NEVADA: Underfunded Med School Leaks Physicians
Some of Las Vegas' most promising doctors are fleeing the city, leaving in their wake criticisms of mismanagement and funding shortfalls at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. Dr. Jose Zamora, who is leaving his job as head of the University Medical Center's transplant team for a post at the University of Arizona, said, "The major problem with this university is it has no business acumen to speak of. ... Given the financial woes of the university, you can see where they really need that business side." He blamed the school's financial woes on intrastate politics, saying, "It's the politics and the University of Nevada at Reno not wanting to support us and their lack of understanding that we in Southern Nevada are bigger than Reno from a clinical point of view and also from the amount billed." Dr. David Schapira, senior associate dean at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, "strongly disagreed with Zamora's assessment of the system -- except for the funding issue." He argued that the state's rampant growth is behind the severe shortage in local doctors: the rate of physicians per 100,000 people is about 250 nationwide; "Clark County has about 145 per person." Schapira added, "There is always a tendency to believe the grass is greener as far as a medical career, but is there any realistic bearing on services afforded? Absolutely not" (Fink, Las Vegas Sun, 5/9).
The Sun reports that Las Vegas hospitals, particularly University Medical Center, are battling perceptions that Nevadans need to travel to big-name hospital systems like the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to receive specialized care. The issue has risen on the agenda in recent months, with several high-profile Las Vegas residents -- including Mayor Jan Laverty Jones and Nevada Gov. Bob Miller (D) -- traveling to Los Angeles for care. UMC CEO Bill Hale said, "The very high-profile hospitals receive a lot of name recognition. But the medical community here in Las Vegas is just as good. I would tell people to talk to their primary care physicians before thinking of leaving Las Vegas." The University of Nevada Medical School's Dr. Schapira noted that UMC "is planning to do the first liver transplant in the state by the end of the year," and that the schools will apply for a National Cancer Institute grant to fund "a comprehensive cancer center" (Nadler, 5/9).