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Dr. Buddha Dawn -- to receive the 2019 Makoto Nagano Award for Distinguished Achievements in Cardiovascular Education. The International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences will honor Dr. Dawn during its Symposium on Cellular Therapy in Cardiovascular Medicine in Ankara, Turkey this fall.

Family medicine physicians -- Dr. David Winn, Dr. Justin Yeung and Dr. David Kuykendall were awarded 1st place at the Nevada Academy of Family Physicians (NAFP) for their research poster presentation.
Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson
 Issue 206 - August 6, 2019
Friends & Colleagues, 

Times, they do change. In 1949, only 5.5 percent of entering medical school students were women, with 6 percent of the physician workforce comprised of women. By 1974, 22.4 percent of medical school entrants were women, and by 1990, 17 percent of working physicians were women. In 2017, when the Association of American Medical Colleges reported that the number of women enrolled in medical schools exceeded the number of men for the first time, it turned out that the UNLV School of Medicine had followed the pattern with 31 women and 29 men its inaugural class. When you consider all three of our classes, it’s an even split between men and women. Nearly 40 percent of working physicians are now women, with that number expected to increase quickly as physicians retire. Over the years, many women, including myself, have worked to ensure that the number of women and minorities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) increase. One member of our new class of students, Alexis Hilts, has used her public forum as Miss Nevada 2018 and as a contestant in the 2018 Miss America contest to argue for far more diversity in all fields of STEM. In today’s newsletter, we feature Alexis, who published research work regarding STEM in the journal Science Education.
Barbara signature, first name only

First Year Medical Student Moves From Pageants to Patients

First year UNLV School of Medicine student Alexis Hilts performs a classical music piece by composer Frank Lizt in the talent competition at Miss America 2018.
As a little girl, Alexis Hilts, one of the incoming students in the UNLV School of Medicine’s third class, often asked her father about a plaque on the wall of their home that depicted a lake in rural Canada. Engraved on the artwork were the words, “Hilts Lake.”

The body of water was named after her grandfather, who had been a physician in a small Canadian town. “I never had the opportunity to know my grandfather because he passed away when my father was two, but as a child I would picture Dr. Hilts as a superhero, working long nights saving children,” the first year student wrote in her personal statement that was part of the medical school’s admission process. “From a young age I’ve wanted to be like my grandfather, a physician with a profound impact on the community.” 

Born and raised in Las Vegas, the 24-year-old summa cum laude graduate of the UNLV Honors College is largely known through the media as the young woman who won the 2018 Miss Nevada competition that sent her as the state’s representative to the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City.

Her love for pageants -- through them she’s won more than $30,000 in scholarships -- came from a movie starring Sandra Bullock she saw as a young girl, “Miss Congeniality.”
And also from attending the Miss America pageant that was held in Las Vegas when she was 10-years-old.
“I asked my mother if she thought I could be in the Miss America pageant one day and she said I could if I really practiced the piano so I could be in the talent competition,” she recalled.

She says the talent competition in pageants helped fuel her passion for the piano while the interview portions helped her develop her interview and speaking skills.

Before becoming Miss Nevada with the chance of being crowned Miss America, she was Miss UNLV, Miss Las Vegas and Miss Clark County -- all the wins duly noted in the newspaper.

With an abbreviated media background devoted only to her winning pageants, one could easily envision her living a life generally devoid of any gritty personal challenges, where the only concerns she would have had were with makeup or ensuring that her hair was just
so, where she was always about “me” and no one else. As so often happens, however, a presumption made off of scant information is well off the mark. 

She was 13 when her family life dramatically changed. Her parents’ tumultuous divorce left her caring for her 5-year-old sister. She fed her, took her to school, served as a parental figure.

“With our world in turmoil, I fought to keep a sense of consistency for the two of us,” she said. “Handling responsibilities beyond what was normal for my age played an integral part in my development. During this time, I was without parental guidance and relied on intrinsic motivation to achieve my goals. I realized that, like me, there were other students navigating the education system without engaged role models. In this discovery, I found an opportunity to serve others as I had done for my sister.”
"I want all young people to see what they can accomplish, no matter their background.” -- Alexis Hilts
Over the next decade -- she also won the Miss Nevada Outstanding Teen competition -- the teenager who found joy in studying science realized that the number of women and minorities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) were depressingly low. 

Nationwide studies showed that women and racial minorities other than Asians frequently faced discrimination in science and technology fields.

Engineering occupations have the lowest share of women at 14 percent. Women comprise only a quarter of workers in computer occupations.

Only 7 percent of black adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher are in the STEM workforce. College educated Hispanics are just 6 percent of STEM workers.

After four years of researching the disparity of minority representation in STEM, the young woman who would earn bachelor’s degrees in biology and political science with a minor in neuroscience created the “More than a Princess” program to encourage students to pursue careers in STEM. She went into area schools to introduce students to figures in the sciences that they may not have heard about. 

One of those individuals was Marie Daly, the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States. Born in New York City in 1921, Dr. Daly went on to do groundbreaking work on the causes of heart attacks, helping disclose the relationship between high cholesterol and clogged arteries. That work opened up a better understanding of how foods and diet can affect the health of the heart and the circulatory system. 

“I want all young people to see what they can accomplish, no matter their background,” said Hilts, who has tutored middle and high school students for five years in geometry, physics, biology, algebra, trigonometry and Latin.

Hilts has come to realize that everyone is facing their own battles in life.

“My grandfather battled cancer...and I fought for stability and normalcy for my sister and myself,” Hilts wrote in her personal statement. “These battles, that at one point seemed impossible, have shown me strength and motivated me to help others facing their own internal battles, especially children who need advocates. My childhood wasn’t perfect, but it shaped me into a person able to handle challenges and the desire to care for others.”   
Alexis flashes a big smile as Miss Nevada 2018.
Alexis studying her way to become a summa cum laude graduate of UNLV Honors College.
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1 million

Since 1961, more than 1 million men, women and children ranging in age from nine days to 100+ years have had their sight restored through a corneal transplant.

All previous issues of  Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson , are available on our website.
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