School of Medicine celebrates 40th anniversary

School of Medicine celebrates 40th anniversary

The University of Nevada School of Medicine observes its 40th anniversary on March 25, 2009 celebrating four decades of providing excellence and leadership in health care education, research and clinical care to Nevadans.

Established in 1969 by the Nevada State Legislature as a community-based medical school with a mission of educating primary care physicians for rural Nevada, the School of Medicine has since doubled its class size to 62 per year, established renowned research facilities, recruited some of the top minds to its faculty and student ranks and provided clinical care throughout the rural and urban areas of the state.

“I consider it an honor to serve as dean of this institution. As we celebrate 40 years of serving the health care needs of the state, the School has expanded into a state-wide educational and scholarly enterprise,” said Ole J. Thienhaus, M.D., MBA. “The School of Medicine continues to be committed to maintaining and growing an academic center in which we educate and train tomorrow’s physicians for Nevada and the Nation.”

A few highlights of the School’s 40-year history include:


  • Selected basic science departments within the University of Nevada School of Medicine rank in the top tenth-percentile in per capita funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • School of Medicine professors are nationally and internationally recognized and the School is the home to the majority of NIH-funded biomedical research in Nevada.
  • The University of Nevada School of Medicine has graduated more than 2,100 students since its inception; nearly 1,500 of those earned medical degrees. Initially started as a two-year school, the first students to receive all four years of undergraduate medical education in Nevada were granted degrees in 1981.
  • Graduating students consistently match with top residency training programs across the country.
  • According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), 62 percent of physicians who complete residency training in Nevada stay here to practice, compared with a national average of 47.6 percent. Nevada ranks third in the nation for the number of physicians who stay in state to practice once residency training is completed.

Clinical practice:

  • University Health System, the School of Medicine’s statewide multispecialty physician practice, provides approximately $10 million in uncompensated care to uninsured or underinsured patients each year. University Health System physicians see more than 120,000 clinic patients and nearly 35,000 hospital patients annually. Obstetricians and midwives deliver more than 5,500 babies throughout the state each year.
  • University of Nevada School of Medicine faculty physicians staff and provide medical directorship of the state’s only Level 1 trauma center at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

To honor its anniversary, the medical school relaunched Synapse, the magazine of the University of Nevada School of Medicine on a bi-annual basis. This magazine, which has the purpose of carrying the message of the School’s work to a broad audience, was last published 10 years ago.

In addition, the School of Medicine’s 40th anniversary will be celebrated in Reno at the University of Nevada’s annual foundation banquet in September. Atul Gawande, M.D., associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, acclaimed author, McArthur “genius” award winner and leader of an international effort sponsored by the World Health Organization to improve surgical outcomes, is the scheduled guest speaker for that event.

As the School looks ahead to its fifth decade, plans are well underway to continue to grow and meet the health care needs of Nevadans.

Construction is currently underway in Reno on the Center for Molecular Medicine, a state-of-the-art purpose built facility to house portions of several basic science departments and serve as the headquarters for the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease. The health science building, a collaboration between the School of Medicine and the Orvis School of Nursing, will form a new hub of medical and nursing student training in Reno. Two construction projects are moving the School toward dedicated health sciences space in Las Vegas with the creation of the advanced clinical training and research center and the repurposing of existing space for a modern simulation center.

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