Spring 2016
School Hires Director for Proposed Physician Assistant Program

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Brian Lauf examines a patient's shoulder

Founding Director: Brian Lauf, PA-C, examines a patient's shoulder at the Family Medicine Clinic in Reno. Photo by Edgar Antonio Núñez.

Lauf to Guide New Training Program Next Year

Story by Anne McMillin, APR

As the northern Nevada community prepares for significant population growth with the addition of companies like Tesla, Jet.com and Switch, the University of Nevada School of Medicine and Renown Health are continuously working together to combat the shortage of health care providers in our region.

The latest effort is proposed for 2017 with the anticipated start of a new Master of Physician Assistant program. Renown Health will be an integral partner in this new and exciting endeavor—committing $500,000 to help kick-start the program as well as providing the expertise of Renown providers and training sites for future Physician Assistants.

Physician assistants, also known as PAs, work on medical teams under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. They are trained to examine, diagnose and treat patients in primary care, family medicine and specialty practices. Everyday responsibilities include patient appointments, performing physical exams, prescribing medication and ordering tests, assisting with surgeries and counseling patients on treatment plans.

This new program is key to the School of Medicine and Renown's joint focus on training tomorrow's health providers and expanding the region's workforce. Before this collaboration, the closest PA program was located in Sacramento, Calif. Statistics show medical professionals tend to stay and practice within the communities where they train, which means this collaborative program will help increase the overall number of providers in our region.

The School of Medicine already has hired Brian Lauf, PA-C, as the founding director of the proposed Physician Assistant Program.

Lauf comes to the School of Medicine most recently from Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center, where he served as a PA for the past eight years. He has been practicing in northern Nevada since 1997.

Lauf said he is pleased that, once finalized, the PA program will contribute to the mission of the School of Medicine and its community partners to expand access to health care for all Nevadans.

"The program will focus on training PAs wishing to return to their underserved or rural communities to deliver high quality team-based health care. Establishing a PA program in Reno is something I have advocated for since the mid-1990s; for this reason, being selected to lead this initiative is a tremendous honor," Lauf said.

Lauf holds a Master of Physician Assistant studies in family medicine from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and a Bachelor of Science in Physician Assistant studies from Oregon Health Sciences University. He also has emergency medical technician training from the U.S. Air Force.

Being developed to become a signature academic program of the School of Medicine, the new PA program will offer a quality education experience that will boost students' prospects for career opportunities upon graduation.

Since most physician assistants will have extensive health care hours prior to admission, and without having to complete a residency program after their education, they can immediately begin working in the health care industry.

"Hiring Brian Lauf as the founding program director for PA studies is the biggest step yet in bringing the program to life. Brian is the complete package with experience in clinical practice in Reno and rural Nevada and administrative and leadership skills. We could not be more excited to have Brian lead the team that will create an exemplary program at the School of Medicine," said Evan Klass, M.D., associate dean of the Office of Statewide Initiatives, under which the PA program resides at the medical school.

At present time, the School of Medicine is actively seeking faculty and staff members for the PA Program and developing a program curriculum to be submitted to the Board of Regents, the University of Nevada, Reno and the national Physician Assistant accreditation organization for approval later this year.

Upon approval of the program, the first PA class is anticipated to matriculate in June 2017 and graduate two years later, as the School of Medicine celebrates its 50th anniversary of serving Nevadans.

The PA master's degree program at the School of Medicine is a full-time, 27-month academic professional degree program that includes academic courses, clinical skills courses and supervised clinical practice. The program will take place at the University of Nevada, Reno Redfield campus in south Reno.

Upon successful completion of this program (anticipated graduation of the first class in fall of 2019), 24 new graduates will be prepared to enter the health care workforce directly and make an immediate impact on access to health care for Nevadans.