New surgery department expands training for University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine students

Dr. James Harris and Dr. Lori Rawson named surgery co-chairs

Dr. James Harris and Dr. Lori Rawson, surgery co-chairs

Dr. James Harris (right) and Dr. Lori Rawson (left) named UNR Med department of surgery co-chairs. Hi-resolution headshots of Drs. Harris and Rawson are available.

Nearly 20 percent of all graduating University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine students match to a surgical residency and all medical students need clinical education in surgery as part of a complete medical education. UNR Med is launching a new Reno-based department of surgery to keep pace with the high level of interest in surgical careers, and provide all medical students with foundational skills and knowledge in surgery.

The department will ensure medical students receive enhanced hospital-based and office education at Renown Health, the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System and the offices of surgeons throughout Reno. The new department will build on the patient care and on-site surgical training received by third-year medical students, an especially critical step for UNR Med students choosing careers in surgery, including general surgery and surgical specialties such as orthopedic surgery, otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), plastic surgery, neurosurgery and urology. Clerkship training for medical students is hands-on and includes patient care in the hospital and in clinics, pre-operative and post-operative care, assisting in the operating room and management of patients in acute care settings.

Two recognized local surgeons, Dr. James Harris, senior member of Western Surgical Group, the largest multispecialty surgical group in northern Nevada, and Dr. Lori Rawson, chief of surgery at the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System, have been named UNR Med department of surgery co-chairs.

Dr. Harris, the founding clerkship director for UNR Med's Reno-based surgery clerkship, has previous experience as a surgical residency program director and was chief of the division of surgery at Greenville Hospital Systems in Greenville, South Carolina. He is a fellowship-trained surgical oncologist and serves as Renown Cancer Institute's chair of the Cancer Committee and medical director of Cancer Quality Services and Accreditation. He is a member of the Commission on Cancer (COC), a national program with the American College of Surgeons, and is currently COC vice chair of the Accreditation Committee and member of the Program Review Subcommittee. Harris is the state chair for Cancer for Nevada. He completed his medical degree at Wake Forest University and general surgery residency at the University of Southern California Medical Center. He completed fellowship in surgical oncology at City of Hope in Duarte, California and has been a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (F.A.C.S.) for more than 25 years.

Rawson is a practicing urologist who joined the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in 2009. Soon after arriving at the VA, Rawson became chief of surgery - a post she continues today in addition to serving as acting designated education officer. She is a graduate of the VA's executive leadership programs, including the VA Leadership Development Institute and the VA Health Care Leadership Development programs. Rawson has been actively involved in local and national VA collaborations to improve delivery of health care to veterans. She completed her medical degree and urology residency at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California.

"Under the leadership of Drs. Harris and Rawson, we are delivering one of the most comprehensive core medical education experiences to our third-year students through the new department of surgery and in-hospital training," said University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Dean Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D. "The goal of this initiative is to provide a sound basic education in surgical principles to all UNR Med medical students, as well as encourage those students who choose careers in surgery to be the very best surgeons who will eventually practice in northern Nevada, our rural communities and our state."

Also contributing to the development of UNR Med's surgery clerkship is Dr. Karin Klove, selectives director. Klove is a general surgeon who completed her medical degree, internship and residency at the University of Southern California. She assisted Dr. Harris in piloting the clerkship from three students to a program that supports all 70 third-year medical students.

Two clerkship directors, Dr. Mitzi Miller at the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System and Dr. Joe Uccelli at Renown Health, will lead the expansion of the academic program at these and other clinical sites, and work closely with the surgical faculty in northern Nevada to ensure students receive a comprehensive clinical experience. Miller is a general and thoracic surgeon who completed her medical degree at Creighton University School of Medicine Omaha, Nebraska; her residency at OHSU in Portland, Oregon and her fellowship at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham, UK. Uccelli is a trauma and critical care physician who is a member of the Western Surgical Group. He completed his medical degree at the University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine; his residency at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona and his fellowship at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The launch of a new department of surgery and department co-chairs is one of the key metrics of UNR Med's strategic plan which includes expanding its 4-year curriculum as a northern Nevada-based medical school. The new department completes a key phase of the school's northern Nevada expansion.

Media Contacts

Julie Ardito, APR
Senior Director, Advancement and Engagement
Office: (775) 784-6006

Tessa Bowen, MPA
Communications Manager, Advancement and Engagement
Office: (775) 682-9254

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada's first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Established in 1969, UNR Med is improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion.

Released: Wednesday February 7, 2018 @ 7:30 AM