February was a monster month for the UNLV School of Medicine.
The school was notified of a pending visit for accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the national accrediting body for medical education, and hired a pair of critical faculty members.
“We are making tons of progress,” Pam Udall, the school’s spokeswoman, said. “We are on schedule.”
The Liaison Committee on Medical Education in February confirmed that the planning documents the school submitted in December 2015 had earned the school a site visit.
The school also hired Dr. Tracey Green as vice dean of clinical affairs and Dr. Parvesh Kumar as chairman of the department of radiation oncology, cancer program director, senior associate dean of clinical research and professor.
“We have the top layer of people recruited now and that is really exciting,” said founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson, who is leading the drive. “It has made my life a whole lot easier.”
The notification by Liaison Committee on Medical Education is a key indicator that the school is progressing toward accreditation and helps clear the way for the school’s first crop of students to arrive in 2017.
The committee is the accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for programs leading to the M.D. degree in the United States. It’s sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association.
The visit is huge, Atkinson said.
“Without (accreditation), you can’t do anything,” he said. “We’ve gone through several of the steps already, but this is among the last for accreditation. We need to show them in July that we are completely ready.”
The 475-page document submitted to the committee included the complete plan for the medical school, its curriculum, faculty, facilities, research ventures, partnerships, bylaws and finances.
There is still a long way to go, however.
The committee will make other visits before the school earns full accreditation. And the school’s site – a 9-acre land parcel owned by Clark County — is still being negotiated.
The parcel, at 625 Shadow Lane, was once the site of the condemned Southern Nevada Health District building. Talks to secure the land have been in progress for more than a year. A master facilities plan shows that school construction is to run from June 2017 to June 2019.
“It would be an ideal location, and we would put other health sciences buildings there as well,” Atkinson said.
Those buildings would include the School of Nursing, School of Health Professionals and Community Health Sciences and the school’s medical library.
Students are lining up to get into the new school, which is expected to help fill a need for physicians, nurses and other health care providers in Nevada.
“There’s been a lot of interest from students,” Atkinson said. “We have scholarships for the whole first class, so you can imagine that we are getting calls all of the time. We won’t be able to accept them until after the middle of October because of the accreditation timeline. But on the day that we get the accreditation go-ahead, we push a button and all of the applications come to us.”
The faculty of the school in Reno, which numbers about 120, will move to the Las Vegas school, Atkinson said. Outside recruitment stands at 27 faculty and staff, and the school expects to add another 40 in the next year.
“We are working on that,” Atkinson said. “By the beginning of the school year of June 30 of 2017, there will be about 190 when classes start.”
It’s been a lot of work for the school’s founding dean. And she knows there’s more to come.
“Just the recruitment itself is a lot of work,” Atkinson said. “But it has been exciting bringing new people into the valley in the last two weeks.”
The Board of Regents, she added, approved the school’s next move.
“(The school can) set up a practice plan of the legal entity that will hold the revenue from all of our clinical practices,” Atkinson said. “That is another major accomplishment for us. It means we can move ahead and be able to set up the actual practices.”