John Pierce

A Spoonful of Humor Makes the Medicine Go Down

Dr. John Pierce, Allied Health Services Alumnus of the Year, still passes a lesson he learned from a UNLV professor on to his patients today.

Editor's Note

: As part of UNLV's Homecoming festivities, the UNLV Alumni Association will celebrate the accomplishments of graduates at its annual reception and awards ceremony Oct. 18. You can stream the awards ceremony live here.

Dr. John Pierce (’98 BS Kinesiology) is the medical director of Ageless Forever, a Las Vegas integrative health and wellness center. The Allied Health Services Alumnus of the Year is also lifetime competitive athlete and a tactical physician for the Las Vegas SWAT team.

Tell us about a moment when someone showed you unexpected kindness. How do you pay it forward?

During my time at UNLV, I took a course from (neuroscience and neurology professor) Mark Guadagnoli about the science behind how the brain learns and retains information. One particular lecture was about the primacy and recency effect, which basically explains how a person retains information from the beginning and end of a list, whereas the middle information tends to get blurred or forgotten. If there is emotion or special meaning, however, placed on the middle items, they can be recalled better.

I’ll never forget one of Dr. Gaudagnoli’s examples. He drew a timeline and explained the primacy and recency effects, then in the middle of the line he made a mark and placed the word ‘platypus’ there. As the creature and the word are unique (and funny), it stood out in my mind and I still recall the lesson today. The emotion of humor in the word ‘platypus’ helped the recall.

I used this information to keep my study time effective in medical school and I still use it today when I teach my patients how to improve their health. I try to add emotion to the topic with silly analogies to make sometimes complex biological processes easier to understand. I know Dr. Guadagnoli was probably just doing his job when he taught the primacy and recency effect, but I see it as an act of kindness I’ve been able to pass along to thousands of patients to help them improve their lives.

Keeping Patients Healthy and Young

Pierce is board certified in emergency medicine and is a diplomat of the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine and received his medical training from Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific. At his clinic, Pierce focuses on developing unique and personalized approaches to helping clients achieve optimal health.

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