The new dean of UNLV’s School of Medicine took over at a time when health care is on everyone’s mind.
Dr. Marc Kahn stepped into his new role April 1, just as the coronavirus began to have a bigger impact in Las Vegas.
Kahn has faced natural disasters before. Previously, he worked at Tulane University Medical School in New Orleans, during Hurricane Katrina.
He said while there are some similarities between the coronavirus and the hurricane there are a lot of differences. For one thing, the hurricane was a localized disaster, but the coronavirus outbreak is having global consequences.
Kahn said making it through a disaster can lead to lessons and insights.
“Firstly, when you come to the other side of the crisis, which you will, you’re going to learn some things so you have to be prepared to make some changes," he said, "Things after a crisis are different but that’s not necessarily a negative thing. It can be a positive thing.”
He said a crisis can break down silos and get people working together to solve problems, and when that happens, the possibilities are limitless.
“I think we’re going to learn how to be resilient. I think we’re going to learn in a very practical sense how to practice telemedicine effectively so that people don’t have to go into the doctor's office to get certain types of health care,” he said.
Kahn said he would like to see some of the disparities in care that have surfaced because of the virus be addressed.
The new dean applauded UNLV Medicine's efforts to set up curbside coronavirus testing and test as many people as possible.
Right now, the UNLV School of Medicine's most advanced class is in its third year and they're continuing their courses remotely. Students can't get a license to practice medicine until they've finished four years of medical school and become residents.
However, Kahn said the students are doing what they can.
“I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that our med students are altruistic and we consider service a virtue of our profession," he said, "So, they are out helping us with the testing centers. They’re out working with COVID-negative patients. They’re manning phone lines etc. They’re getting involved to the best of their ability to fight our current pandemic.”
Kahn is a hematologist and he would like to bring a convalescent serum therapy program to UNLV to treat COVID-19 patients. The serum is made from the plasma of people who have had the infection but survived.
“Once someone has had a viral infection and gotten better from it, which is what we know is a major of patients with COVID-19, they develop neutralizing antibodies to the virus,” he said.
Kahn said the treatment is being used in New York City and other places around the country. The treatment does not need approval from the FDA because it is similar to blood transfusion so guidelines and protocols are already in place.
Once the pandemic is under control, Kahn's main focus will be the medical school. It is a new school and there is a lot of work left to do to get the school fully established.
“Priority one is to get our full accreditation, which we expect to get this fall," he said, "Priority two is to stabilize some of the finances of our faculty practice plan and then the priorities really include growing out our faculty, developing special programs, working throughout the university.”
He said the school is recruiting its fourth class of first years for the fall and planning on graduating its first class next spring. They are still fundraising but the plan to build a medical education building is still on track.
Kahn said the mission of the school of medicine is to improve the health of the people in Southern Nevada.
“When we focus on that as a fundamental goal and responsibility, everything we do is really going to come from that,” he said.
Kahn is very new to the Las Vegas Valley but he's already heard the old joke about going to McCarran Airport when you get sick in Southern Nevada.
He would like to see that joke end -- quickly.
Kahn was selected following a national search for the position and takes over the official role from founding dean Barbara Atkinson
Marc Kahn, dean, UNLV School of Medicine
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