Nevada continues to face a physician shortage ranking No. 45 in the United States for active physicians per 100,000 population and No. 48 for primary care physicians per 100,000 population according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) 2019 Nevada Physician Workforce Profile.
A new clinical affiliation between the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) and Renown Health addresses the provider gap and increases access to care by developing new and innovative ways to train and retain the next generation of Nevada’s health care professionals.
A cornerstone of the affiliation is the Renown Health Scholarship, which was established by Renown to support UNR Med medical students and physician assistant students in their pursuit of a career in health care. The goal of the scholarship is to award $350,000 annually based on need and merit. In 2021-2022, the scholarship will be awarded to 20 first-year and third-year medical students, each receiving $15,000 for a total of $300,000; and five second-year physician assistant studies program students, each receiving $10,000 for a total of $50,000.
“Students are at the core of what we do as a School of Medicine, and this incredibly generous scholarship is the best way possible for Renown Health to celebrate our partnership and support our students,” says Melissa Piasecki, acting dean of UNR Med, a role that includes Chief Academic Officer at Renown Health. “We thank Renown Health for this gift that will benefit so many of UNR Med students on their journeys to becoming great doctors and physician assistants.
“We are extremely proud to establish the Renown Health Scholarship with UNR Med providing annual support to students pursuing careers in health care,” says Anthony D. Slonim, MD, DrPH, President & CEO, Renown Health.” As Nevada’s first integrated health care system, UNR Med and Renown are advancing health and health care through world-class medical education, clinical research and patient care for our community, our state and our nation, and supporting this first class of scholarship recipients is an important step in ensuring quality access to care for northern Nevada and the state in the future.”
Sergio Trejo, Jr., MPH, is a third-year medical student who grew up in Las Vegas and served as a Spanish interpreter at a community health center prior to earning his Master of Public Health degree from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2019, which instilled in him his desire to pursue a career as a primary care physician in pediatrics.
“I’m interested in a career in pediatrics since I can combine my knowledge of medicine and public health to not only influence the health of children, but also the entire family, as they are ones that ultimately dictate their child’s health outcomes,” Trejo says. “This scholarship means the ability to fund my dream of helping alleviate health disparities in underserved communities, especially those who endure language barriers. It will help reduce the stress of funding resources that will help me be successful in my clerkships and beyond.”
As a second-year Physician Assistant Studies Program student at UNR Med, Benjamin “Benjie” Portillo-Dominguez’s path to becoming a physician assistant started at a young age when he attended his parents' doctors' appointments so that he could interpret. He recalls his family’s excitement when a health care provider could speak Spanish. “It made a world of difference because it maximized communication and helped them receive the care they needed. This helped develop in me a strong desire to pursue a career in health care, says Portillo-Dominguez, who graduated from the University with a bachelor of science degree in community health sciences in 2018. “In less than a year I will become a Physician Assistant. This has been a long-time goal of mine, but as a first-generation college graduate, this has been the dream of my parents since I was born.”
“Receiving this scholarship benefits me in my training because it allows me more time to focus on my studies and opens up opportunities to learn from experienced providers. Becoming the best provider I can be, allows me to strengthen this community that I was born and raised in. Having this unique perspective and being in this program allows me to be a solution to the lack of primary care providers in this area, especially with those who speak Spanish.”
The UNR Med student recipients of the 2021 Renown Health Scholarship were based on merit and need. They include:
- First-year medical students Eunice Aiyuk, Dakota Johnson, Aisha Masud, Isabella Rodriguez and Raquel Wescott
- Third-year medical students Davison Beenfeldt, Sara Bertram, Kaileigh Bingham, Curtis Duncan, Brooke Gantman, Alex Harper, Erin Kelley, Regina Kurapova, Ngantu Le, Otto Maurer, Keanu McMurray, Eric Nguyen, Hao To, Sean Torres and Sergio Trejo
- Second-year physician assistant studies program students Ali-Marie Lostra, Margaret (Meg) Patterson, Benjamin (Benjie) Portillo-Dominguez, Preston Reugebrink and Ryan Swanson
The UNR Med/Renown Health affiliation is between a 159-year old health care provider, the state's original land grant university and the state's oldest medical school. Over the last five decades, UNR Med has educated more than 4,000 physicians with over 30% percent practicing in Nevada, increasing access to care for Nevadans across the state. Equally rooted in the community, Renown's long legacy of service started in 1862 as a county hospital, Washoe Medical Center. Now, Renown Health, a charitable, not-for-profit organization, serves the community by providing care through hospitals, outpatient medical offices, institutes and a health insurance plan, Hometown Health.