Spring 2017
Moving Forward: Reno and Las Vegas

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Medical faculty and student working together

Medical students, residents and faculty offer prospective students hands-on health care experiences throughout the year in Las Vegas. Photos by Edgar Antonio Nunez and Office of Admissions and Student Affairs.

Teaching and learning opportunities evolve

Story By Anne McMillin, APR

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine has prioritized its mission of educating and mentoring students to become outstanding physicians throughout its nearly 50-year history and will continue to do so into the future.

The current phase of increased investment in northern Nevada is defined by the school’s continuing commitment to the outstanding education of its students, but with different, and in some cases new, resources and opportunities. Even with a renewed focus on northern Nevada, UNR Med will continue its presence in southern Nevada with selected learning opportunities for third- and fourth-year students.

“The map for the south comes in the form of a comprehensive transition agreement with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas describing in detail how our Las Vegas faculty and clinical practice will become the foundation of the new UNLV School of Medicine,” said Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D., School of Medicine dean.

“The value system that drove this successful negotiation most strongly is the protection of the careers of faculty and staff members, the quality of patient care being delivered, and the maintenance of full capacity for excellent teaching.”

The agreement addresses several critical components of this transition, effective July 1, 2017, including:

  • Offers of employment by UNLV to academic and administrative faculty members and key staff members.
  • Activation of procedures and deadlines for decisions made in December 2016 about the practice plan and clinical practice structure and associated clinical staff requirements.
  • Transition of sponsorship and accreditation of all GME (residency and fellowship) programs at University Medical Center to UNLV.
  • The opportunity for approximately 20 third-year UNR Med students to receive their third-year clerkship training in Las Vegas in 2017-18, so they may benefit from the same outstanding clinical teaching by UNR Med’s Las Vegas faculty members as their predecessors.
  • Clinical faculty appointments for faculty who continue to provide teaching to UNR Med third- and fourth-year students.
  • Funding mechanisms by which this transition will be managed financially in a smooth and fair way to all parties.

“I am confident that this will guide us in a way that leads to the best outcomes for our patients, students, residents, fellows, faculty, and staff members,” Schwenk said.

UNR Med in Las Vegas

UNR Med’s commitment to educational opportunities for our medical students in Las Vegas remains intact, with both sustained and growing relationships in southern Nevada.

Medical education

For the past few decades, all third-year students spent part of their year in Las Vegas doing required surgery and obstetrics-gynecology clerkships and about half the class would then stay in Las Vegas to complete other required clerkships. Typically, fourth-year students would stay where they spent most of their third year: either in Reno or Las Vegas.

“We still have students in Las Vegas doing clerkships and fourth-year electives and they need support and we are here for them,” said Cherie Singer, Ph.D. associate dean for admissions and student affairs. “We are continuing that commitment.”

The 2017-18 academic year will be the final year UNR Med offers third-year clerkship experiences in their current form in Las Vegas. Approximately 20 members of the third-year Class of 2019 will complete their clerkships in existing programs in Las Vegas, while the rest of the class will complete their clerkships in Reno at newly developed programs including surgery and OB/GYN. The Class of 2018, and subsequent fourth-year classes, will continue to have robust fourth-year elective choices in Las Vegas.

UNR Med, in partnership with MountainView Hospital, is exploring the opportunity of offering a new longitudinal clerkship for select third-year students in Las Vegas starting in July 2018.

“The academic affairs executive committee is working out the details in conjunction with MountainView to build an integrated clinical experience so that students are continuously learning across all disciplines,” said Timothy K. Baker, M.D.’04, associate dean for medical education.

UNR Med’s commitment to educational opportunities for medical students in Las Vegas remains intact, with both sustained and growing relationships in southern Nevada.

Admissions & recruiting

While the medical education aspect of UNR Med in Las Vegas transitions, the admissions and recruiting efforts will continue at high levels so that outstanding students in southern Nevada may be recruited and matriculated.

“We are very committed to a high level of activity in outreach and recruitment in Las Vegas,” said Singer. The admissions and recruitment efforts will be fully staffed by Ashley Sylvester, director of educational outreach and Melinda Thrasher, coordinator for educational outreach, and supported by administrative staff.

“We are keeping our pipeline programs and entering a stronger partnership with the Area Health Education Center,” Singer said, adding that by working closely with the Office of Medical Education, current UNR Med students will be a great asset in recruiting new applicants.

Recruitment efforts will focus on the strengths of UNR Med, as identified through the strategic planning process, to differentiate what makes Nevada’s first medical school unique: small class sizes with accessible instructors, excellence in basic science and research, a focus on early clinical experiences and its best-of-class facilities such as the anatomy lab.

The Office of Academic Affairs, including the Office for Medical Education, the Office for Admissions and Student Affairs, the Learning and Wellness Resource Center, financial aid and learning and advising functions will remain in their current building at 1701 West Charleston Boulevard in Las Vegas, although they will be moving to the sixth floor this summer.

UNR Med in Reno

Clerkships in internal medicine, family medicine, psychiatry and pediatrics have been an integral part of the core clinical experience in Reno for decades, and will continue to play a critical role in the future.

Clerkships created

Through new partnerships developed in northern Nevada over the past year, UNR Med has created surgery and OB/GYN clerkships in Reno. As a result, those third-year students who wish to spend their entire third year in Reno completing clerkships may do so, according to Baker.

The northern Nevada surgery clerkship began in January 2016 as a pilot and proved so successful, the OB/GYN clerkship was added a month later. Both have proved to be valuable learning experiences for students, Baker said. The surgery and OB/GYN clerkships are community-based with local physicians and hospital partners, including Renown Health, having lead roles in their development and execution.

“Clerkships in internal medicine, family medicine, psychiatry and pediatrics have been an integral part of the core clinical experience in Reno for decades, and will continue to play a critical role in the future,” Baker said.

Curricular reform is underway for third-year clerkships to make room for additional learning experiences.

“We are reducing the surgery and internal medicine clerkships from 12 weeks in length to eight weeks in both Reno and Las Vegas to make time for a new neurology clerkship and selective offerings,” Baker said.

Selective offerings will provide career exploration opportunities for third-year students.

“They will be able to go down a path they chart themselves to make earlier career choices and those will mirror their fourth-year elective choices, such as dermatology, pathology and surgical specialties,” Baker explained.

To support the growth of medical education in northern Nevada, state funding that supported medical student teaching in Las Vegas is being transferred to Reno to facilitate the development of the same outstanding clinical teaching, clinical departments and faculty roles that UNR Med students have always enjoyed, according to Schwenk.

New Reno departments developing

While the new Reno-based surgery and OB/GYN clerkships reside within the Office of Medical Education, efforts are simultaneously in progress to develop full clinical departments in surgery, obstetrics and gynecology and emergency medicine.

“The Nevada System of Higher Education approved these three new academic and clinical departments in service of medical education and in conjunction with our community partners.” said Melissa Piasecki, M.D., executive associate dean for UNR Med. “It’s all about opportunities: for new programs and new departments.”

To create the new academic department of OB/GYN, Piasecki said the medical school assembled a subcommittee of medical students from the OB/GYN student interest group, practicing obstetricians and gynecologists, many of whom have been supporting UNR Med’s teaching activities for many years; and local hospital partners.

Alumna Neda Etezadi-Amoli, M.D.’02, was recently named interim OB/GYN chair by the school.

“We are enthused and gratified with this high level of engagement from our partners who have always been there for our students. They are showing tremendous commitment to new levels of learning and teaching,” Piasecki said.

Using a slightly different process, UNR Med also will develop new departments of surgery and emergency medicine in Reno.

Piasecki added that with the development of new academic departments in Reno, there will be many more opportunities for collaboration with UNR Med’s basic science departments to establish translational clinical research that addresses the healthcare needs of Nevadans.

In addition, these new academic departments will collaborate with the Office of Statewide Initiatives to further address the workforce development needs of northern and rural Nevada.