The University of Nevada, Reno’s Medical School has introduced a new surgical program to its curriculum to meet increasing interest from medical students.

“The goal of this initiative is to provide a sound, basic education in surgical principles to all UNR Med medical students, as well as encourage those students who choose careers in surgery to be the very best surgeons who will eventually practice in northern Nevada, our rural communities and our state,” UNR Med Dean, Dr. Thomas L. Schwenk, said.

Surgical education is a key component of a medical student’s training, and all students must complete clinical surgical training in order to complete their education.

Surgery has also been an area of interest for students at UNR Med. Nearly 20 percent of UNR Med graduating students have matched to a surgical residency.

The surgical program will be available to third-year students and will ensure they get hands-on training locally — at Renown Health, the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System and offices of other surgeons in Reno — so they can start to determine if they want to follow a career in surgery.

This will also help students determine surgical specialties such as general, plastic surgery, orthopedic, neurosurgery and more.

UNR Med has brought on two local surgical professionals to head the department of surgery at the school. Dr. James Harris is a senior member of Western Surgical Group and the largest multispecialty surgical group in northern Nevada. He has a medical degree from Wake Forest University and a general surgery residency at the University of Southern California Medical Center. He also completed a fellowship in surgical oncology at City of Hope. He was a surgical residency program director and chief of the division of surgery at Greenville Hospital Systems in Greenville, South Carolina. He has been a fellow of the American College of Surgeons for more than 25 years.

Dr. Lori Rawson is the chief of surgery at the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System. She has a medical degree and urology residency from Loma Linda University. She is involved in local and national VA branches. She is also a graduate of the VA’s Leadership Development Institute and the VA Health Care Leadership Development programs.

“Under the leadership of Drs. Harris and Rawson, we are delivering one of the most comprehensive core medical education experiences to our third-year students through the new department of surgery and in-hospital training,” Schwenk said.

The program is expanding to include all 70 third-year students, up from just three students currently.

Madeline Purdue can be reached at and on Twitter @madelinepurdue.