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Path cleared for clinical partnership between UNR med school and Renown


Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday signed into law a bill that authorizes the Nevada System of Higher Education’s (NSHE) Board of Regents to create agreements to affiliate the state’s medical schools and health education programs with a for-profit or non-profit medical facility. Senate Bill 342 passed both chambers of the Nevada Legislature unanimously.

SB 342 is expected to first be used at the University of Nevada, Reno, to create a partnership between its school of medicine and Renown Health.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have relied on doctors, nurses and medical professionals to care for Nevadans in need. Legislation like this will help strengthen existing partnerships in the state so we can recruit, train and keep more medical professionals in Nevada,” Sisolak said in a statement concerning his signing of SB 342. “I look forward to these continued partnerships to help our state for years to come.”

Workforce training and development, including increasing the number of health care providers in the state, have been a priority for Gov. Sisolak. Earlier this week his office touted the creation of a health care apprenticeship program through a public-private partnership in Mesquite.

Sisolak was joined for the signing by UNR President and former Governor Brian Sandoval, who thanked the governor and the Nevada Legislature for supporting SB 342.

“As the past year-plus has demonstrated, the healthcare environment in our state and throughout the country continues to be dynamic,” Sandoval said. “The passage of this bill ensures that Nevada has the proactive tools to look to the future, so that we can meet our health care and medical education challenges.”

Dr. Tony Slonim, president and CEO of Renown Health, said the partnership to be formed between UNR’s medical school and his hospital will improve health care outcomes in the community. 

“With this new level of affiliation, we will be able to drive innovation, research, medical education, grant funding for public health, clinical trials and integrate our medical practices to improve access and affordability of care. Together, we are excited to create a healthier Nevada,” Slonim said.

Dr. Thomas Schwenk, Dean of UNR's School of Medicine
Dr. Thomas Schwenk, Dean of UNR’s School of Medicine

UNR School of Medicine Dean and Vice President Dr. Thomas L. Schwenk said he was appreciative of legislators’ unanimous support for SB 342.

“We are excited to move to the next step of seeking approval from the Board of Regents for the affiliation and the establishment of an integrated health care system that will enhance medical care delivery and medical education, will improve health care, and will benefit the health and well-being of all Nevadans,” Schwenk said. “We thank Governor Sisolak for moving us to the next step in this endeavor.”

Schwenk stressed that the bill does not create said partnership. It merely authorizes NSHE to do so. NSHE’s Board of Regents is expected to take up the issue during its June 10-11 regular quarterly meeting.

“We’ve been working on this now for a year,” Schwenk said. “Literally thousands of person-hours of work have gone into this. A lot of financial, legal, organizational, governance work went into the initial drafts of the agreement up front. And then as we’ve kind of come to a final agreement, a lot of work groups have been stood up. I think we’ve got about 15 work groups that address all of the many parts of this relationship from clinical teaching to clinical research to clinical operations to faculty roles to funds flow to integrative governance positions and everything else.”

Schwenk stressed that SB 342 is not intended to result in a “merger or takeover” of the medical school. Only its clinical operations will fall under the partnership with Renown. Still, he said, there are many factors to consider in the integration of operations and governance of the organizations.

“For example, the dean of the medical school in this agreement also functions as the chief academic officer at Renown and is therefore responsible for all teaching and research at Renown. So, that’s a very big role that Renown used to have separately. Now, those two will come together under one person,” he said.

And questions remain to be answered about the formation of leadership teams and office and meeting structures, Schwenk said.

“There’s just a hundred details like that, and that will play out over the next several months… The agreement goes live July 1. There are a whole lot of billing and contractual reasons why the clinical operations won’t integrate until probably October 1,” he added.

Jeri Chadwell
Jeri Chadwellhttp://thisisreno.com
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.