synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine
Family Medicine Alumni Fill Faculty Ranks
Story by Anne McMillin, APR
The School of Medicine's family medicine departments have been successful in retaining former students and residents to become faculty members over the past few years. These returning physicians cite a variety of reasons for their decision.
For Kate Martin, M.D.'06, family medicine resident '09, it was all about staying home in Las Vegas.
"I remember the day I opened my acceptance letter from the University of Nevada School of Medicine. My dreams to attend medical school had become a reality. I would get to become a doctor and I would be able to remain in the state where I grew up," she said.
With the support of her family and the faculty and staff at the medical school, she was able to realize that dream.
"After graduation, I chose to remain at the School of Medicine for my residency and set a new goal: to become a faculty member. I would say that I returned, but, in reality, I never really left. This is my community and the opportunity to teach and see patients here, alongside the role models who helped me get here, is an honor and a privilege," she explained.
In becoming faculty, Martin accepted her associated teaching roles with gusto. After serving as the family medicine clerkship director for several years, she is currently the program director for the family medicine residency in Las Vegas; where, not long ago, she was a resident herself. Having come full circle, she is home.
Leslie Greenberg, M.D.'95 and Mark Stovak, M.D.'95, who met and married while attending medical school in Nevada, returned to their alma mater to join its faculty in 2015.
Wanting to further train in the Midwest following graduation from the School of Medicine, they matched into family medicine residency programs in Kansas before he went on to a sports medicine fellowship in Indiana.
Failing to find a need for sports medicine physicians on the west coast in the early 2000s after completing his fellowship, Stovak and Greenberg settled in Kansas and remained there for 15 years. She was in private family medicine practice with an emphasis in obstetrics, and he was the family medicine residency director at the University of Kansas and head team physician at Wichita State University.
Yet Reno always beckoned. Stovak had stayed in touch with Carol Scott, M.D.'91, who was the School of Medicine's former sports medicine fellowship director, and when both family medicine and sports medicine faculty openings became available at their alma mater, Greenberg and Stovak jumped at the opportunity to return west.
"I love to teach, I love my medical school and I love my hometown," said Greenberg, who attends residents within the training program. "I want to be a mentor for young physicians who are wondering if they can be a spouse, a parent and a doctor and show them how they can find their love within medicine."
Greenberg said one of the major advantages that the School of Medicine offers is that the family medicine department sits in the heart of the medical school's Reno campus, which takes advantage of the youthful energy of students and residents and allows for easy access to those at various stages of the learning process.
For his part, Stovak, who played baseball for the University of Nevada, Reno as an undergraduate, is thrilled to be back in a university athletic setting and seeing sports medicine patients of all abilities and levels, from Division One athletes to weekend warriors.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to build up the sports medicine practice in Reno and to take care of university athletes as well as community athletes," he said. "And it is a fun atmosphere here on campus, what with teams practicing and the marching band playing."
Stovak added that he is happy to be back teaching with faculty he had learned from as a medical student.
"It is a good group to work with and a strong department," he said of the family medicine department.
He enjoys interacting with the many medical students that rotate through the family medicine department, while giving them the chance to work with athletes.
"The training rooms are like the athletes' clinic," he said. "And more medical students rotate through the department and the residency program here (than Kansas), which provides more opportunities to teach."
And the family connections in Reno are strong for Stovak.
"Our kids go to Reno High where Leslie and I attended high school. The athletic director at Reno High and I were varsity baseball coaches there in the early 1990s."
Kacey Durant, M.D.'11, family medicine residency '14, who was born and raised in Reno, stayed in touch with Dan Spogen, M.D., family medicine chair in Reno, with the intention of returning home after spreading her wings and completing an obstetrics fellowship in Texas.
"I wanted to practice both family medicine and obstetrics in outpatient and inpatient settings, and the School of Medicine offered that opportunity," she said.
"I liked the idea of being in a teaching environment and I wanted to come home."
Durant sees prenatal patients in the family medicine clinic and precepts third- and fourth-year medical students at Renown Health and Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center.
"Our medical students are eager and enthusiastic to learn. They respond well to teaching and receiving instruction and are motivated, which helps them learn," she said.
Like Stovak, she was eager to return and work alongside faculty who had taught her just a few years prior.
Jaren Blake, M.D., family medicine residency '06, selected the School of Medicine's Reno campus for his residency training for the program's design and the rigorous intern year that gave him the chance to see many patients.
Following residency, he went to rural Idaho to practice for a few years, but wanted to return to Reno and the School of Medicine to expand his academic roles. He was able to do just that by assuming the role of family medicine residency program director.
"My family and I liked our time in Reno during residency, so we decided to return to the good weather, the outdoor lifestyle and the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off."
"The atmosphere in the Reno family medicine residency program is very collegial. Faculty are here to educate and teach and I like that culture. Our leadership is strong. I am happy to now direct the program that initially brought me to Reno back in 2003."
Other School of Medicine family medicine alumni who are now faculty: Wade Gaal, M.D.'08, Family Medicine Las Vegas Residency '11; Lacey Fettic, M.D.'09 Family Medicine Reno Residency '12; Gary Johnson, M.D.'82, Family Medicine Reno Residency '85; Marcia Lu, M.D., Family Medicine Reno Residency '95; Catherine McCarthy, M.D., Family Medicine Reno Residency '03; Lianne Ong, M.D.'05, Family Medicine Las Vegas Residency '08; Brian Passalacqua, M.D., Family Medicine Reno Residency '93; Richard Williams, M.D., Family Medicine Reno Residency '02; Stephanie Wright, M.D.'09, Family Medicine Reno Residency '12; and Elena Zenkin, M.D., Obstetrics/Gynecology Fellowship '14.