Spring 2013
Continuing a legacy

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Garrett Norton stands in hospital

Garrett Norton, Class of 2013, is among the current William N. Pennington Foundation's scholarship recipients at the School of Medicine. Photo by Edgar Antonio Núñez.

Foundation increases its scholarship support

By Stefanie Scoppettone

Most alumni, faculty and staff of the University of Nevada School of Medicine recognize the William N. Pennington name through two watershed buildings on the Reno campus.

Built 12 years apart to expand the teaching capacity and to modernize teaching technologies for the School of Medicine, these buildings have transformed the school and given it the best laboratory and didactic teaching facilities anywhere in the country for the first two years of medical school.

The construction of the 72,000-square foot Pennington Medical Education Building in 2000 provided state-of-the-art medical classrooms, meeting rooms and a new library for the School of Medicine-in fact, the Savitt Library is also the Nevada State Medical Library, serving health care professionals throughout the region.

At the time of its construction the medical class size was 52 and Pennington Medical Education Building's main classrooms had seats for 98, space for almost double the class size and room to spread out for exams and other exercises. The classrooms were also technologically quite advanced, offering computer stations and microphones at each seat, with pictel teleconferencing capability for transmission of interactive classes to and from Las Vegas and Elko.

In 2011, the School of Medicine opened the 51,000-square foot William N. Pennington Health Sciences Building, expanding the primary medical classroom sizes to 200 seats and the medical laboratory, simulation and standardized patient facilities to some of the most advanced in the nation.

Of most interest to former students who have toured Pennington Health Sciences has been the state-of-the-art anatomy laboratory, with its hospital lighting, sound domes, dissection videos with coordinating radiological images, recording capabilities and the expansion of anatomy curriculum to specialized exercises for third and fourth year students.

This building also houses Orvis School of Nursing faculty offices, large and small group study rooms, multidisciplinary labs and conference rooms.

With the new teaching facility the medical school now has the capacity to increase the class size from the current 68 student cohort to 100 students per class over the next several years.

Without Mr. Pennington's support, neither building would have been possible. But beyond such improvements to its physical plant and its teaching quality and capacity, benefiting its students and faculty who support them, Mr. Pennington and the Pennington Foundation have also had an impact on other aspects of the school which might not be as well understood.

The William N. Pennington Foundation has given medical student scholarships for 10 years; so far 43 School of Medicine students have received its support.

Starting in 2002 with one recipient, the foundation has increased its giving to 12 students per year. These medical scholarships are of particular importance because they follow individual students from their second through their fourth years.

Last fall, the foundation made a major change to the program, increasing the scholarship fourfold per year per student. The intention is that the foundation's much larger annual contribution to medical scholarships will continue in the future.

Scholarship recipient Jonathan Brown, Class of 2014, said the foundation's generosity has eased the financial burden on his young family and allowed him to focus on his medical education.

"Balancing the work of a medical student with the responsibilities of being a father to three young boys has been both challenging and rewarding. I look forward to the day when I can follow the example of the Pennington Foundation and give something back to this community," he said.

Another medical school program that has received consistent Pennington support is the Speech Pathology and Audiology Department. This specialty program has been part of the School of Medicine since its founding, and in 1990 was the first of its departments to be assisted by the Pennington Foundation.

Speech Pathology and Audiology has received funding from the foundation for much needed equipment and to support its clinical programs, through which speech and hearing professionals are trained and more than 3,600 patients are seen every year in the on-campus clinic.

In the fall of 2012, the Pennington Foundation made a significant gift to Speech Pathology for new video endoscopy and stroboscopy equipment that will greatly improve the efficiency and specificity of its clinical testing, and thus its ability to evaluate and treat speech and hearing conditions.

William N. Pennington led a remarkable life, passing away at 88, one month before the Pennington Health Sciences Building opened. He was a gaming pioneer and philanthropist whose contributions to Nevada deepened over time.

The William N. Pennington Foundation is continuing and multiplying Mr. Pennington's legacy on health care in Nevada through its increasing support for Nevada's medical school.