Total economic impact of medical district projected to be $2.42 billion by 2030.

“By 2030, the Las Vegas Medical District will be the clinical care, research, wellness, education and training center of Southern Nevada and the premier academic medical district in the southwestern United States.”

That’s what more than 150 people who attended a recent Town Hall meeting heard from City Manager Betsy Fretwell on January 24 at City Hall.  Hosted by the Clark County Medical Society in cooperation with the City of Las Vegas and UNLV School of Medicine, the purpose of the Town Hall was to educate physicians, health care providers, other stakeholders and the general public on the plans and progress for both the Las Vegas Medical District (LVMD) and the UNLV School of Medicine.

Following opening remarks from Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman and Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, Betsy Fretwell shared that the city has invested more than $36 million in infrastructure, marketing, and planning within the district since 2013 and through 2017.  Plus, the city has an additional investment of $97 million planned for 2018 and beyond.

“We can’t say enough about the critical importance of growing the Medical District,” said Fretwell.  “Access to quality medical care is foundational to quality of life, and quite frankly, it’s been something that has been lacking in our community for decades.  With the new School of Medicine and a focus on creating a true Academic Health Center by encouraging greater development and synergy between medical facilities and services in a concentrated area, Southern Nevada takes a giant leap forward.”

Clustered along W. Charleston Blvd. near University Medical Center (UMC), Valley Hospital and other ancillary medical providers, the LVMD has a thoughtful master plan to guide its future growth that includes street improvements and beautification projects in the area; continued business development and retention; enhanced connectivity to Downtown Las Vegas and Symphony Park, including Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health; and incorporation into the new Downtown Master Plan.

“It’s not enough to create a great medical district unless it is truly connected to the immediate neighborhoods that surround it, downtown and the greater community at large,” said Fretwell.  “The Las Vegas Medical District is the future of medicine in Southern Nevada, so its development plan must be thoughtful and comprehensive, and we must make significant investment to ensure it continues to take shape as envisioned.”

In addition to uplifting medical care throughout the valley, the LVMD’s projected economic impact is so significant, it ranks among the most important projects in our region. By 2020 – just three years from now – the total economic impact is projected to be $609 million with more than 4,000 jobs generated.  And by 2030, those numbers increase even more to $2.42 billion and 16,000-plus jobs.

It can easily be said the new UNLV School of Medicine is the cornerstone of the Medical District. And according to Dr. Barbara Atkinson, Founding Dean, the first class of 60 hand-selected students starts July 17, 2017.  Students were carefully screened to include as many with Nevada connections as possible with a goal to contribute greater numbers of well-trained doctors committed to practicing in Southern Nevada.

Atkinson has been busy developing an exciting, innovative and cutting-edge curriculum that includes such unique features as Emergency Medical Technician certification, 400 hours of community service, virtual anatomy and microscopy applications and problem-based learning.  She also played a major role in successfully securing preliminary accreditation for the new Medical School – no small feat.  And she announced that renovations are in progress on the third floor of the UNLV dental school for the Medical School’s interim campus. Students will spend their first two years of education in this space until the new medical education building is completed.

Like the Medical District, the UNLV School of Medicine is projected to create a huge economic uplift of more than $1.2 billion and 8,000 jobs.  But beyond that, the Medical School will be a catalyst and driver for better health care in Southern Nevada.  And without good health, nothing else matters.

Photo: Aerial rendering of the Las Vegas Medical District featuring the UNLV School of Medicine. Courtesy of UNLV School of Medicine.

UMC’s advanced lung cancer detection technology saves lives.

As the first hospital in Nevada to introduce the cutting-edge SuperDimension Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy system, UMC continues to demonstrate its commitment to providing patients with advanced technology designed to save and improve lives.

This technology plays a critical role in UMC’s lung cancer screening program, known as the SPOTS (Screening for Pulmonary Oncologic Tumor Services) Program), a collaborative effort between UMC and the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

Utilizing lung GPS technology that allows physicians to safely reach virtually any area of the lung to collect tissue samples, the SuperDimension system plays a critical role in promoting the early detection and immediate treatment of lung cancer. During the minimally invasive, outpatient SuperDimension procedure, a pathologist remains on standby to analyze the biopsy sample, often resulting in an immediate diagnosis.

The SPOTS program typically begins with the patient receiving a low-dose CT scan to detect nodules and other potential abnormalities within the lungs. If the low-dose CT scan reveals suspected cancer, pulmonologists at UMC have a number of minimally invasive options for collecting tissue samples, including the SuperDimension Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy. In certain cases when there are signs that the cancer has started to spread within the chest, UMC also offers Endobronchial Ultrasound Bronchoscopy (EBUS) which allows thorough diagnosis and staging while still avoiding an invasive surgical procedure.

Offering a highly coordinated, multidisciplinary team of specialists representing pulmonology, thoracic surgery, medical and radiation oncology, pathology and radiology, the SPOTS Program serves as a valuable asset to lung cancer patients and the local health care community as a whole. In an effort to reduce the time to diagnosis, the program is committed to seeing patients within a week from the time of referral.

“As a result of this valuable program, we are finding cancer earlier and saving lives throughout the community,” said Dr. Arthur Oliver Romero, who serves as Co-Director of the SPOTS Program alongside Dr. Hidenobu Shigemitsu. “The patients really appreciate that they have a central resource and trusted advocates for their cancer care.”

The SPOTS Program is designed to promote improved outcomes for community members considered to be at a high risk for developing lung cancer. This high-risk group includes people ages 55 to 80 who smoked more than a pack of cigarettes per day for 30 or more years and are either actively smoking or quit smoking within the past 15 years. Patients who meet these three criteria are encouraged to meet with their primary care providers to discuss receiving a lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan of the chest.

For more information about the SPOTS program, please call 702-NOSPOTS.

Photo: Dr. Arthur Oliver Romero demonstrates the three-dimensional mapping of the lungs provided by the SuperDimension Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy system at UMC.


Novel brain scans in fighter study draw international interest.

At the October Lancet Neurology Conference in London, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health’s Head of Neuropsychology, Sarah Banks, PhD, ABPP/CN, presented important new findings from the center’s Professional Fighters’ Brain Health Study.

Since 2011, 700 boxers and mixed martial arts fighters have undergone neurological evaluations in the Professional Fighters’ Brain Health Study to identify the earliest signs of brain injury in those exposed to head trauma.

To learn more about possible abnormalities in fighters’ brains, position emission tomography (PET) scans using a chemical marker called FDDNP were performed on 34 fighters from the study. Developed to detect brain abnormalities in Alzheimer’s disease, FDDNP PET scans can identify proteins thought to accumulate in the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases. Buildup of the tau protein is associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease found in athletes engaged in contact sports.

Previous studies of FDDNP PET imaging in professional football players showed elevated levels of FDDNP (which indicates the presence of proteins) in the amygdala and subcortical regions of the brain, which are responsible for mood, fear, stress and cognition.

“We wanted to see how the brains of the fighters in our study compared to football players,” says Dr. Banks.

The study group of 34 fighters ranged in age from 19 to 66, representing a wide span of experience, from fighters just beginning their careers to retired fighters who had sustained many blows to the head. Elevated FDDNP levels were present mainly in older fighters in the same areas of the brain as seen before in football players.

To determine whether the presence of proteins is due to aging or head trauma, FDDNP PET scans will be performed for comparison on a group of older men who are non-athletes.

“We are trying to discover whether fighting leads to an unusual buildup of tau in the brain and whether fighters are at a higher risk of developing CTE,” says Dr. Banks.

The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health presentation at the Lancet conference, a major international gathering of neurologists, attracted considerable attention.

“We are the only ones who are studying the fighter population, and our peers at other academic health centers are very interested in our findings,” says Dr. Banks.

For information on all clinical research studies at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, visit

Photo: Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health’s Head of Neuropsychology, Sarah Banks, PhD, ABPP/CN, presents new findings at the October Lancet Neurology Conference in London.