Founding Dean Barbara Atkinson to Transition to New Role at UNLV School of Medicine

Atkinson will transition from day-to-day oversight into advisory role effective Sept. 1; search continues for permanent replacement.

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LAS VEGAS – (July 24, 2019) – UNLV School of Medicine Founding Dean Barbara Atkinson has announced she will transition from dean into an advisory leadership role with the school, effective Sept. 1, 2019.

Atkinson, who has led the UNLV School of Medicine since its inception, first announced the transition and pending national search for a new dean in February. Today’s announcement moves up the timeline for succession planning, as an interim dean will now lead the day-to-day operation of the medical school until a permanent dean is hired. An announcement on the interim dean is forthcoming.

Dr. Barbara Atkinson on May 5, 2014.
(GERI KODEY/ UNLV Photo Services)

“I’m very proud of all we’ve done to build this medical school from the ground up, and I’m thankful to so many at the university and in the community for their countless contributions to our continued success,“ says Atkinson. “The time is right for someone else to chart our course into the future, and I’ll be here to help every way I can.”

Atkinson will remain with the school in a key leadership role, focusing particular attention on the accreditation process, community outreach, and help in the planning for the medical education building.

“The medical education building is going to be built – I am absolutely confident of that,” Atkinson said. “It’s only a matter of time.”

Under Atkinson’s leadership, the UNLV School of Medicine has emerged as a driving force in the region’s growing healthcare landscape. The school is training future Nevada physicians, generating research, and elevating patient care for a diverse, urban community.

“Barbara’s vision and experience have and continue to be tremendous assets to UNLV and the School of Medicine,” said UNLV President Marta Meana. “Under her leadership, the school has attracted outstanding students, faculty, and staff, and the positive impact of her passion for academic medicine and this school will be felt for years to come.”

The only woman to lead three U.S. medical schools, Atkinson was hired as planning dean in 2014 and was named founding dean in 2015. Today, just two years after welcoming its first class to campus, the UNLV School of Medicine includes 180 medical students, 143 faculty physicians, and more than 300 residents and fellows. Together with its clinical arm, UNLV Medicine, the school employs more than 800 people.

The school’s third class of 60 students was selected from a pool of nearly 2,000 applicants and arrived on campus last week from top universities including Princeton, Cornell, Vanderbilt, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and USC. Twenty-five graduated from UNLV, 13 from the University of Nevada, Reno, and one from Nevada State College. Almost all are either from Nevada or have strong ties to the area, making it more likely they will stay and practice here after graduation.

“All of our students are very special to me, but it’s always been one of my goals to watch our charter class graduate,” said Atkinson. “I will be there in 2021 when they walk across the stage. Those students are particularly special to me because they believed in us when we were a brand new medical school.”

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