The Las Vegas Medical District and Vision 2045 Master Plan.

If the term “form-based code” sounds foreign to you, you’re probably not alone.  Defined as a means of regulating development, form-based code (FBC) creates predictable public development by controlling physical form with a lesser focus on land use. In other words, form-based code focuses more on what buildings and facilities look like and less on what’s inside. It’s a type of code that is being used more often by local governments to encourage development, because it accommodates greater flexibility while fostering predictable, high-quality results.

The recently completed Vision 2045 Master Plan for Downtown Las Vegas incorporates the use of form-based code as redevelopment continues to help the area evolve.  And unlike traditional zoning codes, form-based code encourages mixed-use development, better connectivity with walkable streets, and diverse and vibrant commercial and residential spaces.

The Las Vegas Medical District is the first downtown district to be rezoned under FBC guidelines and will help the District transform into a dynamic and walkable area by prioritizing mixed-use buildings and convenient public transportation. This is critical, given the District’s goal to become the medical research, education and training center of Southern Nevada and the premier medical district in the southwestern United States.

While stakeholders and partners of the Las Vegas Medical District have been more focused on the internal operations of their respective hospitals and institutions, the city is using FBC to focus on the physical infrastructure of the district.  For example, the Las Vegas Medical District may benefit from future plans for a proposed high-capacity transit system along Maryland Parkway that will better connect the area to downtown. To take advantage of the proximity to future transit stops, FBC can permit the development of mid-rise apartments along Alta Drive and Charleston Boulevard.

In an area like the Las Vegas Medical District, where there are many aging buildings surrounded by older neighborhoods, FBC is particularly effective in transforming the community and encouraging redevelopment. That’s because it can provide incentives for mixed-use and mixed-income projects; it helps reduce distance between buildings and sidewalks; it encourages development of civic spaces to enrich the public realm; it accommodates a wider variety of housing types to create greater economic diversity; it prioritizes public transit and walkability; and it holistically determines the community impact of a development by considering the surrounding neighborhood.

A form-based code encourages conscious community development. Specifically, for the Las Vegas Medical District, it will require sufficient public space for medical and office developments of 10,000 square feet or greater while preserving adequate spaces for public gathering and areas for pedestrians to enjoy shade and rest.  You could say form-based code is just what the doctor ordered!

Image: Rendering of the Las Vegas Medical District

‘Improv for Care’ Grad inspires learning with intentional play.

“Improvisation is the practice of being unpracticed, similar to how we respond to all kinds of new things every day. And sometimes, we have to respond to old situations in new ways,” explains Kelly Leonard, executive director, Insights & Applied Improvisation, Second City Works.

When Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health Clinical Social Work Manager Ruth Almén, LCSW, heard those words from the stage at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival, her mind began racing with all the commonalities between classic improv, which has its roots in social work, and caregiving.

She wasn’t the first to establish such a connection. Anne Libera, director of Comedy Studies, Second City Works, says, “Improvisation for care is designed to bring together caregivers in a safe, fun space to play together, be together, and to share their stories.”

And that’s exactly what happened at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health this Spring for the 19 family caregivers who fearlessly self-selected for the pilot class of Improv for Care, a collaboration between the center; Second City, the legendary comedy group out of Chicago; and Caring Across Generations, a national caregiver education and advocacy group.

Together, the originators developed a syllabus for the six-week session, which was taught by two Las Vegas-based Second City alumni. Participants — all of whom are care partners to people with cognitive decline — learned how to apply the basics of improv to increase communication between themselves and a loved one, to celebrate the new experiences created together and better care for themselves in the process.

Almén says, “I witnessed caregivers who admit to struggling under the heavy burden of the ‘job’ suddenly become so present in the moment that they began to play. They were willing to trust class members and instructors, and together, they had some incredible insights about the challenges of caregiving.”

Ai-jen Poo, co-director of Caring Across Generations, was delighted to see that Improv for Care fulfilled its creators’ intent as “a program that provides concrete tools to navigate the caregiving experience, to make it one that is as sustainable and nourishing as it can be.”

Care to join the fun and fulfillment?

As with so many of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health’s programs, Improv for Care was made available at no cost to participants, thanks to philanthropic support. If you’d like to learn how your support can make a difference, please contact us at 702.263.9797 or

To receive a monthly calendar of educational events for patients, caregivers and the community, contact

Photo: Improv for Care participants

OptumCare Cancer Care Center’s flagship coming to LVMD.

Construction is nearing completion on the new 55,000-square-foot flagship OptumCare Cancer Care Center, located at the Rancho Drive and Charleston Boulevard gateway to the Las Vegas Medical District. The center’s first phase is expected to open in late 2018, with the second phase planned for spring 2019. Services at the center will provide a high-touch and holistic approach for cancer patients and their families.

A range of comprehensive and high-quality, cancer-specific services will be offered at the center, including medical oncology, surgical oncology, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, breast care, imaging, laboratory services, and a patient and family resource library. By providing all of these important services under one roof, OptumCare can provide exceptional and coordinated care for each patient, while also striving to make the patient experience as pleasant and encouraging as possible.

Image: Rendering of OptumCare Cancer Care Center

UNLV dentist studies screen test for sleep disorders.

An orthodontist at UNLV School of Dental Medicine is leading a trio of research studies that may add checking for sleep breathing issues to standard clinical screenings.

“People who snore usually know they do, but those who may be susceptible to or have sleep apnea, which is a more serious condition, may not,” said Dr. Tanya Al-Talib. “And unless a person expresses concern about his or her sleeping habits, a medical professional won’t automatically check for signs of the disorder.”

According to Dr. Al-Talib, without treatment, sleep apnea may increase the risk of several conditions, including heart attack, stroke, diabetes, heart failure and irregular heartbeat.  Hence, the need for early and accurate diagnosis of the condition.

“Most comprehensive dental screenings check blood pressure, height and weight, and check for issues in the neck and jaw. I see an opportunity to look for potential indicators of sleep disorders that could lead to earlier diagnoses before serious symptoms manifest.”

Dr. Al-Talib began her first sleep disorder research study during her orthodontic residency program. Her inspiration arose close to home when a toddler in her family began to snore lightly and complain of slight headaches after a night’s rest. In that first study, she evaluated the non-nutritional sucking habits and feeding habits of pediatric patients and sought a correlation to breathing problems during sleep. The initial findings uncovered a connection to feeding habits.

When she joined UNLV, Dr. Al-Talib wanted to continue the study within an adult population. In one of her studies, she uses the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to calculate a person’s daytime drowsiness and determines airway volume with cone beam computed tomography (CT).

“Since we use CT machines to identify the amount of work needed for our orthodontic patients, I have included scans of their necks to measure the narrowest part of their airways,” Dr. Al-Talib said. “I also look at height, weight, neck circumference, tongue size, jaw alignment, enlarged tonsils, and skeletal make-up. We then combine data from the Epworth survey, airway measurements, and jaw discrepancy. So far, we have found an interaction between daytime sleepiness and skeletal make-up.”

As she continues the studies, Dr. Al-Talib is clear that her proposed screening tests will not diagnose breathing problems.

“Diagnosing sleep apnea and similar conditions requires specialized exams and the expertise of trained professionals,” she said. “Additionally, an overnight sleep test in a certified sleep lab, which is the gold standard for diagnosis, is critical for accurate diagnoses.

“What I am seeking is a reliable method for examining patients during a standard screening appointment that identifies risks for having or developing this disorder. Then, the dental office can issue a referral to the patient’s primary care physician or sleep specialist for additional tests.”

Dr. Al-Talib also explained that dental offices are becoming more involved with treatment options for those with sleep apnea or other sleep breathing disorders, including snoring.

“The standard of care for sleep apnea patients is the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask. For those patients who have mild sleep apnea or don’t tolerate the mask well, there are dental sleep medicine specialists who can prescribe an oral appliance that can help. The appliance, which looks similar to a retainer, can also aid those who snore.”

Dr. Al-Talib expects to implement the screening tests for adults and children at UNLV School of Dental Medicine within a few months. She also plans to establish a clinic that will offer oral appliances to candidate patients who suffer from sleep apnea. In the meantime, if you snore, or are concerned about your sleeping habits, talk to your dentist.

Photo: Dr. Al-Talib, orthodontist at UNLV School of Dental Medicine


First class of surgical residents graduates from UNLV School of Medicine.

Nancy Rivera, MD, and Allison McNickle, MD, share membership in a few exclusive “clubs.” They are members of the first class of surgical residents who graduated from the UNLV School of Medicine June 16, and they were part of the massive medical team that cared for hundreds of victims of the Oct. 1 Las Vegas mass shooting.  Both will remain in Nevada to practice acute care surgery.

According to Dr. John Fildes, department chair and head of trauma at UMC, “that event (the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history) changed all of us, forever, in a good way,” he said. “It reminds us that after you’ve seen the worst in man, you will see the best in mankind. There is no other department of surgery in any other city in the world that can match what you did here in Las Vegas,” he told the graduates of their “exemplary performance” in the aftermath of the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting in which 58 people died and 851 were injured.

Dr. Rivera, who hails from Alamogordo, New Mexico, said her two young sons keep her motivated.  “On Oct. 1, all my years of preparation were put to the test and my training served me and my patients well.”

Dr. McNickle, a Villa Park, Illinois, native, said the challenge of acute care medicine lies in the unknown.  “We never know who will walk in our doors and under what condition.  But fortunately, thinking on our feet is at the core of our training.”

While it was the first graduation for the UNLV School of Medicine’s department of surgery, it was the 32nd graduation for the department itself through its former affiliation with UNR.

Photo: Nancy Rivera, MD