Spring 2015
Faculty Focus

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Darryl Patterson

Making a point

Darryl Patterson, M.D., at a faculty development workshop this past winter. Photo by Anne McMillin, APR.

Using his teaching philosophy, internist returns to patient care

Story by Anne McMillin, APR

Moved by a desire to return to clinical care, Darryl Patterson, M.D., came to the University of Nevada School of Medicine last year and has settled in as associate professor in the Reno internal medicine department where he sees patients on a daily basis.

“I want to prove high quality medicine and patients’ quality of live and eventually participate in leadership opportunities, including community ventures,” Patterson said of his move from Michigan State University’s College of Medicine where he previously served as faculty and helped design courses rooted in evidence-based medicine.

He also served as director of medical education for 18 residency and fellowship programs while at Michigan State where he learned about hospital operations, quality improvement initiatives and management skills; all of which he considers very useful in practice and interactions with both patients and students.

Yet a few years after being more heavily involved in teaching, Patterson discovered he missed his patients.

“My patients still cared and called me,” he explained, adding that ultimately he wanted to provide clinical care for patients, clinical education for students while developing his own administrative leadership skills.

He discovered the ideal professional path for him was a mix of patient care and teaching opportunities, something he found at Nevada.

“I see patients five days a week with students and am the Block 9 co-director for second-year students,” he said. Block 9 encompasses the cardiovascular, pulmonary and genitourinary systems of the body.

Patterson said the “light bulb” moments students have when they suddenly grasp a concept are what motivate him as he seeks to get them to realize their knowledge deficits and then find answers to fill them using self-directed learning.

He believes the most important skill for physicians is critical thinking.

“In critical thinking, the physician collects data in the form of interviewing, physical exam, diagnostic studies and practice guidelines. He or she then subjects it to a disciplined process of application, analysis or synthesis ultimately creating an assessment. Critical thinking, an essential skill of physicians, permeates all aspects of medical education from traditional lecture to bedside rounding,” he explained.

He further explains his teaching philosophy by saying that teaching pre-clinical content to learners requires preparation but is not overly difficult. That changes as students take on the process of learning clinical medicine.

“Teaching clinical medicine to students is a challenge. Unfamiliar instructional methods such as bedside rounding, cooperative efforts and self-directed learning are introduced at this level and learners are expected to think differently,” he said, citing that in pre-clinical courses, information is organized into tidy chunks that are separate and stand-alone. Students rarely encounters scenarios in which these items blend.

“In clinical medicine, however, the student is required to consider multiple diagnoses, therapies and risks in just one patient. Students must transition from simple cognitive tasks such as recall and comprehension to the expected complex thought processes such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation.”

Patterson was selected for the faculty mentoring program offered by the School of Medicine and has selected internal medicine resident education in the evaluation and management of chronic pain as his research topic.

He earned his medical degree from Wayne State University and completed his residency training at Emory University.

He followed residency with a teaching fellowship at Michigan State before going into private practice.