The Magazine of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine


Summer 2020

About the Cover

Second-year family medicine resident Sam Dugan, M.D. ‘18, B.S. ‘14, provides insight into life on the front lines of COVID-19

Photo: Brin Reynolds



Weekly new cases alongside the cumulative number of deaths — snapshots of the impact of COVID-19 in Nevada. Source: Nevada Health Response

"We cannot do all the good that the world needs. But right now, the world needs all the good we can do."

- Jana Stanfield | Photo: Brin Reynolds

The financial impact of COVID-19 is being felt across our state, and the School of Medicine is no exception. Synapse will be taking a pause for the foreseeable future. If you’d like to receive Dr. Schwenk’s monthly newsletter, Inside Nevada Medicine, please contact us at

As health care professionals, we gather and act upon accurate information to inform our patients’ care. As scientists, we rely on empirical data to explore biomedical phenomena and their consequences. As students and teachers, we use all of this information to learn and grow. And as a community, we rely on shared stories to shape the narrative of our experience.

This issue of Synapse commemorates the efforts of our health care professionals, our scientists, our teachers, our students, our campus and our community to combat the coronavirus pandemic by chronicling the extraordinary first days, weeks and months of COVID-19 in the state of Nevada.

The medical, social, cultural and economic impact of the pandemic developed quickly, requiring us to respond equally fast, but with the flexibility to also pivot rapidly as information changed. What we decided on Monday was sometimes reversed by Thursday—and occasionally by Monday afternoon.

In order to fully capture the beginnings of this remarkable event, this issue documents snapshots in time, without making any attempts to rewrite history. We begin in late February with Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s plan for Nevada to “prepare, not panic” and continue through our first-ever virtual hooding ceremony in mid-May.

What transpired during the roughly 11 weeks in between challenged and changed us all.

Past global convulsions have brought extraordinary tragedy, loss and sadness. They have also spurred dramatic changes to every sector of human knowledge and endeavor—social, political, spiritual, economic, legal, scientific—and especially medical. The same will be true of the COVID-19 cataclysm.

As we continue to adapt to this extraordinary moment in history, we see these fundamental changes already happening. The pandemic has exposed racial, social, gender and economic inequities. Seemingly unrelated—but actually just another profound manifestation of these inequities—the pandemic has provided the platform for society to reflect, to study, and hopefully to act. We at UNR Med and University Health will meet this challenge and transform this pain into new approaches to improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans.

Tom Signature
Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D., Professor, Family and Community Medicine
Dean, School of Medicine | Vice President, Health Scie


When COVID-19 hit our communities, it required everyone to strike back—from health care professionals to students, from the front office to the resident bullpen, and everyone in between


A match made in cyberspace

Fourth-year UNR Med medical students learned today—Match Day—where they will spend their residencies, including in northern Nevada, throughout the state and across the nation.

Keeping Nevada seniors safe and connected

Nevada CAN, or the Nevada COVID-19 Aging Network Rapid Response Plan, came together rapidly between March 16—the first day many Nevada institutions began closing to reduce risk of exposure—and April 1, when the plan launched.


Partners in ICECAP Nevada to build resources in geriatrics care


Physician Support Line cares for caregivers

Physicians supporting physicians is at the core of a support line that launched on National Doctors’ Day, Monday, March 30.

UNR Med students bolster health care workforce

During the COVID-19 outbreak, UNR Med students took what they learned in the lecture halls and during clinical rotations to mobilize and support the health care workforce in northern Nevada.

Remembering Jessica

Jessica L. Younger Dickens 12.31.80 – 3.30.20

As a Rabbi, I’m Used to Officiating Funerals. But Not Like This.

Because of the virus, now we mourn our dead alone, or across a screen. This is not how it is supposed to be.

The mask

By Cheryl Hug English, M.D. Director, Student Health Center APRIL 27


University makers switch gears

University makerspaces and 3D printers begin developing PPE to support health care heroes


It’s a longer walk than usual, still cold outside, snow dancing through the night air. The straps of a backpack have replaced the usual leather bag. The cowboy boots that normally provide some rhythm are instead plastic contraptions that are easier to clean.


Nevada State Public Health Lab to begin limited antibody testing in coming weeks

I was Washoe County COVID patient No. 4

A friend of mine from the University knew I was recovering from COVID and asked me if I would be interested in being part of a study and donating plasma.



Sixty-three graduating UNR Med students gathered around their smartphones, TVs and laptops to mark the completion of medical school and the transition to residency training.


AMA’s First Black Woman President Speaks at First UNR Med Virtual Hooding



To the University of Nevada, Reno Class of 2020


The Pause

By Cheryl Hug English, M.D., Director, Student Health Center

Serving our community through the storm with a rainy day fund





Summer 2020

Managing Editor: Christy (Upchurch) Jerz ’97

Creative Director: Seema (Bhardwaj) Donahoe ’02 Contributing Editor: Annie Flanzraich ’07


Tessa Bowen, MPA

Camie Yokote

Staff Photographer: Brin Reynolds ’12, ’15 MBA

Website Design: Mike Wilhelm ’08



Pennington Medical Education Building

Mail Stop 0532

University of Nevada, Reno

Reno, NV 89557-0532

Class Chat:


Address changes:

All other inquiries:

Marc A. Johnson, Ph.D.

President, University of Nevada, Reno

Kevin Carman, Ph.D.

Executive Vice President and Provost,

University of Nevada, Reno

Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D.

Dean, University of Nevada, Reno

School of Medicine

Vice President, Health Sciences

Julie Ardito, APR ’89

Senior Director, Advancement and Engagement

Shari Netzel

Director of Development

University of Nevada Reno School of Medicine Logo

Summer 2020 - COVID-19 Edition

SYNAPSE | The official Magazine of The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Copyright 2020 by the University of Nevada, Reno. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Synapse is published biannually (winter and summer) by the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine’s Advancement and Engagement team, William N. and Myriam Pennington Medical Education Building. Periodicals postage paid in Reno, NV and additional mailing offices.