Investments in the Las Vegas Medical District aim to improve health outcomes

Locals should soon start noticing changes in the Las Vegas medical district.

Established by City Council in 1997, the 674-acre area west of downtown and I-15 is slated for renovations detailed in a $130 million infrastructure upgrade plan which was presented Aug. 23 at City Hall to Governor Steve Sisolak, members of the medical community, business owners, residents and downtown developers.

“The Medical District is such an integral part of downtown, we just don’t know it yet,” said Las Vegas City Councilman Brian Knudsen. “[We] in the [surrounding] the neighborhoods are called “Downtown Adjacent”. We don’t need to do that anymore. We’ll be able to walk downtown to spend money.

Knudsen’s presentation to stakeholders was followed by a presentation from city staff outlining updates that will take place over the next two years, as well as panel discussions with healthcare professionals and industry representatives. companies on how these updates will benefit area residents, businesses, and ultimately the quality of care available in Southern Nevada.

As Ward 1 councilman, Knudsen has worked for years to develop the medical district, which currently has $358 million in projects underway, according to the city’s director of community development.

Knudsen says the challenges he faced getting care for his son, who at one point had to stay in a local hospital for over a month, prompted him to develop a local medical district. and, ultimately, to make more professionals work and live. the state.

“[We have] excellent doctors, excellent nurses, but this healthcare system is really underdeveloped. The challenges we faced in coordinating multiple specialists for my son became overwhelming. We ended up going to an out-of-state hospital,” he told the Weekly, adding that he had the resources and the access to do so. “A lot of our community really can’t do that.”

According to 2020 data from the American Association of Medical Colleges, Nevada ranks 45th among U.S. states in number of physicians, with 219 active physicians per 100,000 population.

Knudsen says taking his son to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and seeing their model made him want to bring that level of care and medical infrastructure to local families. Creating an “academic medical community” is a key strategy, he says.

“It’s kind of a shift from our current thinking of the Las Vegas Medical District to a University Medical District. And I think that [means] that it’s a place of learning, a place of teaching,” he says. “I kind of see it as young people – dental, medical, nursing students -[having] a much greater role in this area.

Development of student housing and community amenities on Charleston Boulevard and in the Medical District will “fill” the spaces between some of Las Vegas’ most historic neighborhoods, such as the Scotch 80s surrounded by Rancho Drive and Oakey Boulevard.

“In addition to seeing apartment complexes in the area…you’ll see walkable streets and easier access to downtown,” Knudsen says, referring to upcoming renovations to the Charleston Boulevard interchange, which will make it easier to get through. pedestrians from the medical district to the Arts district. Landscaped sidewalks and medians, better access to storefronts, and the Regional Transportation Commission’s Maryland Parkway Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project are all part of the plan.

UNLV’s Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine is positioning itself as a central part of the academic medical community in the revamped district — a boon for the burgeoning school, which achieved full accreditation in 2021. facilities such as the county-run University Medical Center and the new Optum Care Cancer Center, UNLV Medical School and other healthcare facilities can expect to be part of the mission to provide better care to patients in southern Nevada, says medical school dean Marc Kahn.

“We’re creating an academic health center, a collection of academic schools of health sciences,” Kahn says. “It is the schools, in collaboration with the hospitals and clinics in which we operate, [that would] truly provide the highest level of care to our community.

With UNLV’s $150 million, 135,000 square foot medical education building scheduled to open in October on Shadow Lane, Kahn says it’s possible to shift the “paradigm of care” and remove barriers to access for people in the community. One of the first steps is to start more residency programs in the valley.

“It’s not just about having medical school and medical classes,” Kahn says, adding that residencies for many specialties and subspecialties are limited or not offered in southern Nevada. “We really need residency spots to keep people here in the state.”

To help expand those opportunities, Nevada’s interim finance committee in August approved $30 million for the medical school to set up a new pathology lab and $40 million for an outpatient clinic, which will will offer outpatient primary and specialty care, including surgery, oncology and mental health services, as well as a pharmacy, Kahn said.

“It will be a one-stop shop, I hope, for people who need outpatient care,” he says of the outpatient clinic, adding that the school intends to set aside space in the lab for pathology for “basic scientific research”. ”

Kahn says he also expects the pathology lab to improve test turnaround times for local patients. Rather than sending samples to northern Nevada for processing, the school’s lab “will allow people in southern Nevada to have faster access to results and, therefore, faster diagnosis.” , he said.

Kahn says he hopes the school, which has admitted 240 students (60 a year) since it opened, can increase its annual enrollment to 90 in the next few years, pending approval from the governing body. accreditation.

In response to the shortage of medical professionals in Nevada, admissions take into account the likelihood that students will remain in Nevada. “Nearly all of our students are Nevada residents, and the few who are not are in neighboring states with close family or other ties to Nevada,” Kahn says.

Councilor Knudsen says he expects the growth of the academic medical community to produce better health outcomes for Nevadans. “We’re increasing that chance that when you meet a doctor, you don’t just meet a resident or a doctor; you meet a team of people,” he says.

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