Teaching versus the practice of medicine. As Kathleen Benson grew up in Las Vegas, she wasn’t sure which profession she’d choose.
She was sure she’d enjoy either one because she saw both as a way to help people with their futures.
Today an interventional cardiologist with Advanced Heart and Vascular Specialists, Dr. Benson said medicine eventually won out because of the opportunity to help people through crises in their lives.
Still, the woman who completed an interventional cardiology fellowship at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix said her desire to teach never really went away.
“Now I get a chance to do both,” she said of her community faculty/clinical assistant professor volunteer position with the UNLV School of Medicine. “I just love it. I get to make a difference both in the lives of young doctors and the community they will one day serve.”
Benson teaches core courses about the heart as well as courses pertaining to emergency medical services and multi-system disease. The courses on the heart, which she began in 2018, typically run from March into April and see her spending eight to 10 hours in the classroom each week.
“In preparation for the courses I’d teach that first year, I had to close my office for a couple weeks because we were beginning everything for the class from scratch,” said the physician. Her research work has appeared in peer-reviewed publications that include Journal of the American College of Cardiology and Circulation. “Fortunately, I have a great team in my office that really supports me.”
Dr. Neil Haycocks, interim vice dean for academic affairs and education at the medical school as well as an associate dean for biomedical science education, has been impressed by Benson’s commitment to the school and community.
“Dr. Benson is one of the most dedicated and talented faculty in our ranks,” he said. “As a busy practicing cardiologist she took on the rather immense task of teaching our students about heart and a variety of related topics. She has served on a number of high-level committees for the school, and always makes herself available for planning meetings. She is a community faculty member in the truest sense of the term, has sacrificed unknowable amounts of time and effort on behalf of the school and our students.”
According to Dr. Mark Guadagnoli, who in his position as associate dean for faculty affairs and director of learning performance oversees community faculty who not only teach but engage in research, student mentorship, and community and committee support, the 400-member community faculty does an exemplary job of supplementing the 150 full-time faculty.
“The diversity of experiences that community faculty bring cannot be overstated,” said Guadagnoli, who also notes that without such volunteerism by professionals at medical schools, educational opportunities would be severely limited. “Having so many full-time medical professionals on your staff just wouldn’t be financially possible. It would bankrupt a school.”
The more you talk with members of the community faculty, the more you realize that the chance to transform the practice of medicine in Las Vegas is a major motivating factor.
It takes a village
“I get annoyed when people go to Utah or California for the medical care,” said Dr. Carrie E. Bedient, a physician with the Fertility Center of Las Vegas who also serves as a clinical assistant professor with the medical school. “I want to do this so my little kids can get what they need, so I can bring my parents here and know they’ll get excellent care. It takes a village to raise a child and a village to raise a doctor. The more docs we can raise here, the more we can keep and the more likely I’ll have someone to take care of me when I’m old and gray.”
Bedient, who completed a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Emory University in Atlanta, has had her research published in peer-reviewed publications that include the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology and Fertility and Sterility.
Haycocks said Dr. Bedient “fills a critical need in our curriculum. She possesses an intricate knowledge of the female reproductive system, down to the level of cellular and molecular biology. She builds a wonderful rapport with the medical students, and has always stood ready to help our education program any way she can. No doubt many future physicians will be grateful for the time they spent with her.”
Looking to the future
Bedient doesn’t have to go far out of her way to speak to another member of the community faculty. Her husband, Dr. Mark Christopher Dugan, who completed a fellowship in pediatric critical care medicine at Emory University, also volunteers his expertise at the medical school by teaching UNLV residents at the University Medical Center Children’s Hospital where he is on staff. “Las Vegas is a growing community,” he said. “The teaching of the physicians of tomorrow is critical. It’s important to me to continue to work with students and residents.”
His involvement includes working with residents from both the emergency medicine and pediatric residency programs. “I interact with one resident from each program as they are doing their pediatric ICU rotation,” he said. “For example, a normal day of me being on service at UMC involves evaluating each child hospitalized in the ICU with the resident, helping them come up with their own plans for each critically ill child, observing them performing histories and physicals on those children admitted to the ICU, supervising the residents performing procedures, and teaching regarding critical care concepts.”
It is work, said Dugan, that he finds particularly satisfying.
“Part of the joy of pediatric intensive care is that I get to be a jack of all trades, so one day I might teach about the respiratory system, the next we might talk about head trauma, and the next we might be talking about cardiovascular pathophysiology,“ said Dugan, whose research has appeared in several peer-reviewed publications, including Pediatric Critical Care Medicine and Pediatric Emergency Care. “I also coordinate and facilitate a monthly conference with the pediatric residents that is a case-based conference, where we discuss the management in detail of a critically ill child, with a resident selecting a case that interests them from their month in the pediatric ICU. This is a dynamic, interactive conference that has different goals and objectives each month.”
Dr. Kate Martin, the associate dean for graduate medical education, is a true believer in the school’s community faculty.
“Community faculty selflessly volunteer their time and expertise all year long to make sure our residents and fellows receive a well-rounded education,” she said. “They provide the resident with perspectives and experiences that complement their training through exposure to specialized areas of medicine, practice types, and parts of the community our residents would not get to see without their help.”