Fall 2013
Dean's Perspective

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Thomas Schwenk

Growing to meet Nevada’s health care needs

This issue of Synapse, as is true for every issue, highlights the wonderful work being done by our faculty, staff, students and residents at the School of Medicine. However, while all of this good work goes on, there is a larger issue developing that will have a profound impact on all of us— the role that we play as the only public medical education institution in the state in solving the many health care needs of Nevada citizens.

We started as a two-year school and developed into a four-year school in the 1970s. Our current form with pre-clinical teaching in Reno and most clinical teaching in Las Vegas evolved in the mid-1990s and has changed little since then.

As a state, we are faced with a severe shortage of physicians, especially as Medicaid expansion is approaching, and very low rankings on a wide range of health care indices. The political forces that have plagued the school for years have focused on how we have, or have not, served Southern Nevada, but the issues are much larger and concern how we serve our state.

Over the next several months, I will launch a vigorous discussion with the Nevada System of Higher Education Regents, political leaders, alumni, donors and supporters about how we should expand and be configured to best serve Nevada.

We should find the best ways to take advantage of the unique features of the state's two major metropolitan areas and its rural communities, and create a School of Medicine of the proper size, governance and structure so that the state gets the most service and most benefit for its precious funding support.

I believe this will take the form of full four-year campuses in both Reno and Las Vegas under a single statewide leadership structure that will allow the best resources in both cities, plus those in rural communities, to contribute to the highest quality of education, training, clinical practice and research. This plan has many implications for all of us who have the privilege of being part of the School of Medicine, for our future students and trainees, for our patients, alumni, for the citizens of Nevada and for its political and educational leaders.