Issue 53 - July 12, 2016
Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson

Friends and Colleagues,    

I'm often asked what it takes to start a brand new medical school. The answer: experience, enthusiasm, focus and a lot of community input to ensure the school fulfills the needs of the community. 
Over the course of my career I've been a medical student, faculty and Dean at six different medical schools. I have seen many different curricula and talked to hundreds of faculty and students about what works and what doesn't work. I came to UNLV with a lot of background knowledge, and I recruited faculty members who had years of experience in all aspects of medical education, including academic affairs, admissions, curriculum design, and more.
Just as important was the six months I spent in the community when I first arrived in Las Vegas. I met with local residents, community leaders, physicians, health care professionals, legislators, hospitals, etc. to learn about the health care challenges, needs, and priorities of the community. I visited people at their offices so I saw many physicians' practices, community agencies, governmental sites, hospitals, and educational facilities. During this time I discovered a lot about Southern Nevada's health care landscape. From these interactions I found that the biggest need was for more physicians of all types.
I then used the following questions as my guidepost in thinking about the school: "What does a doctor need to know if she/he is going to be practicing medicine for the next 50 years?" The subsidiary questions I asked, "what needs to be taught, how is it most effectively taught, and how will we know if we've been successful?" Also how can we select students who will become the compassionate and caring doctor that you might want for your own personal physician?
Building the curriculum
I knew our curriculum had to prepare students to be excellent diagnosticians and resourceful problem solvers. The science of medicine advances quickly. Unless physicians keep up with the medical literature, medicine is unrecognizable to a doctor who went to medical school 50 years ago. All the drugs I learned about while in medical school are obsolete today -- except aspirin.
Our goal was to graduate medical students who would have these qualities:
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Exceptional ability to take a history and complete a physical examination
  • Ability to work with and value the health care team
  • Capable of finding the most current and best information in medical literature while treating patients
  • Curious and highly skilled using the most advanced technology
  • Deep understanding of community needs and the desire to help solve them 
  • Strong moral and ethical compass
To achieve these teaching goals we developed a curriculum that would produce well-rounded, high skilled, and culturally competent physicians. Here are some of the educational elements:
Emergency Medical Technicians
(EMT's): Students will begin their medical school experience by becoming certified as EMTs. They will learn how to work in teams, evaluate patients quickly, and administer treatments while gaining valuable insights into our community's culture and health care needs.

Stephen Dahlem, MD PBL
Problem-based curriculum : During the first phase of the curriculum, students will focus on biomedicine and basic sciences working in small groups to solve medical cases based on real patients. They will learn how to use today's research technologies and their doctoring skills to decipher a patient's symptoms and develop treatment plans. Faculty will work with the students, but instead of teaching the content, they will guide the students by ensuring students ask each other the right questions and encouraging them to probe deeper into the science. Read more .

: Students will learn how to take a patient history and complete a physical examination. During this phase students will learn excellent communication skills and how to have conversations with patients on difficult subjects by practicing on standardized patients, actors who have been trained to present a disease or problem to medical students. This allows students to practice their communication skills before they begin to see "real" patients. Read more.

State of the art learning
: Students will learn anatomy using virtual anatomy instead of gross anatomy dissection. Virtual anatomy teaches by using images as they are seen in patient x-rays, CT scans and MRI's. Virtual anatomy also will give students an appreciation for new technologies and how to use them. Students also will learn how to use hand-held ultrasound devices that are becoming more common in outpatient practices.
Longitudinal integrated clerkship: Students will have a full year of outpatient, integrated clerkships. They will experience firsthand the specialties of family medicine, internal medicine, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery in a medical-home practice model with faculty and residents. Students will get to know their patients and community over time and develop important relationships with physicians, nurses, and other members of the health care team. 
Community outreachStudents will learn about the social determinants of health and disease, and how local community agencies address these as part of the Nevada Community Service curriculum. Students will have the opportunity to volunteer at a community agency or program of their choice for a few hours each month, and by doing so, get directly involved with the local community and the challenges it faces . Read more.
I can't wait to meet our charter class of students and begin their education. It's going to be an exciting milestone for me personally and for the entire community. 

Best wishes,
Community Advisory Board Spotlight
Meet Dr. Brian Iriye, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Subspecialist and Managing Partner of the High Risk Pregnancy Center. Dr. Iriye serves as a distinguished national leader in practice management, health care models, and clinical care covering the spectrum of obstetric care delivery, including value-based care, quality care implementation, obstetric hospitalist care, and payment and contracting. As a supporter of the medical school, he says, "Southern Nevada has waited a long time for the focused health care improvements a local premier medical school can provide. Our physicians aspire to be part of the long-term solution with the UNLV School of Medicine that will make our town a better place."

Here is a complete l ist of the UNLV School of Medicine Community Advisory Board members.
Mark Guadagnoli, PhD, director of learning and performance (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services)
More Than Medical Knowledge
By Ed Ort

A unique aspect of UNLV School of Medicine's curriculum gets students to focus on personal growth and professional enrichment. 

Interspersed through the curriculum are eight weeklong "intersessions" for academic and personal enrichment. Each intersession will be organized around a theme and address topics such as bioethics, entrepreneurship, history of medicine, hospitality, humanism, global health, law, and nutrition.
Dr. Mark Guadagnoli, the School of Medicine's director of learning and performance, says, "The programs are designed as a celebration of personal and professional growth. The intention is to help our students become well-rounded, caring, and competent physicians who embrace the idea of constant improvement in all they do."  Read more .  
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