Coaching medical students to become physician-researchers

Dale Netski has taught at the College of Southern Nevada, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and now at UNLV’s Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine, earning the respect of a large and diverse group of students who have thrived in their education. and professional disciplines.

So what does this Las Vegas native who earned a doctorate in cellular and molecular biology feel compelled to do?

Try to find a better way to educate future doctors.

Yes, this associate professor who teaches immunology and best practices for conducting research studies – he is also director of student research at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine and chair of the department of medical education – said “he can always be a better or effective way to teach or do something.

With that philosophy in mind, Netski recently completed a six-month online program through Harvard Medical School that helps train academics in the skills of teaching diverse and dynamic medical students.

“The program provided me with the skills to design an engaging and interactive medical curriculum that incorporates new and traditional educational theories and methods,” he said. “This course also contained several learning modules aimed directly at improving research in medical education, as well as team projects and a capstone project. My goal now is to use what I learned from this program to develop a medical education faculty development program to improve the way we deliver and assess our medical school curriculum.

Time and again, Netski’s philosophy can be seen at work.

Never stop learning

When the pandemic first hit, Netski had never taught online before. So he took another course at Harvard that offered unique ways to teach immunology virtually.

To prepare for his leadership role in the medical education department, he took a virtual seminar through the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“Gaining new knowledge about a subject opens our minds to new perspectives that you may not have thought of before,” he said. “Lifelong learning is one of my passions.”

As he spoke about his life, how he got to this time and place, the professor recalled that his passion for learning as a child could be seen well beyond the classroom. “I learned to water ski slalom when I was 7 years old at Lake Mead,” he said. “I loved learning how to do it, I couldn’t get enough of it. My dad loved going to the lake and I spent many weekends with him boating and waterskiing. I still enjoy skiing, both on water and on snow. One of the reasons I went to the University of Nevada, Reno instead of UNLV was because of its access to snow skiing.

It was from his father, Rudolph “Dan” Netski Jr., a graduate of the first paramedic class offered in southern Nevada, that Netski began to develop an interest in medicine. When the eldest Netski, a member of the United States Marine Corps, came home from his job with Mercy Ambulance, he would tell his son about the errands he had done to help people whose health problems ranged from heart attacks to injuries. by gunshot, feats that occasionally made their way into the newspapers. “I remember when he came to the news of the fire at MGM (the 1980 fire at the hotel killed 85 people) and knowing that my dad had to be there to help people,” Netski said.

As he grew older, the paramedic’s son found himself hanging around the Mercy Ambulance station, listening to vital stories from other paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and earning money washing ambulances. During his senior year at Clark High School, he trained to become an EMT. Then he drove ambulances and helped patients himself. He once found himself doing four errands where he helped heart attack victims. “I did CPR compressions on four straight people and thought my arms were going to fall off,” he said. “It’s not an easy job.”

His stint as a paramedic brought him into frequent contact with emergency physicians. “I really admired the way they handled people in the toughest times, I still do,” Netski said. “I had in mind that I was going to become a doctor.”

Road to scientific research

That would change during his senior year at NUR where he made his way through school waiting tables. There he majored in cell and developmental biology, a common pre-medical major. A discussion with a friend who worked in an immunology laboratory at the UNR School of Medicine fascinated him and he decided to speak with the principal investigator of the laboratory. It allowed him to work in the laboratory with a doctorate. students, postdoctoral fellows and technicians performing experiments on a specific immune system cell called a natural killer cell. The work ignited his lifelong interest in finding out how things work and he went on to earn a master’s degree in biology.

“During the expanded coursework and research lab experience over the next two years, I knew what I wanted to do, become a research scientist,” Netski recalls. “Loved the collaborative lab environment and doing experiments…”

One of three students admitted to the doctoral program of the UNR School of Medicine. program in cellular and molecular biology, Netski had the opportunity to work on a type of hantavirus that caused a respiratory infection called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States. His work would be published in a respected peer-reviewed journal.

“During my doctorate. background, I met my wife, Alison, from Reno, when she came to our lab to complete her biology thesis. We started dating and got married after his first year of medical school at NUR.

The couple now have two daughters and both work in medical school. Dr. Alison Netski is Acting Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.

After Alison Netski finished medical school, she did her residency training at the University of Maryland (followed by further training at the famed Sheppard Pratt Psychiatric Hospital in Maryland). Dale got a job as a senior scientist and director of lab operations at the nearby Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and eventually became an assistant professor in its division of infectious diseases.

At Johns Hopkins, his research stood out as he successfully obtained a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to examine the antibody immune response to acute hepatitis C (HCV). He published one of the first reports characterizing the antibody immune response in acute infection. He has also secured several subcontracts for collaborations examining the antibody immune response to HCV. The success of his research efforts and collaborations is reflected in his more than 35 publications for his work.

Time for the family

While the couple enjoyed their professional work, the two Netskis feared that the educators were raising their two daughters more than themselves. After six years in Maryland, they decided in 2007 to move back to Nevada, where they had family. Alison took a position with Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health and Dale took on more of the parenting duties. He also worked in the administration of a family business while his daughters were in elementary and middle school. “I became a very good football coach,” he recalls with a laugh.

In 2014, along with his older daughters, he accepted a part-time position teaching biology at the College of Southern Nevada. “I liked coming back to that,” he said. “I really like teaching.”

When the medical school opened in 2017, both Netskis held important positions. Today, the one who has become “a pretty good soccer coach” likes to talk about the students he coached as director of student research.

“To date, our students have published more than 60 articles in the scientific literature and presented more than 100 posters at scientific meetings,” he said. “Our students have added to the literature in many areas, including Alzheimer’s disease, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, the role of diet in gestational diabetes, and the role of different treatment modalities in the metastatic melanoma, to name a few. Students at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine are making their mark in research as future physician-scientists.

About Hector Hedgepeth

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