Foundations of gaming legends to fund UNLV medical school building

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Gov. Steve Sisolak announces a funding agreement to construct a building for the UNLV School of Medicine. (Photo: Dana Gentry)
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Gov. Steve Sisolak announces a funding agreement to construct a building for the UNLV School of Medicine. (Photo: Dana Gentry)

Private donations of $155 million, mostly from the Engelstad Foundation and the Lincy Foundation, will fund construction of UNLV’s medical school building. 

The Engelstad Foundation is operated by Kris McGarry, daughter of the late Imperial Palace owner Ralph Engelstad.  The Lincy Foundation was founded by Kirk Kerkorian, the late owner of Tracinda Corporation, the forerunner of MGM Resorts International. 

The School of Medicine is in its third year, operating in temporary facilities on county land near University Medical Center.  The school currently accepts 60 students a year. Construction of the medical school building will allow that number to triple, according to Maureen Schafer of the Council for a Better Nevada.

“The reality is accreditation for a medical school, when they have permanent facilities they can raise the number of students admitted per class,” says Schaffer, who served as chief of staff of the medical school until a year ago. “Our tenure plan was to admit 180 students a year.” 

“Not only have the donors agreed to fund the construction of the UNLV medical school building, they’ve gone above and beyond — way above and beyond with a current contribution commitment totaling $155 million and numerous other pledges in place,” Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday at the Grant Sawyer building in Las Vegas.. 

Nevada has one of the lowest rates of doctors per residents in the nation, Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson noted. 

“Investing in this school will help attract students from all over the world to come and train and stay and work and live in our great state,” he said.  “More physicians in Nevada means more access to health care, especially in our rural and low-income communities where it’s desperately needed, as well.”

The previous financing plan called for the state to sell $125 million in bonds to fund construction. 

The gifts allow the state to divert the bonding capacity previously planned for the medical school to other projects, says Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Thom Reilly.

“So we have the engineering building and several other proposals on the table,” Reilly said. 

“This announcement seems like a turning point for Nevada, a game-changer in the truest sense,” Sisolak said, encouraging others to join what he called a “culture of philanthropy that’s been missing in our state that’s been breathed a new life.”

“I urge those who can to follow the lead of these generous individuals and families who recognize their incredible role in moving our state forward,” Sisolak said, noting the donations combat Nevada’s doctor shortage while saving taxpayers money. 
 

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.