education — aka residencies and fellowships — since both are required to not only train doctors, but also keep them in the state. And getting more doctors is something this state desperately needs to do.

… as Congresswoman Dina Titus pointed out in her conversation with KNPR’s State of Nevada this morning. Titus, who is a member of the Veterans Administration committee in the House of Representatives, was on the program to explain a $17 billion VA overhaul that a bipartisan, House-Senate committee unveiled earlier this week. Turns out, the doctor shortage is a big part of the problem for the VA — particularly in Nevada, according to Titus.

“It doesn’t do any good to push vets into private practice for the care they need if there aren’t enough doctors to see them,” she said. “If you look at statistics for Nevada, we’re 46th in the country for primary care, 50th for psychiatry and 51st for surgeons. That’s why I want to create more residencies.”

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She and recently appointed UNLV Medical School Dean Barbara Atkinson are thinking along the same lines. While I was reporting the public medical school story, Atkinson told me that she’s keen on working with the VA, both for possibly housing UNLV’s new medical students until a building gets built and for starting residencies to train those students after graduation. And, she specifically mentioned psychiatry as an area of great opportunity for medical residencies in Southern Nevada.

Meanwhile, the Reno-based University of Nevada School of Medicine and private, nonprofit Touro University Nevada are also working on getting more graduate medical education for their existing students — in primary care and surgery, among other areas.

It’s encouraging to see officials from various factions getting on the same page about how the state can solve its health care crisis. Now, they just have to convince the public to pony up its share of the dough.

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