News - September 12, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Nevada's 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei Tuesday pushed back on former Rep. Shelley Berkley's stance that the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine should be closed because the state can't afford two medical schools.

This year, the new UNLV medical school welcomed its inaugural class of doctors-to-be. The Nevada, Reno medical school has been in operation for 47 years.

Amodei, speaking on Nevada Newsmakers, said the Reno-based medical school has done well in turning out good doctors and questioned why it should be closed down.

"Is there a reason why what is going on at the University of Nevada up north is not working?" Amodei said. "Is it not paying for itself, you know?

"I mean, I don't know why you can only make doctors in one place," he added.

Amodei's district includes Reno and its surrounding area.

Berkley, Nevada's former District One U.S. House representative, is now the CEO and senior provost at Touro University/Western Division, an osteopathic medical school in Henderson.

She said in a recent radio interview that that state can't fund two medical schools.

“We spend $60 million a biennium to keep UNR’s medical school going,” Berkley told Nevada Public Radio. “I don't think this state will want to sustain two medical schools."

The question of the sustainability of two medical schools in Nevada has long been a debate in the Nevada Legislature.

Amodei, a former assemblyman and state senator, said he hoped Berkley's comments would not open a debate about closing the Reno medical school.

"I hope we don't get too deep into that (debate about two medicals schools in Nevada), unless it serves some function where we are going to get more docs produced at a better rate, highly qualified docs," Amodei said.

Nevada has faced a shortage of doctors for decades. Nevada has an average of 198 doctors per 100,000 residents, according to 2010 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national average is 272 per 100,000, according to the CDC.

However, the need for a medical school in Las Vegas is apparent, according to population statistics. Nevada's population is estimated to be about 2.9 million in 2017, with more than 2.1 million living in Clark County, which includes the Las Vega area.

The Reno medical school has produced some good doctors, Amodei said.

"Those folks in Reno have now established a tradition, which is a pretty proud one and have been pretty successful," Amodei said. "So I don't see why you would shut them down if they're doing a good job."

The Legislature feels Nevada can sustain two medical schools for now, said state Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas.

"I think so," he said in a telephone interview. "We just got our (medical) school, so let's see how it goes. Our school (at UNLV) was approved with the idea that your school (in Reno) would still be there. I don't see any change.

"It (Reno medical school) is an essential program and frankly, every major city should have a medical school," Segerblom said.

Segerblom was critical of Berkley's comments.

"Frankly, she's got a conflict of interest and shouldn't say anything, since she runs a private (medical) school."

Amodei, DACA and Trump

Amodei also praised President Donald Trump for some of his policy stances but said Trump is in a "communications war" with the national media.

"I mean, if you look at jobs, if you look at other stuff, the fact that he has now said, 'Congress do something, at least on DACA,' I mean those are things that I gotta tell you, I like."

Amodei headed Trump's campaign in Nevada in 2016 but has been critical of Trump in the past. He told the Reno Gazette-Journal that Trump needs a "do over" on his remarks after the protests in Charlottesville, Va., last month.

Tuesday, however, his personal approval rating for Trump was up.

"(I like) the different stance on foreign policy, tricky stuff there in Korea and other places," Amodei said. "But if you talk about the issues ... it's like, you know what, I don't think (he's been) so bad."

Amodei said the national media has one-sided view of Trump.

"If you sit there and go, 'You know, Charlottesville means he's a racist, the wall means he's a racist, DACA means ... Those are things, I guess, where everybody can see them a different way. It's pretty clear to me that no matter what, whatever this guy does is wrong in the eyes of a lot of national media folks."

Amodei also suggested Congress should deal with the immigration problem by "taking a bite at a time," and that could start with DACA legislation.

The U.S. Justice Department said it is ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months. Trump has given Congress six months to come up with a solution. After that, he said in a tweet that he may revisit the issue. If DACA ends in six months, about 800,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. will be subject to deportation. About 13,000 live in Nevada.

"When you think back a few years, it was 'comprehensive immigration reform (in Congress)'," Amodei said. "But why not take a bite at a time? This (DACA) is as good a bite as there is to start with. It doesn't mean you stop there."

Amodei is concerned the fix for the DACA recipients will get more complicated.

"I'm a little worried because you are talking about, 'Well let's do a comprehensive bill now. Or let's roll it in to border security. It's like can't you deal with the DACA issues and immigration reform as a stand alone thing?"