Reflections from the Dean: You asked, we did

News & Events

University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Dean Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D., at the launch of UNR Med's new 2020|2022 strategic plan. Photo by Brin Reynolds/UNR Med

Toward the end of their second year of medical school, our students are required to take one of the major steps that define the process of becoming a physician, Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination. The daylong exam is a major source of stress for medical students across the country, and for good reason: The results can define an aspiring doctor's career trajectory.

Divided into seven, 60-minute blocks, covering up to 280 total questions, Step 1 assesses whether a medical student understands and can apply important concepts in biomedical science that are fundamental to the safe and competent practice of medicine.
It is a grueling exam, plain and simple. When and how to prepare students for this exam has become a topic of national discussion among medical students, medical school deans and educational leaders, including many of us at UNR Med. Our students asked if it was possible to improve their test preparation experience, to better link their test preparation to our core curriculum, and to help them perform at the best possible level. Our resulting response was an example of "You asked, we did," an educational practice considered a mark of excellence by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting body for medical schools.

We redesigned the classroom curriculum to better mirror the Step 1 blocks, revised and expanded the practice tests and provided additional study resources. We are seeing significant improvement in what was already a solid history of performance by our students.

UNR Med Executive Associate Dean Melissa Piasecki, M.D., who led our recent successful LCME re-accreditation process, said it well: "We listen to the students, we care about their success and we make changes to support that success in and out of school. We listen to each class, and then do everything we can to help our students become outstanding physicians."

In response to additional student feedback, we have provided broader support for summer internships, enhanced student counseling and financial aid support and new clinical research opportunities through the UNR Med Clinical Research Center and the recent appointment of Mark Riddle, M.D., Dr.Ph., associate dean of clinical research.

These efforts reflect UNR Med's commitment to the ongoing improvement of our students' educational experience and our focus on excellence in all that we do. This approach is reflected throughout a new strategic plan, revealed this month, that will guide and focus efforts in support of the school's vision, mission and values. The strategic plan is a three-year roadmap that aims to:

  • Recruit and retain academic faculty to serve our community's needs;
  • Expand our clinical platform to improve access to quality care for Nevadans while enhancing medical education;
  • Build clinical research to produce evidence-based information that translates to better health care decisions for practitioners and patients; and,
  • Engage with our community in ways that lead UNR Med to be seen as the institution of choice for health care education, research and clinical care.

We must remember, in all that we do and all that we plan to do, our True North is our students. It is important for us as an institution—and as individuals—to listen to our students and do our best to help them build upon their successes. On behalf of UNR Med, I extend my great thanks to all members of our campus and our community who have contributed to our students' many achievements. 


Media Contacts

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

Tessa Bowen
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 30, 2019 @ 8:00 AM