Reflections from the Dean

News & Events

UNR Med Dean Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D.

Spring is just around the corner, promising fresh beginnings, rebirth and growth. The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine is experiencing its own kind of spring.

I am pleased to announce that UNR Med has been granted full accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) through 2026. The award of full accreditation confirms that our programs, faculty, resources and partnerships are meeting or exceeding national standards for medical education.

This would not have been possible without the extraordinary work from our accreditation team—Melissa Piasecki, M.D., executive associate dean, faculty accreditation lead; Krystle Oates, Ph.D., accreditation coordinator and Amy Smith, Ph.D., director of institutional assessment—as well as the dedication and expertise of our faculty, staff members, students and community partners. Every single one of you reading this news contributed in some way, large and small, to our accreditation success, and I thank you.

I cannot overstate the importance of full accreditation. Accreditation is everything in the life of a medical school.

The U.S. Department of Education delegated the LCME as the only accreditation body responsible for assuring the quality of medical education at schools granting the M.D. degree in the United States and Canada. Full accreditation means that UNR Med is eligible to receive federal grants, and our students are eligible to apply to the best residency programs throughout the U.S. Additionally, most state boards of medical licensure require graduation from an accredited institution.

Perhaps more importantly, accreditation is a powerful reassurance to the Nevada System of Higher Education, the state legislature and the Governor that their state financial support is well-spent, Nevada’s medical students are well-educated, and the medical school is of a quality consistent with the aspirations of the state and the higher education system.

The process for medical school accreditation is broad and deep. Led by our accreditation team, we spent nearly two years on extensive data collection, analysis and self-study, and submitted hundreds of pages of information in preparation for a three-day site visit by six distinguished medical educators in October.

We held dozens of meetings with students, faculty and community partners to examine the five key areas for accreditation:

  1. Institutional setting:  UNR Med’s mission, leadership and the administrative tools needed for success;
  2. Educational program: UNR Med’s curriculum and how the school measures its performance in training the next generation of physicians;
  3. Medical students: the selection of and support services for medical students;
  4. Faculty: UNR Med’s faculty and how they are prepared to teach and overall faculty career success;
  5. Educational resources: the finances, partnerships, buildings and equipment the school needs to deliver an outstanding medical education program.

Any accreditation process is demanding, labor-intensive and somewhat anxiety-producing, with frequent and long meetings, detailed reports, thoughtful analyses and endless hours of preparation. What was different for UNR Med was that this process occurred simultaneously with a complex and comprehensive massive transition in public medical education in Nevada.

As of July 1, 2017—only three months before the LCME full-site visit—Nevada gained a second medical school, refocusing UNR Med as a northern Nevada-based institution with a statewide vision. This swift and complex transition required UNR Med to recreate an entirely new clinical campus, restructure our finances, make curriculum changes and build new Reno-based departments, including obstetrics and gynecology and surgery.

Not only did we have to re-create a “new” medical school that is nearly 50 years old, we had to communicate these developments and changes: explain a completely restructured budget that is half as large as it was in the past but twice as focused on our academic programs, show sufficiency of faculty and teaching capacity, describe complex community partnerships, and demonstrate the continuing success of our students. Successfully making and communicating these changes is an enormous tribute to everyone who contributed and to our LCME leadership team.   

Being granted full accreditation reminded me of the theme of my 2017 State of the School Address, “Our Future is Now.” The tremendous release of energy from this successful reaccreditation outcome launches us into the next phase of growth and achievement, giving us confidence for the future of A Healthy Nevada. 

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.