Fall 2011
Love for teaching leads back to Nevada

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Jennifer Hagen

Hagen serves as internal medicine residency director at the school's Reno campus.

By Marcie Newpher

Jennifer Hagen, M.D., ventured to the University of Wisconsin for pathology residency training upon graduating from the School of Medicine in 1993.

Once there, she realized her love for teaching and a desire to see patients. Returning home to Nevada to train in internal medicine instead, Hagen's passion for teaching flourished, culminating in her current position as internal medicine residency program director in Reno.

As residency director, Hagen's job is to make sure that residents are receiving the training they need to become competent physicians.

To ensure those training needs are met, Hagen and Timothy Baker, M.D., associate residency program director, have developed and modified several educational programs.

"We are expanding our journal club program by adding sessions with invited subspecialists and expanding our curriculum for evidence-based medicine, patient safety and quality improvement. We developed a practice improvement exercise for the residents in their continuity clinics where they review their patients' charts and set goals, such as ensuring that vaccinations are up to date," she said.

Hagen credits the idea for the journal club subspecialty program expansion to one of her residents.

"That's one of the things that makes this job so fun: I love being able to work with people to make their good ideas become a reality."

Hagen's interaction with the residents is essentially a mentoring role, which includes teaching on the hospital wards at the Veterans Administration, talking to residents at conferences about issues that arise, discussing if help is needed with their job functions, or deciding if a program needs modification.

Hagen is also happy to write letters of recommendation for residents and says one of her favorite things is talking to residents about their professional goals to find out what they want to do and then helping them succeed.

She considers herself fortunate because she is excited to come into work.

"I like the variety; I like curricular work: seeing patients and teaching at the School of Medicine. I enjoy the idea that I have the opportunity either to create new educational activities or modify them to make programs better."

Modifying programs to make them better is one of Hagen's specialties. During her role as associate dean of medical education from 2003-2009, Hagen became the school's expert on accreditation. The accreditation process gave her the opportunity to delve deeper into the structure of the curriculum, to better understand what people were doing well, and, therefore, how to better the school.

Among her accomplishments in this position are initiating the M.D./MBA and M.D./M.P.H. programs and working on the new William N. Pennington Health Sciences Building.

"Working in medical education gave me insight into how much work our faculty do to make the educational programs work, but also how valuable our community preceptors are," Hagen said.

"The school depends on community physicians to teach medical students and residents. These volunteers take students at all levels of training into their offices. I remember once I needed radiologists to teach the fourth-year medical students about their radiology electives and the group at Northern Nevada Medical Center immediately agreed to help out."

Hagen is grateful to specialists in the community. "These doctors have busy schedules, but believe in the importance of teaching the next generation of doctors, and they find it rewarding to work with students and residents."

At the end of the day, Hagen is very passionate about her position as internal medicine residency program director and about the residents themselves.

"Did I mention how proud I am of the residency program graduates? They are outstanding doctors, and many of them practice right here in our community. This is my favorite thing about this job."