People: Thomas L. Schwenk to retire as UNR Med dean

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The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) announced July 13 that Dr. Thomas L. Schwenk will retire as dean and Vice President of Health Sciences following a decade at the helm, effective Aug. 31.

“It has been the greatest honor and privilege to have the opportunity to lead UNR Med through a remarkable period of growth, success and transformation,” Schwenk said in a statement. “It is now time for me to step away from that role and give a new dean the opportunity to take advantage of the enormous opportunities that lie ahead.”

Schwenk was hired by UNR in July 2011. At that time, the School of Medicine was split between both ends of the state — a community-based model with medical education and patient care being provided in Reno and Las Vegas, according to a UNR Med press release.

Under Schwenk’s leadership, UNR Med expanded healthcare services and medical education in Northern Nevada, eventually transitioning Las Vegas-based resources to the UNLV School of Medicine in July 2017.

“We have been particularly successful in recruiting early- and mid-career scientists who discovered Reno, the School of Medicine and the University, and realized the opportunities we offer to advance their science and their careers,” Schwenk said about UNR Med’s evolution over the years.

According to the press release, Schwenk’s retirement was months in the making, but plans were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as for work needed 
to finalize the school’s affiliation with Renown Health.

“I intended to resign a year ago as my wife, Jane, and I approached various birthday and anniversary milestones,” Schwenk said in a statement. “However, the stresses of the pandemic followed by transformational opportunities with Renown Health required a continuity of leadership that I was committed to seeing through.”

The UNR Med and Renown Health affiliation became effective June 11, establishing the first-fully integrated health system in Nevada.

"Dr. Schwenk has been an historic and transformational figure during his tenure as dean of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine,” UNR President Brian Sandoval said in a statement. “… He leaves a profound legacy, not the least of which is a school of medicine that has been elevated through his leadership and is well positioned to meet Nevada’s needs in the future.”

Schwenk earned his B.S. in chemical engineering and M.D. from the University of Michigan. Following residency training in family medicine at the University of Utah, he practiced in rural Utah and served on the University of Utah faculty. Schwenk returned to Michigan as chair of the Department of Family Medicine for 25 years.

More recently, Schwenk was elected to the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) in 2002. He was also elected to the Board of the AAMC Council of Deans in 2017, and was a member and Vice President of the Board of Directors of the American Board of Family Medicine from 2000-2005.

According to the July 13 press release, UNR has hired an executive search firm to find a new UNr Med dean. In the interim, Executive Associate Dean Melissa Piasecki, M.D., will serve as acting dean, as well as chief academic officer for Renown under the affiliation.


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