Fall 2014
Dean's Perspective

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

By Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D.

Dean Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D.Two medical school vision becomes clearer. In the Spring 2014 issue of Synapse, I described the work of a statewide higher education advisory group led by Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Daniel Klaich that was charged by the Board of Regents to implement a Memorandum of Understanding signed by leaders of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

This memorandum and a subsequent addendum described such a great need for a markedly expanded physician workforce that it recommended moving expeditiously toward developing a full UNLV School of Medicine as well as building out the University of Nevada School of Medicine as a full campus with full clinical teaching capacity based on new community physician and hospital partnerships. This plan is already underway at both ends of the state. UNLV has hired an outstanding planning dean to launch their accreditation process, Dr. Barbara Atkinson (former dean and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas, Kansas City), and hope to start its first class by 2017.

This Memorandum of Understanding and subsequent meetings of the steering committee, and the Board of Regents meeting on August 1, have provided much-needed clarity about our role as a Reno and University of Nevada, Reno-based school of medicine with selective Las Vegas teaching roles and collaborations. This newly-clarified role and mission are significantly enhanced by several major positive events:

  • The recently announced affiliation with Renown Health in Reno that provides the platform to develop a wide range of new clinical and teaching programs.
  • Strong expressions of interest by many physicians in Reno to join our medical school as community physician faculty members.
  • Discussions with other potential hospital partners in and around Reno to start new family medicine residency programs.
  • The launch of a new rural family medicine residency program in collaboration with Humboldt General Hospital in Winnemucca.
  • The affiliation with MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas to launch a new set of residency programs as well as provide access to medical student clinical teaching to supplement the core programs in Reno. Here is my view of who we are and how we will serve the state.

We will be clearly and firmly based in Reno as a full, four-year school of medicine, in partnership with Renown Health, a core group of community physician teachers, and other health care facilities and resources in Reno. This school will be research-intensive, primary care-oriented and community-based. We will be committed to rural and urban underserved care and will become a center for clinical research to complement our long history of success in biomedical research.

We need to flip the current structure in which most clinical teaching is done in Las Vegas to the exact opposite-most clinical teaching will occur in Reno, but with selective and critical teaching in Las Vegas that will take advantage of its special services and clinical programs of excellence.

We will continue to expand in the near-term as the only sponsor and partner for residency and fellowship training in the state, until such time as UNLV develops its graduate medical education strategy and infrastructure. We will commit long-term to our relationship with MountainView Hospital and work to be the best possible graduate medical education partner while UNLV develops the primary responsibility for graduate medical education sponsorship and support at University Medical Center and likely other hospitals in Las Vegas.

I am energized by the opportunity to build a school of medicine of the highest quality, with a unique combination of research, community engagement, innovative medical student teaching programs, and primary care training that will bring a reputation for educational and health care excellence to Reno and Nevada.

Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D.
Professor, Family and Community Medicine
Dean, University of Nevada School of Medicine
Vice President, Division of Health Sciences