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November 28, 2014

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Regents looking into rule that prohibits UNLV medical school until 2025

UNLV might not have a new, independent medical school until 2025.

Although the presidents at UNLV and UNR inked an agreement to create a separately accredited medical school at UNLV that would mint new medical doctors, they're hamstrung by a past decision of the university system's Board of Regents.

In 2005, the board restricted UNR and UNLV to "a single School of Medicine, School of Law, and School of Dentistry for a period of twenty years."

Right now, UNR operates the University of Nevada School of Medicine. So a UNLV School of Medicine couldn't exist until 2025 under the current rule.

The presidents of UNR and UNLV said earlier this week that they would work together to develop a "date certain for the final stage of separately accredited school of medicine," but the regents' rule appears to have already made that decision for the presidents.

So Regent James Dean Leavitt said he's trying to repeal the rule.

"How can we now be talking about a UNLV medical school when we have that policy on the books?" he said. "It makes sense that it's now time to remove that policy. It's time to remove that prohibition."

Leavitt is the regent who leads a health sciences committee on the board. He was also on the board in 2005 and voted to put the 20-year prohibition in place then.

"There was thinking at the time that in essence the institutions needed to concentrate on what they had," he said. "At that time there wasn't a belief then that Southern Nevada was ready to have its own medical school, and I think that has substantially changed, and there is quite a bit of enthusiasm for a UNLV medical school."

A recent report from Tripp Umbach, a national health consulting firm that specializes in medical school studies, stated that a new medical school in Southern Nevada could be operating independently of the UNR medical school by 2020.

The 2005 ban went into effect in February 2005, right as Nevada legislators were sitting down to draft higher education budgets for the next two years.

The meeting minutes allude to "a specific problem" and "a specific situation about which [Regent Steve Sisolak] currently found rumors circulating," but the minutes contained few specifics about what rumors and problems the regents faced at the time.

Leavitt said the regents will vote in December to repeal the rule so that the UNLV medical school proposal can move forward.

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