Las Vegas Medical District

It’s Just What the Doctor Ordered for Southern Nevada


Special to DAVID Magazine

“Where do you go when you get sick in Las Vegas? To the airport!”

Most Southern Nevadans have heard this joke. Unfortunately, this has long been the reality for those with the means and resources to seek, outside the state, what they perceive as higher quality medical treatment. But thanks to the Las Vegas Medical District, strides are being made to bolster Southern Nevada’s medical community and the quality of the region’s healthcare.

If you aren’t familiar with the Las Vegas Medical District, don’t be concerned. Despite its origins dating back more than 20 years, it’s still a brand in relative infancy. Established by the Las Vegas City Council in 1997 to physically bring together a variety of medical services and providers near and around UMC (University Medical Center), the Las Vegas Medical District (LVMD) was created with the goal of expanding and improving medical care in Southern Nevada. But due to market conditions and economic challenges, it wasn’t able to expand despite the need.

Fast forward to 2015 when, after years of focused work from the city of Las Vegas and a coalition of medical providers, a comprehensive master plan for the Las Vegas Medical District was completed. The plan was developed to guide the District’s thoughtful development to include new facilities, infrastructure, and other critical needs.

“There is a no more noble goal than to create a global center of medicine in Southern Nevada that will improve the quality of healthcare in our community, enhance access to medical care, and serve as a catalyst for economic development,” says city of Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman. “The Las Vegas Medical District is positioned to do all of this and more.”

According to Scott Adams, city of Las Vegas City Manager, who is the LVMD Advisory Council Founder & Chair Emeritus, collaboration was key to advancing the idea of putting a medical district on the map. “We worked with dozens of stakeholders, municipalities, medical facilities and professionals, academia and neighboring communities to develop what is today a blueprint to develop a large-scale, quality center of medicine in our city.”

In addition to obvious stakeholders like government agencies, UNLV School of Medicine, and ancillary medical service providers, Adams identified other key partners, including those from other industries, that would eventually participate and benefit from a large medical district populated by medical professionals, students, patients, service providers, and residents. A specially formed LVMD Advisory Council identified and studied existing infrastructure and community assets, such as existing hospitals, nearby centers of business, and other local resources, that could be leveraged to build support and attract the investment needed to accomplish the goal of developing a large-scale medical district.

Recognizing the scope of this initiative, Adams spearheaded the creation of not only a master plan to guide the development of the medical district itself, but also a plan to integrate the medical district into surrounding neighborhoods and the greater Southern Nevada community. In fact, the city’s Economic and Urban Development Department recognized early on the need to link the LVMD with all its stakeholders – both from a physical and socio-economic perspective.

To that end, a public relations and marketing advisory committee was formed to collectively work on plans to develop an LVMD brand and promote it both internally within the District and externally to the entire Southern Nevada community. The committee, comprised of marketing professionals from each of the medical facilities in the District, meet regularly to work on defining the LVMD’s brand and develop strategies and tactics to increase awareness and enhance the profile of this emerging area.

Today, the LVMD is easily considered one of the most important economic development projects in Southern Nevada. To quantify its impact, the LVMD is expected to have, by 2030, an economic impact of $3.6 billion, generate more than 24,000 jobs, and create state general fund revenues of more than $181 million, according to Tripp Umbach, a national economic consulting firm.

According to Bill Arent, Director, Economic and Urban Development, city of Las Vegas, the growth of the medical industry is key to Southern Nevada’s economic diversification strategy and the LVMD will help attract new, high-paying employers to the region as well as advance a higher quality of life. “Further development of the LVMD will provide jobs and stimulate development near the city of Las Vegas’ vital assets downtown like Fremont East, Symphony Park, and the 18B Arts District,” he says.

Centrally located in downtown Las Vegas, the LVMD’s physical boundaries were expanded in 2015 to include nearby centers of employment, such as Symphony Park, home of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. And through relationship-building, the city of Las Vegas is helping to strengthen the bonds with the new UNLV School of Medicine, which welcomed its first class of 60 students last summer.

“The LVMD is a true collaboration and the UNLV School of Medicine is proud to be at the center of something so needed for this community,” says Dr. Barbara Atkinson, Founding Dean, UNLV School of Medicine. “Given that we are deliberately recruiting students with strong ties to Nevada, we are ensuring that the future includes improved access to care for Southern Nevadans for years to come. Our doctors won’t be just using the latest medical technologies, they’ll also be developing them.”

Spanning approximately 684 acres, the LVMD’s core 214 acres are generally bounded by Charleston Boulevard on the south, Rancho Drive on the west, Alta Drive on the north, and Martin L. King Boulevard on the east.

Currently operating within the LVMD are six institutions of higher learning (UNLV School of Medicine, UNLV School of Dental Medicine, Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas, Milan Institute, Touro University, UNLV School of Medicine Ackerman Center of Autism and Neurodevelopment Solutions); four hospitals (UMC; Children’s Hospital of Nevada at UMC; Valley Hospital Medical Center; Horizon Specialty Hospital of Las Vegas); two imaging centers (Desert Radiology and Steinberg Diagnostic Medical Imaging); and one medical center dedicated to research and treatment of brain and neurodegenerative diseases (Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health).

Representatives from each of these medical facilities comprise the Las Vegas Medical District Advisory Council, a group actively participating in the evolution of the District, weighing in on such topics as land use, new medical businesses, expansions, safety, and the development of initiatives to further District goals. The Advisory Council also sets the vision for the district, which provides a guide for the membership.

A second group, the Planning Committee, is charged with management of the District’s long-range planning, including, but not limited to, infrastructure, parking, signage, and zoning.

While ambitious, the goal of LVMD is already coming to fruition with the 2017 opening of the UNLV School of Medicine and the cooperative work of existing medical facilities that are now united in their vision to help develop an Academic Health Center.

Not a physical center, an Academic Health Center is a robust system of medical facilities and services, including, but not limited to, a medical school, one or more additional health profession schools, and an affiliated teaching hospital. There are approximately 45 Academic Health Centers in the country, all in major metropolitan areas. The establishment of an Academic Health Center will be a huge advancement for our region that has been lacking in this area. In Las Vegas, our emerging Academic Health Center will be comprised of the UNLV School of Medicine and the university’s health science schools, including nursing and dentistry; an affiliation with UMC that will serve as the primary teaching hospital; and an integrated network of regional health care delivery institutions throughout the district and the valley.

According to Dr. Atkinson, while we don’t yet have a fully functioning Academic Health Center, the foundation is now there to make it a reality. “In academic medicine, education, research and clinical care are combined to provide the best possible medical experience. What our academic medical center will provide is what virtually every major metropolitan area in the country has realized is necessary: in addition to compassionate care, a community must have cutting edge technologies combined with the latest resources and therapies.”

Recognizing the importance of connecting to the surrounding neighborhoods and the greater Southern Nevada community, city staff is working on strategies and plans to accomplish that integration. This includes building a walkable inner core within the LVMD to ensure connectivity throughout the District – from medical schools and hospitals to research centers and medical providers. Another key is activating the Charleston Blvd. area by better organizing property owners and merchants and developing pilot infill projects to entice new building in the area. Increasing the density along the MLK Blvd. corridor as a result of Project NEON work will also help to reimagine the area as a gateway to the LVMD. And the master plan calls for a phased approach to coordinating development of the district both internally and with other major projects in the community.

“Improving Southern Nevada’s reputation for quality medical care won’t happen overnight,” said Mayor Goodman. “Yet access to quality medical care is foundational to quality of life. And if we can simultaneously encourage economic development while uplifting healthcare, it’s a win-win.”

Hopefully, that old joke about going to the airport when you get sick will soon have a new punchline.

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