Spring 2011
Alumni Notes

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Paul Smith and Sansan Cao examine a patient

Paul Smith, M.D.'95, and first-year student Sansan Cao examine a patient. Photo by Anne McMillin

Message from the president of the alumni association

By Tracy Delaplain, M.D. '87

How do students become physicians? This was the topic of the last vertical mentoring session at the School of Medicine.

As Nevada alumni and physicians, are we the catalysts? Students don't know how to be physicians without seeing and interacting with physicians. "See one, do one, teach one" does not apply only to the skill of medicine but also to the art of medicine.

First- and second-year medical students have no time set aside to learn the art and magic of medicine. They need to interact with physicians, who still love medicine and the patients they serve, to see and feel the magic of medicine. This is our gift to future physicians and their patients.

But are we obliged to give back to our school and community by being a catalyst? Does the medical school need alumni volunteers to be that catalyst? I submit that they do, in fact, need us.

We are asked to give away our time many times throughout our careers, but it is in the choosing to give, where we will find our greatest rewards. Many of you are already teachers and mentors through the preceptor program at our school, but for those who are not yet involved with students, consider all of the opportunities that are available.

If you have four to eight hours a month, then volunteer for the Student Outreach Clinic or the Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada clinic. If you have two hours a year, have lunch with students to discuss what it means to be a surgeon, a pediatrician, a family practitioner or any other specialist or sub-specialist. If you have three hours every quarter, volunteer for vertical mentoring.

It is enlightening to revisit why you chose medicine or why a specialty chose you. Why did you choose private practice over academics? What are your regrets? What were your dreams? What did you wish you had done differently? How did you survive to tell us about medicine? These are the questions that fascinate students and these may be the questions you need to revisit once in a while yourself.

Be prepared to answer "why" questions: Why did you ask that question? Why did you choose that diagnosis? How can you be so calm or kind with that "crazy" patient? Why indeed? Maybe we don't ask ourselves why often enough. With small donations of your time, you just might remember why you do what you do.

You don't have to pay membership dues to volunteer at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, but I certainly hope you will take the first step back by becoming a member where you can see all the volunteering opportunities available in one location. Is it time for you to be a part of the future of medicine?

The alumni association is planning to serve as a liaison between the school and all physician volunteers, so stay tuned for more details on our website. This is your association so let's make things happen.