UNLV School of Medicine is holding a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for its medical education building — its first permanent facility.
Officials are expecting the approximately 138,000-square-foot, five-story building will be ready to occupy in summer 2022.
“That is really about three years ahead of schedule,” UNLV School of Medicine Dean Dr. Marc Kahn told the Review-Journal on Wednesday.
Kahn cited work by the Nevada Health and Bioscience Asset Corp., which is overseeing the project, and a better availability of materials and workers due to COVID-19-related economic impacts as factors in moving forward sooner than expected.
The medical education building will be constructed on a 9-acre parcel — which the university bought from Clark County in 2017 — at 625 Shadow Lane in central Las Vegas. It’s across the street from Valley Hospital Medical Center and is part of the Las Vegas Medical District.
The building will cost an estimated $125 million to build, and the Nevada Health and Bioscience Asset Corp. is raising money to pay for the project.
The medical education building will be “very student focused,” Kahn said. It will include classrooms, a small dissection lab, simulation center, cafe and study areas.
Nevada ranks in the bottom of the nation in physicians per capita, Kahn said, and until recently, Las Vegas wasn’t home to a medical school.
The first class of students at the UNLV School of Medicine started their studies three years ago and will graduate in May 2021. In total, the school has 240 medical students — 60 per class — and 320 residents and fellows.
Nevada ranks 45th in the nation for the number of active physicians per 100,000 residents, according to a January report from the University of Nevada, Reno about the state’s physician workforce. UNLV School of Medicine’s first permanent building will allow for expanding enrollment in the future to help address the physician shortage.
Initially, the new campus will have just one building, but there’s space to add more as needed. “As the medical school grows, the need for labs is going to grow,” Kahn said.
The medical school is currently housed at the Shadow Lane Biotech Research Center and leases a building on Charleston Boulevard for its administrative offices.
In November 2019, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced a plan for a permanent campus funded by about $150 million in donations, superseding a plan approved by the Nevada System of Higher Education regents in July 2019 to allow the university to pay for the project using $125 million in bonds.
But over the summer, the state Legislature canceled a $25 million capital improvement outlay for UNLV’s medical school as part of pandemic-spurred budget cuts.
Maureen Schafer, CEO of the Nevada Health and Bioscience Asset Corp., told the Review-Journal on Wednesday there are significant financial commitments from donors. And she said the corporation is in conversation with the governor’s office and Legislature seeking resolution to the $25 million cut due to the pandemic.
Despite a difficult time for individuals and families — and a challenge for fundraising — a crisis like COVID-19 is when there’s the most collaborative work, Schafer said. “I guess I would say to the community that we will prevail.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.