Reflections from the Dean

News & Events

Thomas Schwenk

October always brings beautiful fall colors as the aspens and maples turn.

This year October also brought the site visitors from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) who were with us for three days, meeting with a wide range of students, faculty and staff members to assess the quality and performance of our medical education programs as part of our regular eight-year accreditation cycle.

One of the critical components of that assessment is the adequacy of our faculty teaching resources.

A major part of those resources is the 1,000+ clinical community faculty members who are so generous with their teaching and expertise. Our first-year students are half-way through block two and looking forward, with great excitement, to their clinical preceptorships with these benevolent community faculty members. They have spent countless hours learning what they need to know to be a doctor. It's time for them to experience those responsibilities first-hand. Now that we are a fully northern Nevada-based medical school, patients throughout the community will see more and more medical students working with their private physicians-in the exam room and in the hospital. How do community physicians contribute to the education of our students? And how do our students contribute to the care of these patients?

I'm going to turn my column over to Timothy Baker, M.D., UNR Med alumnus ('04), Associate Dean of Medical Education and practicing general internist on the UNR Med faculty. Dr. Baker reflects on his experiences as both learner and educator as well as the patient's role in the education of our developing physicians.

Tim BakerFrom Dr. Baker

I could drive to the very office and find the exact exam room where I diagnosed pneumonia for the first time during my first-year preceptorship.

In my first semester, I learned what it was like to be a doctor. I learned the responsibility that came with my white coat. I learned where my stethoscope was supposed to go, how to take a history and how to use my otoscope without puncturing the eardrum. After countless hours of studying, exams, lectures and labs, I was out in the community for my preceptorship. It was now time for me to see what being a doctor was all about.

As part of my medical education with my physician mentor-preceptor-I was instructed to take a patient's history and conduct an initial exam.

Been sick for a few days. Got it. Fever. Okay.

I still remember listening to the patient's lungs.

Normal, normal, normal. Fine. Then, wait. That's different.

I left the exam room and told my preceptor, "I heard this sound here that didn't sound like the rest."

My preceptor took a listen and confirmed, "Yes, this is called 'crackles.' Let's get a chest x-ray."

The patient went straight from the exam room to get a chest x-ray, and before I was done for the day, the results came back, and the patient had pneumonia. As a young student, I diagnosed something. For the first time, I was a part of the patient's healthcare team.

The process of medical school is more than making sure our students leave their fourth year knowing something. We're asking them to become something special: physicians. Moments like this one are how we go from student to doctor. It's a special relationship in which both physician and patient play important parts.

As an associate professor and associate dean at UNR Med, I get to say, "I'm a doctor, but I also make doctors." This isn't true just for me. This is true for all of our faculty, as well as our clinical community faculty who open up their practices and offer each of our medical students the opportunity to be part of a patient's healthcare team.

This is also true for our patients who become part of the student's education team.

Patients contribute to the education of our students by presenting new challenges, offering feedback to preceptors and reminding students that we're all human. Students contribute to the care of patients by asking tough questions-pushing me to be a better doctor-spending extra time with patients, and simply by being another bright mind on the patient's healthcare team. It's a perfect partnership.

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The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision that has served Nevada for 50 years. The state's first public medical school, UNR Med fosters a healthy Nevada through excellence in medical education, medical care, research and community engagement, within a culture of respect, compassion and inclusion. Through targeted growth and investment in research, clinical services, education and outreach, UNR Med is improving the future of health care. For more information, visit our 50th anniversary website.