UMC Virtual Reality Program Offers Genuine Results

Thanks to emerging virtual reality technology, patients at UMC Children’s Hospital now have opportunities to venture beyond their rooms and visit faraway lands, play immersive games and even swim alongside dolphins in a crystal-clear ocean. With the introduction of virtual reality systems at UMC, Nevada’s most sophisticated hospital continues to find new and innovative ways to provide the best possible health care experiences.

UMC Children’s Hospital recently introduced its VR Program to relieve pain, reduce anxiety and provide valuable entertainment for patients. Since the program’s introduction in 2018, hundreds of patients have explored virtual worlds from the comfort of their hospital beds. So far, the program has shown success in reducing the need for narcotic pain medication among pediatric patients who use the technology, said Dr. Meena Vohra, Medical Director of UMC Children’s Hospital.

 “With the introduction of this new Virtual Reality Program, UMC Children’s Hospital has established itself as a statewide leader in non-pharmaceutical pain management for children,” she said.

The VR program was made possible by Spirit Halloween’s Spirit of Children Program, which raises funds for UMC Children’s Hospital each year at local Spirit Halloween stores.

As the first patient to use one of UMC’s VR systems, 17-year-old Brina said the technology had a meaningful impact on her hospital experience. Following a serious ATV accident that required surgical intervention, Brina was not able to walk for several days.

Unable to leave her hospital bed, Brina found comfort in UMC’s advanced VR Program, using the technology to visit the scenic streets of Paris and later venture into the vast plains of sub-Saharan Africa to witness giraffes in the wild. “I was fascinated,” she said. “It felt like I wasn’t in the hospital at all.”

During the VR therapy session, a nurse arrived to provide Brina’s regularly scheduled pain medication. “Brina told the nurse she didn’t need the medication right now and immediately resumed her VR experience,” said Shannon Case, a Child Life Specialist at UMC Children’s Hospital, recalling the success of her team’s first VR session.

Brina’s mother, Dina, said the VR Program helped her daughter following a traumatic injury. “It was an amazing feeling to see her having fun,” Dina said. “It helped her escape from what she was going through. She just loved it.”

The VR Program provides new levels of distraction therapy for burn patients during painful dressing changes. The technology has also helped children receiving stitches and other laceration repairs in the Pediatric Emergency Department at UMC Children’s Hospital.

Initially launched across UMC Children’s Hospital, the program will soon expand to UMC’s Labor & Delivery Department within the UMC Women & Newborn Care Center, providing valuable distraction therapy to women in labor.

“We look forward to the continued expansion of this innovative, patient-focused program,” Dr. Vohra said.

“Virtual reality will play a valuable role in our efforts to improve the experiences provided to patients across our hospital.”

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of UMC Lifelines magazine. The full magazine is available online at and

Photo: Courtesy of UMC

When Death is a Dinner Guest

If you were invited to dinner to talk about death, would you go?  Last November, 175 people answered “Yes!” and attended the worldwide debut of Death Over Dinner – Alzheimer’s Edition.

A collaboration between Death Over Dinner Founder Michael Hebb, who lost his father to Alzheimer’s disease, and Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, the dinner was held in the Keep Memory Alive Event Center.

To spark guided, intimate conversation at each of the 21 tables, guests received carefully developed conversational prompts, from the icebreaker variety  “What song would you like playing at your memorial?” – to the intense: “Imagine you have been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s; how would it feel to receive this news? What plans would you set in motion to ensure as much happiness as possible for yourself and your loved ones?”

Too often, a subject off limits
For three months leading up to the event, Death Over Dinner and the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health convened local community collaborators for input on the content for the evening, including members of the center’s Voice of the Patient and Family Advisory Council and leaders at the Alzheimer’s Association, Compassion Care Hospice and Nevada Senior Services. 

Silvia Perez Protto, MD, head of Cleveland Clinic’s End of Life Center, leveraged experience in her “day job” as well as learnings from the Healthcare Edition that she and Michael Hebb co-hosted in Cleveland in May. She explains, “All too often, we meet a family in the ICU who find themselves in the horrific position of having to make their best good faith decision because they never had the conversation while their loved one still had capacity.”

From the stage at the Las Vegas dinner, Michael Hebb explained that 75 percent of Americans would like to die at home, yet only 25 percent do because they have been too afraid, uncomfortable or intimidated to share their wishes for life and death, even with loved ones. Startled yet inspired by this statistic, he created Death Over Dinner, a nonprofit focused on revolutionizing the way people talk about life and death through curated tableside conversation. More than 200,000 dinners have been hosted in homes and restaurants worldwide. 

As Mr. Hebb likes to say, “You want a mission statement for life? Consider your own mortality.”

Host your own dinner
The curated elements of the dinner have been placed on, available as a free toolkit for others wishing to host an Alzheimer’s-themed Death Over Dinner with friends and loved ones.

Photo: Silvia Perez Protto, MD, with Michael Hebb at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health Death Over Dinner event

Dr. Marc J. Kahn Joins UNLV as School of Medicine Dean

UNLV is pleased to announce Dr. Marc J. Kahn as the new dean of the School of Medicine. He is currently a senior associate dean at Tulane University School of Medicine and was selected following a national search for the position. He takes his post at UNLV on April 1.

“Dr. Kahn is an experienced leader and innovator who will continue the upward trajectory of our UNLV School of Medicine,” said UNLV President Marta Meana. “We were extremely pleased with the high caliber of candidates who stepped forward to lead the school, which speaks to its growing positive reputation across the country.”

Dr. Kahn takes over for Interim Dean Dr. John Fildes, inaugural chair of the UNLV School of Medicine Department of Surgery and world-renowned trauma surgeon. Dr. Fildes had assumed the role in September, stepping in as Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson transitioned into an advisory leadership role with the school.

“I am very grateful to Dr. John Fildes for his steadfast leadership and for carrying our vision forward as interim dean,” Meana said. “He continues to be a tremendous asset and a deeply respected professor and surgeon in our school and in this community.”

A hematologist and medical oncologist by training, Dr. Kahn oversees admissions and student affairs at Tulane University School of Medicine. He also is a professor of medicine and the school’s Peterman-Prosser professor, a position established to introduce students of science-oriented disciplines to the humanities.

Dr. Kahn said he was drawn to UNLV because he believes the future of great medical education in the United States will be driven by newer medical schools that can truly innovate as they develop.

“Throughout my career, I have been passionate about developing and accessing novel programs in medical education at both the student and faculty level,” he said. “UNLV School of Medicine is in a prime position to innovate as it grows and become a national leader.”

The UNLV School of Medicine, which welcomed its first class in July of 2017, now totals 180 medical students and nearly 335 residents and fellows. At UNLV Medicine, the school’s clinical arm, 150 faculty physicians see approximately 10,000 patients per month at 19 specialty medical clinics.

In addition to his medical training, Dr. Kahn has an MBA with concentrations in finance and international business. At Tulane, he was instrumental in developing the school’s four-year medical MBA program and its BS/MD program, which includes a mandatory year of public service with AmeriCorps VISTA. 

At UNLV, Kahn will focus on developing programs that emphasize “adaptive knowledge.”

“Rather than merely learning a set of facts of figures, with information being readily available electronically, medical students need to learn how to apply existent knowledge to new and unique circumstances,” he said. 

Dr. Kahn noted opportunities at UNLV to develop collaborative medical programs with teams that include nurses, dentists, social workers and others. Such teams could promote primary care through experiential learning, create research programs that focus on population health, and work with the diverse population of Nevada to solve the most pressing healthcare problems in the region.

Dr. Kahn, who is married and has two children, has served on numerous professional medical boards and committees, and currently serves on hematology board for the American Board of Internal Medicine and as chair of the American Society of Hematology Committee on Educational Affairs.

Photo: Dr. Marc J. Kahn, the new dean of the UNLV School of Medicine.

Clinical Perspective on Cannabis the Topic of Recent Town Hall

Stakeholders, physicians and friends of the Las Vegas Medical District and the Clark County Medical Society recently gathered at City Hall for a free Town Hall focused on Cannabis from a clinical perspective.

There was strong attendance from the local medical community given that the town hall also included the opportunity for physicians to earn a Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit. The evening’s primary presentation was given by Brian Lawenda, M.D., one of only a handful of physicians in the United States who is a radiation oncologist, integrative oncologist and medical acupuncturist. He is the medical director for the Northwest Cancer Clinic/21st Oncology in Kennewick, WA.

The primary take-aways from Dr. Lawenda’s presentation included research findings that state there is no increased risk of cancer with use of marijuana;  the dangers of possible fungal outbreaks in medical marijuana; the dangers of vaping, particularly with the use of non-commercial vaping products; the inaccuracy of labeling as it relates to CBD and THC; and the overall health benefits of CBD products, particularly related to pain control, neuroprotection, appetite stimulation and memory improvement.  Dr. Lawenda also believes that because CBD products are less addicting than opioids, they present a better avenue for treating pain and the nausea and discomfort that is often associated with cancer.

Johnathan Rhodes, a health care attorney in the business and finance practice group of Fennemore Craig Attorneys, provided an overview on the legalities of CBD products, citing that on a federal level, Marijuana is still a Schedule 1 substance, making its use, possession and distribution illegal. Rhodes explored the liability aspects for physicians. In Nevada, where both recreational and medicinal marijuana is now legal, there are still some precautions physicians should take, he said.  There can be no written “prescription” for medical marijuana since it is illegal under federal law.  But physicians can provide “written documentation” to recommend its use for patients diagnosed with chronic or debilitating diseases, including AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy, severe pain and nausea, to name a few.  Physicians must also seek approval of the primary caregiver and fully explain all possible risks and benefits.  And because the standard of care may be higher for marijuana and CBD related products, physicians should educate themselves and fully understand the implications for recommending its use to patients to avoid malpractice.

And finally, in a panel discussion, Michael S. Laymon, chief research officer, College of Medicine, Touro University Nevada, stated his belief that there is a role for CBD and medical marijuana in traditional medicine, but more research is needed.  Dr. Laymon, who currently serves on the National Pain Advisory Board for Pfizer and is a frequent presenter at medical conferences focused on the opioid crisis, has long been interested in ways to treat pain without the use of opioids. But he points out there is a glut of consumer misinformation about CBD related products.  He is a champion of doing more research to better understand CBD’s properties, effects and benefits.

Photo: Clark County Medical Society President, Daniel Burkhead, MD, at the LVMD Town Hall

Desert Radiology adds new advanced CT scanner to Palomino facility

New CT Scanner will Provide Superior Imaging Results and Improve Radiation Safety

Desert Radiology, a premier diagnostic imaging company that has served Southern Nevada for more than 50 years, acquired a new CT scanner equipped with radiation dose reduction software packages that will be used at the Palomino facility.

CT, or computed tomography, is a scan that allows physicians to see inside a patient’s body to help diagnose injury or disease. The new Canon Aquilion Prime SP 80 detector row CT scanner is comprised of two dose reduction software packages, AIDR 3D and Sure Exposure, that maintain high quality image detail of imaging results while lowering radiation dosages specific to each patient’s body type.

Additionally, the new scanner comes equipped with software which significantly reduces metal artifact for complex musculoskeletal exams. The equipment also features a wide entry to easily accommodate patients of all sizes. 

This latest acquisition is a continuation of Desert Radiology’s commitment to advanced high-quality patient care, as it provides the most state-of-the-art radiology procedures and diagnostic imaging available.

The new CT scanner was installed in late January at the practice’s Palomino location, in the heart of the Las Vegas Medical District, with patient examinations already underway. The practice has plans of installing a second Aquilion Prime CT in March at its location in northwest Las Vegas.

“Our team continually studies and researches the best tools available to help improve patient care,” said Vicki Thornhill, Imaging Facility Manager at Desert Radiology. “Our new CT scanners will help our physicians deliver the most accurate results possible.”

Desert Radiology is Southern Nevada’s largest resource for diagnostic care with more than 80 experienced radiologists. The practice operates 11 outpatient imaging centers and works closely with 12 area hospitals to deliver leading-edge services that include diagnostic and interventional radiology.

For more information, visit, or on Twitter at @DesertRadiology and Facebook at

Photo: Courtesy of Desert Radiology – new CT scanner available at Palomino location