Dr. Ellen Cosgrove led the design, innovation, and implementation of educational programs at three medical schools before coming to UNLV. Now as vice dean for academic affairs and education in the new UNLV School of Medicine she is putting that experience to work to design its curriculum from scratch — one infused with innovative approaches to meeting the specific needs of Southern Nevada.
What is your role at the UNLV School of Medicine?
I oversee the admissions, curriculum, student affairs, graduate medical education, faculty affairs and development, and continuing medical education for the UNLV School of Medicine.
What are you working on?
I have been working with a dedicated group of faculty on two herculean tasks (1) creating the medical school’s four-year educational blueprint; and (2) overseeing the submittal of the medical school’s accreditation documents to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education in a manner to ensure a survey site visit from the accrediting body in late spring.
It was no easy feat but we’ve created an innovative curriculum grounded in evidence-based medicine. It’s designed specifically to produce highly skilled physicians who value diversity, health equity, and relationships with patients and the community.
How did you get into this field?
During my residency training in internal medicine at the Presbyterian-University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia, I was asked to redesign a teaching program used to educate hospital-based medical students about kidney disease. I really enjoyed the challenge of trying to figure out what students need to learn at that level. The new program was well received, and the physician in charge of the school’s renal program told me I had a real talent for curriculum planning and should consider teaching.
At the same time, a position opened at Hahnemann University (now Drexel University College of Medicine) to assist senior faculty in overhauling the medical school’s curriculum. It was my first job after medical school. I’ve been shaping medical school programs ever since.
What is important for doctors to learn today?
With the high incidences of diabetes, chronic heart disease, and behavior health in our population, we need to graduate physicians who have a broad public health perspective and can integrate prevention and community-based interventions into their practice. I was inspired to do this by a giant of American medicine and public health, Dr. June E. Osborn, who was an early champion of reuniting medicine and public health.
Relationships also are important to healing and for the development of healers. It’s not all about learning the scientific content. It’s about the transformation of an individual into a healer. That’s why the new UNLV curriculum incorporates teaching methods that will help students develop and sustain longterm relationships with their patients, their faculty, and their community.
Who was your favorite teacher or professor and why?
The late Hugh Bennett, MD, was an internist and dean of students at Hahnemann Medical College. He knew each of us [medical students] by name. He worked hard to help us discern our gifts and decide on a career path in medicine where we could achieve our dreams.
When I was a student under his service, I learned that he was equally devoted to caring for his patients. He was a living example of the ancient wisdom: "Cure sometimes; Relieve often; Comfort always."
Why did you join UNLV?
I joined the UNLV School of Medicine team because of the vision of the founding dean, Dr. Barbara Atkinson, to create a first-rate medical school committed to excellence in medical education, patient care, and research. What continues to inspire me today is the commitment from UNLV, University of Nevada School of Medicine faculty and community physicians, and our entire community to create a world-class academic center. The support has been absolutely fabulous.
What are your hobbies?
I love cooking and trying out new recipes, and then sitting down to share them with family or friends. I also enjoy nature, bird watching, and fiber crafts, such as knitting and crocheting.
What are you looking forward to?
Meeting the 60 students of our charter class. For a student to choose a medical school before it is fully accredited takes a very special kind of person —someone who is confident, adventurous, and curious. I can’t wait to meet these amazing students.