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


Winter 2020

About the Cover

Julee DeMello has been a welcoming presence for University students since she began working at the Student Health Center (SHC) as a college freshman in 1990. She's now the clinical operations manager, and 2020 marks her 30th anniversary with the SHC. Photo: Brin Reynolds

This issue of Synapse is dedicated to Roseann Langlois – devoted daughter, sister, mother and friend, fitness evangelist, storyteller and beloved colleague. Ride on.

All is well

at the Student Health Center

When I arrived at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine in 2011, the year 2020 seemed so far away. And now here we are! Welcome to a new decade! Just as so many aspects of life seem to be accelerating in their pace of change, UNR Med has changed so much in the last few years. I summarized many recent changes and future directions in my ninth annual State of the School Address on Sept. 9, “We are our choices.” We are the product of 51 years’ worth of important choices, with many more to come.

Our cover story, “All is well at the Student Health Center,” explores the 118-year history of the Student Health Center, which began as a 20-bed inpatient hospital and now manages around 30,000 patient visits annually.

“A heartfelt welcome” will introduce you to Dr. Lorrel Toft, a cardiovascular critical care physician who wants you to know the importance of bystander CPR in saving lives—and how to perform it well.

Our students are busier than ever—learning, exploring and contributing at home, across the country and around the word. Three future physicians are highlighted in “Students volunteer for Special Olympics,” “Houston, we have a clerkship” and “Providing care across the pond.”

Finally, Adam Alter, Ph.D., professor, researcher and New York Times bestselling author, was the recent keynote speaker for our Healthy Nevada Speaker Series. He’s sharing advice from his presentation on pushing back against addictive tech—a part of our lives that is changing particularly fast—and how to have a happier, healthier future.

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


2019 State of the School Address

Dr. Schwenk speaking at SOSA
Dr. Toft Profile

A heartfelt welcome

Dr. Lorrel Toft joins cardiovascular teams at UNR Med and Carson Tahoe Health

Making Nevada
the best place to age

Partners in ICECAP Nevada to build resources in geriatrics care

ICECAP Staff photo

Partners in ICECAP Nevada to build resources in geriatrics care

NIA Conference ballroom with attendees

2019 NIH IDeA Western Regional Conference

Houston, we have a clerkship

UNR Med student contributes to
medicine in the final frontier

Providing care across the pond

Class of 2022 president completes learning experience at the University of Oxford
Student volunteers at the special olympics

Students volunteer for Special Olympics

Resident White Coat Ceremony

Students hugging at white coat ceremony
Class of 2020 students in surgery

Medical Student | Class Updates

Addictive tech
is taking over our lives

Here’s how to push back
PA Students on football field

PA Student Class Updates

Inspiring a new generation of women in STEM

Class UNR Med and ROC Foundation co-host national program to introduce young women to medical and engineering careers

Perry Initiative Student with drill
Dr. Mark Pandori

Keeping Nevadans safe and healthy

Mark Pandori, Ph.D., named director of

Nevada State Public Health Lab

Class Chat

To share your latest and greatest accomplishments, email

Accompanying photos are always appreciated.

Family Medicine Doctors
Stephanie Ball Profile

Local education meets global impact

Stephanie Ball, M.D., 2019 School of Medicine Distinguished Alumna



Doctors with Alphie

“We know in addiction research that the more readily available a drug is, the worse the addiction will be. We’re carrying our digital drug with us everywhere we go.”
- Adam Alter, Ph.D.


Amanda Gibbs, second-year medical student and Class of 2022 UNR Med Alumni Chapter representative, wrote the winning entry for the annual History of Medicine Essay Competition. Please enjoy this excerpt from “Conquering No Man’s Land: The Evolution of Tendon Repair Surgery in the Hand.”

Each day, our hands grab hold of the environment and maneuver it with such silent ease. Though we seldom hands, their significance has not gone unrecognized throughout history. The ancient Greek physician Galen declared the primary function of hands to be that of prehension. He wrote, “[Hands have] the ability of holding objects of all shapes and dimensions.”

This functionality can largely be attributed to the tendons that arise from muscles in our forearms and travel through our hands and fingers. Should these tendons be severed, the fingers would be debilitated and unable to grasp. Fortunately, lacerated tendons of the hand can be successfully repaired today, though for much of history this has not been the case.

School of Medicine alumni, faculty and clinical community faculty were honored during the 2019 Healthcare Heros awards. Congratulations to our northern and southern Nevada honorees!

Clinical Professor, UNR Med
2019 Healthcare Hero
Lifetime Achieve


Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion

University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

2019 Healthcare Hero | Educator


Managing Partner, Sierra Eye Associates

Clinical Associate Professor, UNR Med

2019 Healthcare Hero | Physician


Family Practice, University Medical Center M.D. Class of 1991, UNR Med Family Med Residency Class of 1995, UNR Med

2019 Healthcare Hero | Care Provider


Trauma Surgeon, University Medical Center Surgery Fellowship Class of 2012, UNR Med

2019 Healthcare Hero | Physician


Managing Editor: Christy (Upchurch) Jerz ’97

Creative Director: Seema (Bhardwaj) Donahoe ’02


Tessa Bowen, MPA

Annie Flanzraich ’07

Roseann Langlois

Jessica (Groach) Santina ’98 MA

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

Winter 2020 - Vol. 24 - No1

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