Fall 2012
Alumni Accent

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Frieda Hulka gives presentation

Pediatric surgeon Frieda Hulka, M.D.,'92 gives her time not only to her alma mater, but to her community as well. She is the 2012 Outstanding Alumna of the Year. Photo by Matt Lush.

Alumna gives back

By Anne McMillin, APR

A top pediatric surgeon. An advocate for young people. And a University of Nevada School of Medicine alumna.

These accolades only scratch the surface in describing the 2012 School of Medicine Alumni Association's Outstanding Alumna of the Year, Frieda Hulka, M.D., a Carson City native and graduate of the Class of 1992.

Hulka received her award from Dean Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D., and Lisa M. Lyons, M.D.'97, outgoing president of the alumni association, at the annual University of Nevada School of Medicine alumni reception held last April in the Pennington Health Sciences Building on the school's Reno campus.

"This is an honor-the highest honor I've received from the students I teach and my peers," Hulka said upon accepting the award.

Tracey Delaplain, M.D. '87, the alumni association's incoming president, said Hulka was chosen by the alumni board as the award recipient because she represents all the ideals of the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

"She is compassionate, an advocate for excellence in surgery and she serves the citizens of Nevada tirelessly. She gives back to the school by teaching in the classroom and in her private office," Delaplain said, adding: "She has earned the deep respect of her colleagues and the devotion of her patients."

When accepting the award, Hulka said she is taken aback by the many aspects of medical school that have progressed in the 20 years since she was a student.

"I have memories of Dr. Tibbitts doing lessons with slides and hand-drawn colored pencil sketches," she said, noting that current students learn in smart classrooms on laptops using Internet resources.

Hulka talked about the mentoring aspect of her role at the medical school and how often she is struck by the extraordinary professional success of School of Medicine alumni.

She cited the example of Joseph Lillegard, a fourth year student who precepted with her for three weeks in 2005, and is now a Mayo Clinic-trained pediatric surgeon in Rochester, Minn.

After graduating from the School of Medicine in 1992, Hulka did her residency in general surgery at Oregon Health and Sciences University followed by two fellowships: the first in trauma and critical care at Oregon Health and Sciences; and the second in pediatric surgery at the University of Louisville.

Since 1999, Hulka has been a general, pediatric, trauma and critical care surgeon at Western Surgical Group in Reno.

In addition to her demanding responsibilities as a surgeon, she has given back to her alma mater by serving the School of Medicine as a clinical assistant professor for the surgery and physiology and cell biology departments for the past 13 years.

Hulka continues to serve the medical school as a preceptor to third- and fourth-year medical students in her field of surgery.

She is highly involved in the Northern Nevada community, presently serving as a board member of the Nevada Women's Fund and Think First, an organization dedicated to educating young people about their personal vulnerability and the importance of making safe and healthy choices.