Fall 2012
Faculty Focus

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Melissa Piasecki works with her team

Melissa Piasecki, M.D., center, senior associate dean of academic affairs, works with her team to find and develop opportunities for students and faculty to excel. Photo by Matt Lush.

It takes a team

By Matt Lush

A new level of leadership, based on contributions from a team, is improving learning for both faculty and students.

Earlier this year, Melissa Piasecki, M.D., psychiatry professor, assumed the role of senior associate dean of academic affairs at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, and became the head of a leadership team in the Office of Academic Affairs that focuses on further improving the quality of learning.

Piasecki credits her love for teaching as her inspiration to head the leadership team for both faculty development and student learning.

"If you work with faculty and help them with their teaching and professional goals, that will impact their learners-the residents and students they work with," Piasecki said. "Those residents and students can then impact their patients."

Piasecki works closely with a group of core team leaders-including Peggy Dupey, Ph.D., of admissions and student affairs; Timothy Baker, M.D. '04, in medical education, Jennifer Hagen, M.D. '93, in faculty development, Gwen Shonkwiler, Ph.D., in evaluation and assessment, Deborah Kuhls, M.D., in academic affairs, Las Vegas and Melissa O'Brien, M.A. in continuing education-to advance faculty and student excellence at the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

Piasecki credits each of the OAA team members with making key contributions to the School mission, saying: "The amount of energy, dedication and talent on the OAA team is inspiring."

According to Piasecki, focusing on leadership in every department is crucial to achieving what is required of the school and academic medicine in general.

"Leadership is a special element of faculty development," Piasecki said.

"Faculty development is what we do to help faculty progress in their academic careers and their professional lives. The leadership component is very focused. We have lofty, audacious goals."

Of the many things the leadership team in the Office of Academic Affairs is working on, one of the highlights is the curricular transformation process.

"It takes a lot of people and it takes a lot of goodwill to make that happen, and it's happening," Piasecki said.

In addition, she noted a modest increase in the class size and a plan to expand "in a very measured way to increase our ability to meet the health care needs of Nevada and beyond."

Piasecki and her team are also currently working to enhance institutional diversity, an important element of the School of Medicine's mission statement.

A newly-formed Council on Diversity Initiatives is working to create partnerships and programs, both on- and off-campus, to enhance diversity of the pipeline of students coming to the School of Medicine.

"We will have the added value of students coming from different backgrounds," Piasecki said.

"Students learn more when they are in a diverse group, and the same thing is true for faculty. Faculty learn and get more from their professional lives when they are working with diverse groups."

To that end, Piasecki hopes that the School of Medicine becomes more diverse not only in the students it brings in, but the faculty it hires.