Reflections from the Dean: In This Moment

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I held my first State of the School Address in December 2011, a few months after arriving at UNR Med. The purpose of the event, which we often refer to as "SOSA," is to look back a bit on the previous year and look forward hard on the year ahead. We celebrate each other's accomplishments, talk about "challenges" (that we rename "opportunities"), and recommit to our core values and mission.

My tenth State of the School Address—themed "In This Moment"—was held the evening of Monday, Sept. 21. We looked forward to coming together in person at the Basin Street Club at Mackay Stadium, but settled for gathering together online for prerecorded remarks and Q&A. There is no COVID-era solution for my favorite part, the post-event socializing.

My 2020 State of the School Address was unlike any other. But then again, so much of 2020 has been unlike any other year.

I spoke about how our UNR Med and University Health team members have come together to not only maintain and survive, but to continue to find ways that we might thrive. This includes the extraordinary work of the Nevada State Public Health Lab, the tremendous innovation that continued in our research labs, game-changing new hires, an ongoing commitment to safe and accessible patient care, substantial contributions from our residents and fellows, and the selflessness of our students.

Juxtaposed with reasons for celebration and gratitude too numerous to count, I discussed the extraordinary health care disparities exacerbated by the pandemic. These disparities are due in considerable part to huge discrepancies in the social determinants of health—where and how we live, learn, work and play—and how they've been influenced by systemic racism. This racism has led to some members of our society being more susceptible to illness and injury, and less able to access necessary, high-quality health care.

I shared the stresses we face from the pandemic-caused economic crisis that has hit Nevada particularly hard. Like medical schools across the country, we have been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, as a result, we are also thinking bigger and exploring new approaches—from expanding our clinical services to developing a more robust clinical research program to expanding our medical education pipeline, possibly through a major new partnership.

While this year's address wasn't the SOSA I expected, I am always grateful for the opportunity to show my appreciation to our faculty and staff, students, residents, alumni, campus colleagues, clinical community faculty, health care partners and community members. When it felt like our world was coming apart, all of you came together.

While no one knows when things will return to "normal," we continue to meet this moment and prepare for the next. Never has it been more important than this year.

With thanks,
Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D.

PS: If you'd like to watch my State of the School Address in full, it's now available.

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: Monday September 21, 2020 @ 4:00 PM