Spring 2013
Faculty Focus

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Wade Gaal

Wade Gaal, M.D.'08, loves family medicine because of the interaction it offers with patients. Photo by Edgar Antonio Núñez.

Physician makes journey from Garden Isle to Silver State

By Matt Lush

There aren't many people who would want to leave the cascading waterfalls, jagged green cliffs and beautiful cerulean ocean of Kaua'i, Hawai'i behind, but Wade Gaal, M.D. '08, is one who did.

He's a University of Nevada School of Medicine family medicine faculty physician in Las Vegas, who left the Garden Isle to find a life in medicine.

"Growing up on an outer island, you don't understand what the world has to offer-all you care about is blue skies, big waves and white sand beaches," he said.

"Then you grow up, realize that being a beach bum is not too inspiring, and you start wanting more."

Drawn to the complexity of understanding the body and mind, Gaal strives to apply his knowledge to change lives.

"I chose to study medicine for a couple reasons," he said.

"Family medicine gives me a chance to interact with the patient. You can understand and find out so much more about a patient if they trust you and if you listen to them, and I absolutely love this aspect. And secondly, I have the ability to do and focus on what I find interesting-it constantly renews my interest."

Gaal graduated high school in Hawai'i and soon after moved to Las Vegas, where he graduated summa cum laude and earned undergraduate degrees in both chemistry and biochemistry from University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

He was one semester away from earning a master's degree in biochemistry when he was accepted at the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

"I have to say, I am very proud of graduating from the School of Medicine-I brag about it all the time," Gaal said. "I like the small classes with one-on-one teaching. My job allows me to work with students as a full-time job, and I feel it necessary to challenge students and to show them enthusiasm and excitement for all the things medicine has to offer."

Gaal practices family medicine at the School of Medicine's Fire Mesa clinic and sees patients and students at the UNLV Student Health Clinic. Gaal also works in underserved rural areas, conducts high school sports physicals and precepts residents, sharing his passion for medicine with them.

"I'm always helping the residents focus on case-based evidence, but I also remind them to never forget how important it is to focus on the patient and not the disease," Gaal said.

"They understand that medicine is not about financial wealth-it's about finding something that keeps them engaged and excited to learn. That will ultimately make them better physicians."

Taking on dual roles as a physician at the Fire Mesa clinic and the Student Health Clinic is not an easy task, but Gaal wouldn't have it any other way.

"That is why I absolutely love what I do, there is so much diversity and variety on a daily basis," he said.
"It's about people. I'm given opportunities to hear about lives and make a difference in those lives," he said.

"I love the chance to continue improving the students coming from the University of Nevada School of Medicine, and most of all, I love the diversity. I feel like medicine is a privilege, an opportunity to hear and see very personal areas of a person's life."