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#RebelsTakeChances on the Frontlines of Fighting Disease

Tomas C. Walker, the 2017 Nursing Alumnus of the Year, working to develop an artificial pancreas to help patients with diabetes.

People  |  Apr 25, 2017  |  By Brian Sodoma
Tomas C. Walker

Tomas C. Walker, the 2017 College of Nursing Alumnus of the Year. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Creative Services)

Editor's Note: 

The UNLV Alumni Association will celebrate the accomplishments of graduates at its annual reception and awards ceremony April 26. For a full list of honorees and event details, visit the alumni awards website

Since 1999, Tomas Walker, ’12 DNP Nursing, has worked with patients battling diabetes and endocrine issues. In 2006, he was introduced to a medical device that monitors a person’s blood sugar every five minutes. Since then, he has been actively involved in more than 30 clinical studies proving the technology. He is now director of clinical projects for Dexcom – the device’s manufacturer – helping to develop the next generation of continuous glucose monitors.

One of the scariest decisions of my life was when I left clinical practice after 26 years. For my entire professional life, I have been caring for patients, first as an RN in the ICU, and most recently as a Nurse Practitioner where I found my interest for endocrinology and a passion for diabetes in particular.

As vice president and then president of the Nevada nurse practitioner professional practice group, we lobbied for, and passed AB170, giving Nevada nurse practitioners full practice authority. This legislative success demonstrated to me that I could effectively impact patients and access to care without being in the clinic.

A short time ago, I had the opportunity to take a position in the medical device industry as director of clinical projects overseeing research for a small biotech company. Although I had mixed feelings about my new role at first — which still involved patient interaction, but was no longer patient-centric on a daily basis — I did feel this evolution in my career would allow me to bring together everything I had done up to that point, and apply it to this new challenge. I recognized that if I took this opportunity, I could have “hands-on” impact in developing, designing and testing new technology to directly impact the lives of people living with diabetes.

As a clinician, I had been prescribing and using this technology to benefit my patients; now I had the opportunity to influence its design, and by extension, the lives of those who use it. 

Today I lead a team of five people, working on the frontlines in the development of the artificial pancreas. This is what being a Rebel is all about — I have never regretted this decision and look ahead to the next challenge!