Spring 2016
New Leaders Come Forward

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Neurology chair, J. Ivan Lopez, M.D.

Stepping Up: Neurology chair, J. Ivan Lopez, M.D. Photo by Edgar Antonio Núñez.

Will Guide Departments Through Change as School Evolves

Story by Anne McMillin, APR

Taking another step toward improving the health and health care of Nevadans, the School of Medicine and Renown Health announced the appointment of J. Ivan Lopez, M.D., FAAN to a new joint leadership role of director of the Institute for Neurosciences at Renown Health and the chair of the school's new neurology department.

Previously, Lopez was the director of the Renown Stroke Center and professor of neurology and internal medicine at the School of Medicine. He has a long series of academic accomplishments including director of headache medicine fellowship, director of the vascular neurology training program and director of neurology clerkship at University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has an active clinical research program in studies related to acute stroke and prevention of secondary strokes.

"I am really excited by the affiliation between Renown Health and the School of Medicine," said Lopez.

"This partnership will only bring benefits to both institutions and to our community. The best hospitals are always teaching hospitals, and the community will benefit from the state-of-the-art medicine practiced at Renown."

Lopez's appointment to a dual leadership role highlights the successful academic and clinical partnership between Renown Health and the School of Medicine.

With the formation of a new academic department comes new opportunities for medical student and resident education as well as clinical research and new clinical care programs. This builds on the existing training and research activities at Renown Health and lays a foundation for a new third-year medical student clinical rotation in neurology.

David AuCoin, Ph.D., associate professor, has been appointed as the chair of the microbiology and immunology department, following the untimely death of Greg Pari, Ph.D., last summer.

AuCoin has nearly 16 years of experience in the study of viral and bacterial immunology and pathogenesis.

Currently, his research focuses on developing diagnostics and therapeutics for microbial infections. His laboratory has developed novel strategies to identify shed/secreted antigens or "biomarkers" in patients that may be targets for diagnosis. Following discovery of a biomarker, his laboratory generates monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) targeting these biomarkers. The mAbs are then used to construct point-of-care diagnostic assays that are useful in resource-poor settings.

His lab is funded through the NIH, Department of Homeland Security and multiple Department of Defense agencies. Projects include developing diagnostics for melioidosis, tularensis, aspergillosis, leptospirosis, Lyme disease and Ebola.

His academic interests led to the co-founding of DxDiscovery, a university startup focused on antibody-based diagnostics and therapeutics for infectious diseases.

He will continue the work of the department that has nearly 200 undergraduates in molecular microbiology and immunology in just its second year of existence.

John J. Fildes, M.D., FACS, has been named chair of the School of Medicine's surgery department, following the passing of William A. Zamboni, M.D.'84, in 2015.

A leader in the field of trauma surgery, Fildes has been with the department for 20 years and has served as vice chair for the last 14 years. He also serves as chief of the acute care surgery division.

Upon accepting the new position this winter, Fildes said his long-term plan is to complete a community needs assessment for surgery to identify and fill the gaps that currently exist in southern Nevada to better understand the underserved community.

"I want to create new training programs and surgical product lines that bring these services to southern Nevada, identify new responses to gaps in surgical care and then bring those surgical services to Las Vegas, so that this city is on par with other cities of similar population," he said.

Fildes established the first American Association for the Surgery of Trauma approved fellowship in acute care surgery in the U.S. at the school's Las Vegas campus in 2008 and continues to function as its program director. He is also the medical director and chair of the trauma and burns department at University Medical Center, where he also served as vice chief of staff for 1,200 physicians.

He has practiced in Las Vegas since 1996, receiving the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce's Achievement Award in 1998. He was named as Nevada's Distinguished Physician in 2006, received a certificate of appreciation from the White House Medical Unit in 1998 and named a University of Nevada, Reno Foundation Professor in 2012.

Also active on the national scene, Fildes has been a fellow of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) since 1990 where he has made significant contributions to the creation of the National Trauma Data Bank® and the Trauma Quality Improvement Project®. He was appointed national chair of the ACS Committee on Trauma from 2006 to 2010 and was promoted to medical director of trauma programs in the Division of Research and Optimal Patient Care at the ACS from 2010 to 2014.