Issue 116 - October 24th, 2017
Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson


Neil Haycocks, MD, PhD, director of biomedical science integration and associate professor-in-residence of pathology and laboratory medicine, has a passion for solving puzzles.  Before coming to the UNLV School of Medicine, Dr. Neil Haycocks played a large role planning and implementing the medical school at Quinnipiac University, helping with the design of its curriculum, accreditation and admissions.

Neil Haycocks, Director of Biomedical Science Integration UNLV School of Medicine. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services)

A Virginia native, Dr. Haycocks attended Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He completed his PhD in experimental pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. He earned his medical degree at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, and completed his residency training in the department of pathology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Dr. Haycocks also completed a fellowship in hematopathology at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. He is certified by the American Board of Pathology in anatomic pathology, clinical pathology and hematology.
At UNLV, Dr. Haycocks works with faculty across different disciplines and provides students with a comprehensive view of the human organ system through engaging teaching sessions.
How are classes going?    Remarkably well, thanks largely to the level of engagement by the students. They show up, they put in the time to get the work done, and they ask a lot of great questions. Starting medical school is an adjustment no matter where you are. Adding on the newness of the program can only enhance the natural level of anxiety. Fortunately, as the Dean of Admissions keeps saying, we picked the right class. The students have embraced their roles as pioneers and already demonstrated their resilience. As we progress and everyone gets into more of a groove I believe things will only continue to improve.
What's special about your classes and curriculum?   From a conceptual standpoint, designing my own classes is fairly straightforward. I basically create the things that I wish I had when I was a student. The hard work comes up front, when I'm trying to figure out how to whittle a potentially difficult subject down to the key issues. My father was an engineering professor for 33 years, and said his only real skill in the classroom was a knack for distilling complex material into something that his students could wrap their heads around. It's an approach I have taken to heart.  I also spend a lot of time trying to remember the perspective of the novice. Having expertise in a subject can be a double-edged sword, as you can forget what it's like to be the learner. I spend a fair amount of time reflecting on the difficulties I experienced with material. In fact, I think it has turned out to be an advantage that I was definitely not one of those people in medical school who seemed to grasp every concept with ease.
What are some of the challenges? Part of our job is to figure out how to take faculty experts who, like me, were educated in lecture heavy models and shift them toward a different paradigm. We are extremely fortunate to have clinical faculty who are very experienced at teaching medical students in the clinics and wards, which is an inherently active process. They are eager to get on board and bring those skills into the classroom.
Did the Oct 1st shooting incident have a dramatic effect on your students ability in the classroom or their thoughts about medicine? The morning after that horrific event was surreal for everyone. I have to commend our students for handling it as mature adults with jobs to do. On top of their regular work they ran a very successful blood drive and distributed innumerable thank you gifts to the local providers who gave so much care. I don't think we often acknowledge that learning is an essential job, especially for those who are joining a profession like medicine, but the fact is, they will be the ones manning the hospitals when tragedy, be it natural or man-made, strikes again in the future. To that end they are doing what they need to do now in order to become those competent and highly skilled future physicians.
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