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Doctors earn degrees in NV then flee to other states

Reported by: Vicki Gonzalez
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Updated: 7/29/2014 12:25 pm

LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- Nevada and growth spurt are two words tied to the Silver State since the Millennia and the medical field is no exception.

Enrollment in Nevada medical schools has more than tripled since 2002, but despite the influx of medical students, the state falls near the bottom of the country in practicing physicians. 

Nevada ranks No. 46 when it comes to the number of practicing physicians, something that is cause for concern.

Despite the increased interest to practice medicine in Nevada, Thomas Schwenk, dean at the Nevada School of Medicine, said the lure of more money in other states and the lack of medical residencies here are driving new physicians away.

“We are at the bottom of just about every health care ranking and every measure of physician adequacy,” Schwenk said. "It bothers me a lot. I think we have great opportunities here. But to be fair, they see opportunities elsewhere."

On average, three-out-of-four students the Nevada School of Medicine trains go out of state to perform residencies and fellowships where they are likely to stay once completed.

The University of Nevada School of Medicine—the only public medical institution in the state—splits its four-year programs for its students between Reno and Las Vegas.

Lindsey Murphy and Mark Taylor are students at the Nevada school and contrary to reports are happy with Nevada.

"I have zero regrets about where I am now," Murphy said. "I grew up here; my family is here. There really is nowhere else I would rather go."

Taylor said his time spent in Nevada since going to high school in the valley and attending the Nevada School of Medicine has strengthened his relationship with the state.

"I really like Las Vegas and Nevada, and I have grown to like Reno,” Taylor said. “"I went to high school at Valley High School."

Despite Murphy’s and Taylor’s sentiments, the fact that 77 percent of students flee Nevada in pursuit of better opportunities after graduating means the Silver State must do something to combat the issue.

The first step will be addressing Las Vegas’ need for a traditional medical school. Las Vegas topped a list as the largest metropolitan cities without a traditional medical school. Plans are in the works to take the city off that list.

The plan? A $500 million medical school to be added at UNLV, which hopes to offer its first classes in the fall of 2017, according to Barbara Atkinson, the planning dean for the proposed medical school.
Despite the hefty price tag, the “economic benefit would be huge” for the city, Atkinson said. “Over $1 billion a year.”

Adding an academic institution to UNLV is key to keeping physicians in state, giving them the ability to continue research and publishing.

With Nevada ranking No. 46 in the number of residencies and fellowships offered at 362, adding more spots is key, but that comes at a price. 

Each residency costs around $100 thousand, which would require increased funding, but adding those spots would lead to more physicians sticking around after graduating.

The reality of the situation shows through for Murphy who knows she will most likely travel elsewhere to finish out her collegiate career, but sees a return in the future as a possibility.

"I don't think I am going to be able to stay in state for residency,” Murphy said. “"Even if I end up out of state, I think I will always find myself coming back here."



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