Inside Nevada Medicine

Inside Nevada Medicine

July 2010

Dean's Comments

Ole J. Thienhaus, M.D., MBA

As my tenure as Dean is drawing to a close, I am happy that my departure from this challenging position coincides with a particularly happy time in the life cycle of the School of Medicine. Throughout May and June, the University of Nevada School of Medicine has one graduation event after the other. It starts with our hooding ceremony for graduating medical students and then continues with departmental graduation parties for departing residents until the end of June. And each event comes with its share of appetizers, entrees and desserts.

Few things in our School’s annual life-cycle are as inspiring and affirming as these commencements. The transition from student to physician and from resident to independent practitioner symbolizes the very essence of what we do and who we are as a medical school.

Obviously, we look at our graduates as products of our efforts as educators and supervisors. The task of growing from trainee into professional requires the teacher to convey much more than knowledge and skills. It involves the introduction of the student to a new identity, that of an autonomous professional. It is in this transformational function that the totality of the medical school as an academic institution assumes its importance.

Obviously, our basic principle of learning alongside clinician role models is a critical element in this effort. In addition, the research enterprise, primarily in the basic sciences, but increasingly in clinical departments as well, informs our teaching and our approach to patient care. From the first day of orientation we try to inculcate in our students the critical importance of continuing, self-directed learning. Such learning presupposes the ability to evaluate and understand research in order to let new discoveries inform clinical practice. Without the capacity for self-directed learning and without a well-grounded appreciation of the rigors of ethical research, we would have to worry that our graduates would stagnate or pick up their continuing education from pharmaceutical representatives.

It is the confidence that we deliver on our mission of graduating qualified clinicians that makes this season such a pleasure. It is this confidence that helps me look forward to my work when I leave home in the morning. And it is our faculty’s enduring commitment to this task that I feel confident to promise our students and residents. And last, but not least, for me personally, it is the accomplishment behind our graduation festivities that makes it easy for me to return to the ranks of faculty with a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

Ole J. Thienhaus, M.D., MBA
Dean, University of Nevada School of Medicine

Graduate Medical Education

Resident Research Days winners announced

Medical residents from the University of Nevada School of Medicine showcased their research prowess during the school’s annual Resident Research Days held in Reno and Las Vegas on June 2 and 4, respectively.

Internist residents place in prestigious fellowships

Internal medicine resident physicians at the University of Nevada School of Medicine who have decided to continue advanced medical training have historically placed at some of the country’s most prestigious fellowship programs. This year’s graduating class of physician residents is no different.


Koh recognized by American Gastroenterological Association

Sang Don Koh, M.D., Ph.D., professor of physiology and cell biology, was recently recognized for his work on the gastrointestinal tract with an international award presented by the American Gastroenterological Association at a Masters in Sciences Ceremony during the annual Digestive Disease Week in New Orleans.

Koh received a Masters Award for Basic Research in Digestive Sciences which are given to investigators in the early-to-middle stages of their careers.

Plodkowski work accepted for oral presentation

Raymond Plodkowski, M.D., chief of endocrinology and metabolism and associate professor at the School of Medicine, is second author on an obesity study entitled, “Naltrexone SR/Bupropion SR Combination Therapy Led to Significant and Sustained Weight Loss and Improved HbA1c in Overweight/Obese Subjects with Type 2 Diabetes” which was accepted for oral presentation at the American Diabetes Association’s Annual Scientific Sessions this month.

Wan paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Qi Wan, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and cell biology, is co-author on a paper entitled, “Identification of BERP (brain-expressed Ring finger protein) as a p53 target gene that modulates seizure susceptibility through interacting with GABA receptors” which was published in the June 7 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In this study, Wan’s team discovered the novel interactions of three proteins, the protein 53 (p53), brain-expressed RING finger protein (BERP) and GABA-A receptor in the brain, which may play a critical role in the modulation of seizure susceptibility. The p53 is a tumor suppressor protein that is important in controlling cell cycle arrest, senescence, apoptosis, DNA repair and angiogenesis. BERP is strongly expressed in brain and has been implicated in tumor suppression and the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. His experimental results indicate that p53 and BERP in a common cellular pathway regulate the function of GABA-A receptor, one of the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. Data suggest that the aberrant regulation of GABA-A receptors by p53 and BERP may contribute to the pathogenesis of seizure. The study provides crucial evidence for the development of novel strategy for the treatment of seizure patients.

Faculty members have abstracts accepted for presentation

The following medical school faculty abstracts were accepted for presentation at The Obesity Society’s Annual Scientific meeting in October:

Raymond A. Plodkowski, M.D., Sachiko T. St. Jeor, Ph.D. and Quang T. Nguyen, D.O., with the School of Medicine and George C. Fernandez, and Veronica B. Dahir of the UNR Center for Research Design and Analysis for “A Low Carbohydrate Diet Enhances Early Weight Loss in People With Insulin Resistance.”

Maureen Molini-Blandford, Karmella Thomas, Plodkowski, Nguyen, Jessica Krenkel and St. Jeor for “Change in Serum Vitamin D Status With and Without Supplementation in Subjects Following an Energy Restricted Diet: A Pilot Study”; and Plodkowski for “Naltrexone SR/Bupropion SR Combination Therapy Reduced Weight and Improved Weight-Related Quality of Life in a Phase 3, 56-Week, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study.”

Doina Kulick, M.D., assistant professor in the internal medicine department, for her abstract entitled “The Methyl-CpG-Binding Domain Protein Gene (MBD2) Polymorphisms Associated With Obesity in a Small Group of Obese Adults Without Diabetes Mellitus, Hypertension, or Dyslipidemia.” Her study was supported by NIH grant P20 RR-016464 of the INBRE Program of the National Center for Research Resources.

Pari appointed microbiology and immunology chair

Gregory Pari, Ph.D., was appointed chair of the microbiology and immunology department at the University of Nevada School of Medicine effective July 1.

Family medicine faculty, resident have reviews published

Faculty members Amy Ellwood, MSW, LCSW, Aron Rogers, D.O. and second-year resident Katie Kolonic, D.O., all of the family medicine residency program in Las Vegas, have published a book review of Scott M. Davis’ Living Jonathan’s Life: A Doctor’s Descent Into Darkness and Addiction in Family Medicine, the official journal of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine.

Ellwood and Kolonic have also published a review of Woman–Centered Care in Pregnancy and Childbirth by Sara Shields and Lucy Candib in Annals of Behavioral Science and Medical Education, Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 2010.

Yan accepted for membership in NIH Center for Scientific Review

Wei Yan, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the physiology and cell biology department, has been accepted for membership in the National Institutes of Health’s Cellular, Molecular and Integrative Reproduction Study Section of the Center for Scientific Review for the term beginning July 1, 2010 and ending June 30, 2014.

Membership on a study section represents an opportunity to contribute to the national biomedical research effort by reviewing grant applications submitted to the NIH, making recommendations on those applications to the appropriate advisory council or board and surveying the status of research in the fields of science.

Pediatrician selected for 'local heroes' award

Echezona Ezeanolue, M.D., MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, was selected by the American Academy of Pediatrics to receive its Council on Community Pediatrics Local Heroes Award.

Morris serves as guest editor

Colleen Morris, M.D., professor of pediatrics and chief of pediatric genetics, was guest editor of the American Journal of Medical Genetics' special issue on Williams syndrome published May 2010.

School Notes

School of Medicine establishes urgent care fellowship

The University of Nevada School of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine in Las Vegas, working with partner University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, has received approval from the Urgent Care Association of America to establish an urgent care fellowship training program in Las Vegas.

Gift from Pennington Foundation converts room to learning lab

Autism roomA generous gift from the Pennington Foundation has provided the technology to convert a storage room into a computer lab in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, located in the Redfield Building on the University of Nevada, Reno campus.

“Our intent in this change was to make it an intergenerational space for our clients and patients where we can teach our graduate students efficacious use of technology in therapy,” said Tami Brancamp, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department. She added the new lab offers accessible computers for patients to use as part of their therapy.

The new 14-by-18-foot lab will support individuals of all ages as well as those with a variety of diagnosis including autism, traumatic brain injury, strokes and Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is equipped with computer hardware and software, adjustable height workstations to accommodate children and adults and privacy walls between stations.

Graduate student honored by Chinese Consulate

Rui "Steven" SongRui “Steven” Song, far left, a fourth year graduate student in the Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology (CMPP) program, has received the 2009 National Award for Outstanding Chinese Graduate Students Studying Abroad by the China Scholarship Council.

He is among 21 other awardees selected from all the universities along the west coast of the U.S., each of whom received a $5,000 scholarship during the award ceremony held at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco on May 26. This is the first time that one of our Chinese graduate students received this honor since the award was started in 2003.

Song’s doctorate thesis focuses on small non-coding ribonucleic acids and their roles in the control of human fertility. He has authored three papers, one of which was published in Nature Genetics as the first author. Two more manuscripts, with him as the first author, are being prepared. Song has demonstrated outstanding ability and skills in tackling complicated biological questions over the past four years of training with Wei Yan, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and cell biology.

Simulation Center completes 10 months of operations

The Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas and its staff of five full-time employees have completed 10 months of operations. The facility serves the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Nursing, Nevada State College School of Nursing, and University of Nevada School of Medicine.

Over the past ten months, CSC staff members have worked vigorously to develop systems, which provide the combined faculties better access to technological innovations in the field of health care education. Two semesters of medical and nursing students have passed through the Center's doors since its opening. During that time, the CSC has:

  • Provided more than 7,000 hours of immersion based hospital simulation, where learners enter a life-like health care environment lab and interact with a high-tech patient mannequin.
  • Expanded its inventory to include over 50 different types of health care education task trainers capable of demonstrating hundreds of procedures, ranging from IV start simulators to ear examination models.
  • Became an official Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery (FLS) test center.
  • Assisted in the development of several interprofessional training simulations combining nursing and educational silos.
  • Provided the latest in educational technology to over 325 future nurses, 200 future doctors and 130 current residents.
  • Created volunteer opportunities for members of the community to develop and expand their employable skill sets.

Farewell reception held for John McDonald

John A. McDonald, M.D., Ph.D.A farewell retirement reception was held June 10 for John A. McDonald M.D., Ph.D., left, former dean of the medical school who is finishing his term as vice president of health sciences.

McDonald has been with the medical school and UNR since 2004, coming from the Veterans Administration in Salt Lake City.

At the reception, he was presented a framed photo of the Center for Molecular Medicine and the new Pennington Health Sciences Building, two facilities he was tireless in promoting during his tenure.

Physicians provide medical assistance at Reno Rodeo

Rodeo competitors know it is not a question of if you get hurt, but rather a question of when and how badly. Cowboys and cowgirls simply accept injuries as part of their sport.

Fortunately, competitors at the 2010 Reno Rodeo have a team of medical professionals to see to their injuries if they get hurt during competition.

NVCI offers 'cancer conversations'

Anita Pomerantz, M.D., the Nevada Cancer Institute’s director of radiation oncology clinical research, will discuss “Modern Techniques in Radiation Oncology: Advances in the treatment of Breast Cancer” on Aug. 19 at 11:30 a.m. To register, please call Kim at (702) 821-5275.

State job openings at the School of Medicine

Visit the University of Nevada, Reno Web site for a current list of state jobs at the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

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