Nevada AG allocates $1.2M for UNR OBGYN department

By  | 

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt has announced the allocation of $1.2 million to the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine to create a new OB/GYN department based in Reno with UNR Med community and hospital partners. The new department will provide education for medical students in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as training for primary care residents and research.

The funding is part of $3.8 million that UNR Med will receive over five years, resulting from a settlement between Pfizer pharmaceutical company and the State of Nevada. The settlement resolved claims that Pfizer had unlawfully promoted certain postmenopausal hormone therapy medications.

“My office is proud to partner with the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine to make a lasting investment in women’s health,” says Laxalt. “We are confident that women’s health care in Nevada will benefit greatly from these settlement funds.”

With Nevada ranking 48th among U.S. states for the number of physicians per capita, this allocation is designed to position UNR Med and its community health care partners to bridge the physician shortage gap. Research indicates physicians have a greater propensity to practice in a community where they train.

“Attorney General Laxalt’s support has had significant impact on the range of educational programs and research projects that our faculty members are leading to improve the quality of women’s healthcare in our community,” says UNR Med Dean Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D. “Creating a new OB/GYN department sets the foundation for continued improvement in this area and makes a strong statement for the importance that women’s health has to a healthy Nevada.”

Senator Heidi Gansert says, “It is important to continue supporting women’s health programs, and I commend Attorney General Laxalt for his contribution to our northern Nevada community. Like his grandfather Governor Paul Laxalt, who made establishing a Nevada medical school a priority, Attorney General Laxalt and his team have championed great investments to our medical and educational communities.”

The funding allows UNR Med to continue to offer a learning environment for medical students looking for training in women’s healthcare and a possible career in OB/GYN. Additionally, the funding will help meet the needs of a growing population in northern Nevada.

Interim Chair of the UNR Med OB/GYN department, Neda Etezadi-Amoli, M.D. says, “Having a department dedicated to research and the education of students and physicians in their understanding of women’s health ensures we are delivering the best care for patients. With our community-based faculty and healthcare partners, such as Renown Health, we are collectively prioritizing women’s health in our region.”

Previous funding from the Office of the Nevada Attorney General has fueled four ongoing UNR Med research projects aimed at improving women’s health in Nevada:

• Robert Langer, M.D., M.P.H., family medicine department, is conducting a retrospective longitudinal study of health outcomes for women. He will mine a database of medical histories of more than 5 million women to identify correlations between lifestyle and therapeutic choices with the rates of major health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis. Information from this study will be useful as women make decisions about their health and healthcare options.

• Kenton Sanders, Ph.D., physiology and cell biology department, received an equipment award to purchase metabolic cages to support basic science investigations into the role of estrogen and estrogen receptor subtypes in regulating bladder stability during filling - a key determinant of urinary incontinence in women, a problem experienced by 15 to 45 percent of women over the age of 60.

Paul Sumby, Ph.D., department of microbiology and immunology, is studying the molecular basis of pathogenicity of group A Streptococcus, the most common cause of severe puerperal infections (infections following childbirth) and death worldwide. Puerperal infections are the sixth-leading cause of death among new mothers globally.

• Sean Ward, Ph.D., department of physiology and cell biology is studying the mechanism of gamete and embryo transport in the female reproductive tract. The oviduct provides critical physiological functions that terminate when the fertilized egg is successfully delivered to the uterus. Understanding the mechanisms that underlie the loss of muscle contractions will enable approaches to increase fertility.
Funds also enabled the purchase of a super-resolution microscope, the first-of-its-kind in Nevada that assists UNR Med scientists with breast cancer and pre-term birth research, among other research to fight and treat diseases impacting women.