LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- Nevada's only public medical school is struggling to keep its students in the state to practice medicine after graduation.
The physicians News 3 spoke to are from Las Vegas and had every intention of staying here to practice after graduation. Yet Nevada is surrounded by more established programs, which means greater opportunity exists away from Nevada.
However, the Nevada School of Medicine is breaking ground in specialty care, like orthopedic residency, and has unparalleled experience in other established fields, which means the potential is here. The challenge is turning that potential into a reality.
A standout on Nevada’s struggling medical front, University Medical Center is a pioneer, and one of the leading trauma centers in the country with an A-plus survival rate.
"Our fellows come from all over the country to train here," said UMC Medical Director Dr. Deborah Kuhls.
General surgery resident Lindsay Wenger was drawn to the UMC ER, which is unlike any in the country.
"It is Las Vegas and you have the tourists, you have the people performing in Cirque du Soleil and a lot of alcohol," Dr. Wenger said.
Dr. Daliah Wachs is an example of how the state’s medical field can successfully retain a student as in-state physician. Her education local, from Clark High through UNLV as an undergrad then as a UNR medical student.
"They may not want to admit that," Wachs said, and completed a high-stress residency at University Medical School.
"I was on call the night Tupac Shakur died, was killed," Wach said. "You get everything, you see everything here."
Nevada excels in hands-on emergency room practice, but Nevada comes up short with southern Nevadans who are often forced to wait weeks or months to get face-to-face appointments with a physician and many forced to travel out-of-state for specialty care.
"My wish for Nevada is that the citizens could get the type and quality of care that they need so they don't need to leave our state," Dr. Kuhls said.
Until more residency or fellow slots open, or lawmakers approve a new medical school at UNLV, the opportunities won't match the demand.
This means some of our best medical students are taking their education to neighboring state medical facilities like the University of Arizona Medical Center.
Many Nevada medical students born and raised in Las Vegas move on to University of Arizona, caring for Arizona patients, like Dr. Holly McNulty.
"Tucson also has a very large academic center with a lot of specialty training programs," Dr. McNulty said.
Dr. McNulty is an assistant professor while continuing to practice medicine, but she adamantly believes Nevada's drought of opportunities isn't a reflection on the quality of education.
"The medical education offered in Nevada is excellent," she said. "I routinely find that they are some of the best trained of the applicants that we interview nationally," McNulty said.