University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Dean Thomas L. Schwenk to retire Aug. 31

Dr. Schwenk has led UNR Med through a decade of remarkable, transformational growth

A photo of Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D., Dean of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine.

Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D., has announced his plans to step down as Dean of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) and Vice President of Health Sciences following a decade at the helm. Schwenk's final day as dean and vice president will be Aug. 31, 2021.

Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D., has announced his plans to step down as Dean of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) and Vice President of Health Sciences following a decade at the helm. Schwenk's final day as dean and vice president will be Aug. 31, 2021.

"It has been the greatest honor and privilege to have the opportunity to lead UNR Med through a remarkable period of growth, success and transformation," Schwenk said. "It is now time for me to step away from that role and give a new dean the opportunity to take advantage of the enormous opportunities that lie ahead."  

Schwenk was hired by the University of Nevada, Reno in July 2011. At that time, the School of Medicine was split between both ends of the state - a community-based model with medical education and patient care being provided in Reno and Las Vegas. Under his leadership, UNR Med expanded health care services and medical education in northern Nevada, eventually transitioning Las Vegas based resources to the UNLV School of Medicine in July 2017.  

Schwenk has long considered the robust quality of basic biomedical research to be one of UNR Med's greatest strengths. The School of Medicine has consistently and successfully competed for funding with much larger institutions. In 2021, U.S. News & World Report ranked UNR Med in the Top 25 for federal research grants per full-time faculty member.  

"We have been particularly successful in recruiting early- and mid-career scientists who discovered Reno, the School of Medicine and the University, and realized the opportunities we offer to advance their science and their careers," Schwenk said.  

Schwenk consistently emphasized the importance of creating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion for meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse patient population, asking more impactful research questions and training a more diverse and culturally competent workforce. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked UNR Med 26th for medical school diversity, with 22% of medical school enrollment from under-represented minorities.  

"We are not creating, supporting and enhancing a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion because it is a trending topic, or a topical statement of the moment. A diverse culture is one of our most defining values, because it is who we are and what we do," said Schwenk.  

In the midst of one of the most difficult times in history for the health care profession - the COVID-19 pandemic - Schwenk realized an opportunity in the form of an affiliation with Renown Health. From his previous experience at the University of Michigan, Schwenk knew first-hand the benefits such a collaboration would provide to clinical training programs, patient access to care and research.  

As he was leading and supporting UNR Med through pandemic-related adjustments to nearly every part of medical education, research and patient care, UNR Med and Renown leaders put in thousands of person hours to turn the idea of an affiliation into a reality.  

"I intended to resign a year ago as my wife, Jane, and I approached various birthday and anniversary milestones," Schwenk said. "However, the stresses of the pandemic followed by transformational opportunities with Renown Health required a continuity of leadership that I was committed to seeing through."  

The UNR Med and Renown Health affiliation became effective June 11, 2021, establishing the first-fully integrated health system in Nevada.  

"Dr. Schwenk has been an historic and transformational figure during his tenure as dean of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine," said University of Nevada, Reno President Brian Sandoval." For a decade, he has proven to be exactly what the school needed - a strong leader who has made Nevada healthier through incredibly well-trained professionals, innovative programming and curriculum, cutting-edge research and innovation that has been recognized on a worldwide scale, and engagement and partnership that have brought the communities and health care organizations of Nevada closer together. As sweeping as his vision has been, he has never lost sight of the humanistic values that make a great doctor. Integrity, always doing the right thing, and caring for people have always been at the core of who Tom is. He leaves a profound legacy, not the least of which is a school of medicine that has been elevated through his leadership and is well positioned to meet Nevada's needs in the future."  

Schwenk earned his B.S. in chemical engineering and M.D. from the University of Michigan. Following residency training in family medicine at the University of Utah, he practiced in rural Utah and served on the University of Utah faculty. Schwenk returned to Michigan as chair of the Department of Family Medicine for 25 years, ultimately obtaining emeritus faculty status as a professor of family medicine.  

Schwenk was elected to the Institute of Medicine. (now the National Academy of Medicine) in 2002. He was also elected to the Board of the AAMC Council of Deans in 2017, and was a member and Vice President of the Board of Directors of the American Board of Family Medicine from 2000-2005. His most recent research has focused on depression and mental illness in medical students, residents and physicians. He has co-authored over 160 publications, and has consulted in various capacities for more than 50 medical schools and teaching hospitals.  

The University has hired an executive search firm to launch a national search for the next dean. Executive Associate Dean Melissa Piasecki, M.D., will lead an outstanding leadership team at the School of Medicine as acting dean and serve as chief academic officer for Renown Health under the recently-formalized affiliation agreement between UNR Med and Renown.


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: Tuesday July 13, 2021 @ 8:15 AM