Dr. Thomas Vida -- he holds a doctorate in biochemistry -- remembers how as a young boy he realized that a microscope, its magnification wondrous, made him think of the world in a different way.
“One aspect of viewing things with a microscope is the realization that they always existed but just could not be seen,” says Vida, a new member of the UNLV School of Medicine faculty who’ll soon be teaching basic sciences to medical students in their first two years of medical school. “This idea made me realize further that an entire unseen new world existed and has been around much longer than we humans.”
Dr. Vida, a father of two daughters who says “graphic work stories” told at the dinner table by his registered nurse mother “indirectly influenced my interest in science,” isn't the only new assistant professor teaching basic science at the school of medicine.
Dr. Kanee Lynn Lerwill, a physician who became fascinated by the power of medicine as a little girl when she accompanied her parents on frequent trips to the doctor for chronic health problems, recently came to Nevada from Florida. There, she was an assistant professor with the Academy for Teaching and Learning Faculty at Ross University School of Medicine.
“I love watching my students grow in their studies from when they first start medical school to the point they are off to residency,” says Dr. Lerwill, the mother of two young children. “It’s exciting to be a part of my students’ journey and to help them reach their goals.”
Early in their medical school careers, students take courses in basic science -- the biological underpinnings of the human body, disease, and associated therapies -- that include anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology and pharmacology. Basic science educators adjust their content to mesh appropriately with its clinical application.
Dr. Vida, a Detroit native who has been a visiting scientist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York -- he thought briefly of becoming a physician but decided on a research/teaching career in science -- spent a large part of his career as an assistant professor at either the University of Texas at Houston Health Science Center or the University of Houston.
“I find it a joy to work with, and sometimes collaborate with, students,” he says. A graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, he received his doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He did six years of postdoctoral work in cell biology at the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine.
A record collector who owns a vinyl record collection worth an estimated $25,000 -- it is heavy on jazz greats such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane -- Dr. Vida counts some of the most intriguing days of his professional career as times when he’d lose track of time and spend 13 hours in a dark room researching with a fluorescent microscope. Research work he’s published in the Journal of Cell Biology is frequently cited. He says it’s important that scientists and physicians work together.
“Physicians and scientists are evidence-based in their viewpoints,” he says. “This is a common ground that unites them. Scientists, especially life scientists, should not stray from clinically relevant topics. Likewise physicians need to be rooted in the basic science underneath disease states. Strong and open communication between them will accelerate discovery and advancements.”