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Shelley Berkley: UNR's Med School Should Close Its Doors

Former Nevada Congresswoman Shelley Berkley says Nevada can't afford two public medical schools. And with UNLV's new school starting this year, UNR's school should be shut down.

"We spend $60 million a biennium to keep UNR's medical school going," Berkley told Nevada Public Radio. She is the CEO and senior provost at Touro University/Western Division, an osteopathic medical school in Henderson. "I don’t think this state will want to sustain two medical schools.”

Berkley joined Barbara Atkinson, dean of UNLV's new medical school, and Renee Coffman, co-founder and president of Roseman University of Health Sciences, to talk about the health care needs in Southern Nevada.

All three schools expect to churn out more doctors but that won't necessarily mean Nevada will get those doctors. Often graduating physicians stay in the cities where they do their residencies, which comes after medical school. 

The number of residencies at different hospitals in southern Nevada is still relatively small, so many of the medical school students here will move to other states after graduation.

"Without any local residencies for these medical school graduates to go to basically what we would be doing is just exporting our graduates to other states to do their residencies," Heidi Kyser, staff writer for Desert Companion said. 

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 Kyser interviewed the three women for an article in the August issue of the magazine. She said part of the problem is that residency programs are expensive. They are often funded by federal grants.

"The process for getting that funding is really complicated," Kyser explained, "And most of Nevada's hospitals have already hit the limit of that funding and the number of physicians they can get."

In Las Vegas, University Medical Center, Sunrise Hospital, and the VA hospital have had the bulk of the residency programs but more private hospitals are opening residencies.

As for the idea of closing the medical school at UNR, Kyser talked to Thomas Schwenk, the dean of that medical school, he told her he believes all the citizens of the state of Nevada deserve access to all the benefits that public medical school brings to a community not just those in the southern part of the state.

According to the three women interviewed, one of the biggest benefits would be employment and not just for new doctors trained at their facilities.

"We focus on health professions, like Shelley does at Touro, they have jobs when they get out," said Renee Coffman with Roseman University of Health Services, "So, as a prospective student that's a tremendous return on investment for your educational dollars."

Berkley added that for the 10 to 20 years health care will be where all the jobs are.

Guests

Heidi Kyser, staff writer, Desert Companion magazine; Shelley Berkley, CEO and senior provost at Touro University/Western Division; Barbara Atkinson, UNLV Medical School dean; Renee Coffman, co-founder and president of Roseman University of Health Sciences