Dr. Daniel Kokmeyer and Dr. Colby Young don’t have to provide guidance to UNLV School of Medicine resident physicians in the clinical setting, nor do they have to supervise medical student rotations.
No, they don’t have to do it. Both men are in private practice with Hand Surgery Specialists of Nevada and neither is on the medical school’s payroll.
And yet both men tell you they really do have to do it in order to live the well-rounded life of purpose they desire.
So as part of the medical school’s 400-member community faculty — physicians who supplement the 150 full-time faculty — they volunteer their time and expertise to pass on what they know to future generations of physicians. They may assist with lectures pertaining to hand and wrist anatomy for the medical school one day and show a resident physician how to handle a fractured hand at UMC later that night.
“I especially enjoy teaching and witnessing the progression of the residents as they become more equipped for their futures in orthopedics,” said Kokmeyer. “This is very gratifying. By teaching our residents about hand surgery, orthopedics, and overall patient care, I have the opportunity to actually impact more lives than … working on my own.”
Like his colleague, Young is driven to do his part in ensuring that Southern Nevada has a future of quality health care.
“In my opinion, completing the circle of education requires excellence in your own training, excellence in care, and, subsequently, excellence in teaching the future generation of physicians … It is important to ensure residents and students are taught not only sound surgical techniques and clinical evaluation but also good medical judgment and respectful interpersonal skills.”
How important are community faculty to medical schools?
Dr. Mark Guadagnoli, who in his position as associate dean for faculty affairs and director of learning performance oversees community faculty, said community faculty bring a needed diversity of experience to the UNLV School of Medicine. He also pointed out that medical schools could never afford to have more than 500 full-time medical professionals on staff. “It would bankrupt a school.”
To School of Medicine Dean Dr. Marc Kahn, the importance of the physicians who comprise the community faculty cannot be overstated. “They are critical to the success of the medical school. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Both Young and Kokmeyer are originally from the Midwest. Far different backgrounds were catalysts for their becoming physicians.
When Young was 7-years-old and a passenger in a car in his hometown of Cincinnati, he was in a serious car accident that became the driving force for his career choice.
“I ended up spending six weeks immobilized in traction in the hospital,” Young recalled. “I had fractured my femur and at that time treatment was not surgery, it was immobilization (his leg strung up with a weight) to keep it at length while it healed. After those six weeks, I was then placed in a body cast for another six weeks. The care and compassion of the physicians, therapists, and my family during that time drove me to know at that early age that medicine was something I was going to pursue. Even at that early age, there was no doubt that I was going to pursue a career as a doctor.”
As Kokmeyer, one of seven children, was growing up outside Grand Rapids, Michigan, he said it was normal for him to think about a career in medicine.
“When you grow up in a medical family, it’s your norm, it’s what you’re familiar with,” he said. When Kokmeyer was in first or second grade he watched an older brother, who now is an orthopedist, make his way through medical school. Two other family members are in dentistry. “I think you are naturally drawn to the interests of those around you.”
Kokmeyer, who earned his medical degree at Ohio State University, did his undergraduate work at a small private school in Michigan, Calvin College, where he studied biochemistry and Spanish. Young, who also received his medical degree from Ohio State, studied political science, along with foundational sciences, as an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Illinois. Kokmeyer completed his residency in orthopedics through Michigan State University while Young did his orthopedic graduate medical training through the Martin Luther King/Charles R. Drew Medical center in Los Angeles. Each man went on to further specialty training in hand and upper extremity surgery at the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center.
The research publications of both men, who met as fellows during their subspecialty training in Indiana, have appeared in peer-reviewed journals that range from the Journal of Hand Surgery to the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics.
“Both of my parents are artists,” Young said. “While I did not inherit that gift per se, I see myself as creative. Orthopedics, in particular trauma and upper extremity surgery, is much like art in that you have to visually identify the deformity and do your best to recreate the inherent perfection of the anatomy of the human body. Like most orthopedic surgeons, I like the physicality of performing surgery and having the immediate result of seeing the fracture aligned, the nerve or tendon repaired, or the dislocation reduced.”
While Kokmeyer said the “mechanics of orthopedics” also sparked his interest in the medical specialty, his explanation for doing further postgraduate medical training in hand surgery gives you a better sense of why physicians undertake the subspecialty. “Most people interact with the world with their hands. Whether they are a musician, construction worker, teacher, or professional athlete, the hands are vital to their success. In my hand surgery specialty, I enjoy giving back an individual’s full capability to impact the world without the hurdles of pain or immobility.”
Both Young and Kokmeyer see patients in their practice with common problems — carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger fingers, tennis elbow, and rotator cuffs — as well as a number of other tendon inflammatory problems and nerve conditions. Residents, medical students, and allied health students rotate on the clinical service of Hand Surgery Specialists of Nevada, sometimes evaluating and treating patients in the private clinic setting. Each orthopedist also is frequently on call at UMC, where they deal with traumatic accidents that include near amputations caused by chain and table saws and car accidents that result in fractured wrists and crushed and lacerated hands. Resident-physicians are taught by Young and Kokmeyer at UMC.
“We provide hand surgery coverage for UMC and work with the UNLV residents on a daily basis as our commitment extends to the training of future orthopedic surgeons,” Kokmeyer explained.
Drs. Young and Kokmeyer are true believers in the need for the UNLV School of Medicine.
“It is critical to the literal health of Southern Nevada,” Young said. “By nature of an academic setting, best practices as supported by the literature become standard of care. Innovations and research are pursued. It is a situation where a rising tide lifts all ships — all medicine and health care improve.”
Said Kokmeyer, “The UNLV School of Medicine allows Las Vegas to continually have a pool of new physicians that will provide care for the community. Additionally, an academic medical center allows for the treatment of the most complex medical problems of the community. This enables a system where patients can get treatment locally rather than be transferred outside the area.”