UNLV School of Medicine Renamed in Honor of Las Vegas Icon Kirk Kerkorian

School marks its first graduation on May 7

The UNLV School of Medicine is now the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV. The name change, which honors the late Las Vegas business leader and philanthropist, was formally approved April 16 by the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents, just in time for the May 7 graduation of the school’s 50-member charter class to receive their MD degrees – from the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine.

The school’s five-story, 135,000 square medical education building, which is currently under construction in the Las Vegas Medical District, will also become the Kirk Kerkorian Medical Education Building.

Kerkorian, who passed away in 2015, was an intensely private man. He donated hundreds of millions of dollars to charities throughout his lifetime, but the vast majority of his giving has been anonymous. According to Anthony Mandekic, executor of the Kerkorian Estate, the UNLV School of Medicine has special significance and he believes Mr. Kerkorian would have been proud to be associated with a medical school working to transform healthcare in Southern Nevada.

“Mr. Kerkorian wanted to uplift medicine in Southern Nevada and the medical school is a big step in fulfilling that wish. I know he would be pleased,” said Mandekic.

The school’s $150 million medical education building is being funded in large part by private donations, including contributions from the Kerkorian Estate and the Engelstad Foundation, among others. The Nevada Health and Bioscience Corporation is spearheading construction and anticipates completion in 2022.

“We’re proud to recognize an incredible partnership with the naming of UNLV’s School of Medicine in honor of Kirk Kerkorian,” said UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield. “From the school’s earliest days, our donors took a big chance on an ambitious idea to transform healthcare in Southern Nevada. And that ambition – and the incredible investment in time and resources from everyone involved with the Nevada Health and Bioscience Corporation – is now being realized as we prepare to graduate the charter class of the fully accredited UNLV School of Medicine and with construction well underway on the school’s permanent home.”

The UNLV Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine is directly addressing the critical shortage of health care professionals in Southern Nevada. An emerging leader in medical education and innovative practice, the school is training future Nevada physicians, serving the community, and elevating patient care for a diverse, urban region. The medical education building, when completed, will act as the school’s permanent campus, allowing expanded class sizes and providing space for additional research activities.   

“In addition to being a visionary who helped make Las Vegas a one-of a kind city, all the while creating tens of thousands of jobs for Southern Nevadans, Kirk Kerkorian showed a determination throughout his remarkable career to help those in need,” said Dr. Marc J. Kahn, dean of the school. “That philosophy perfectly aligns with our vision as a medical school.”     

Before his passing in 2015, Kerkorian’s Lincy Foundation gave generously for more than two decades, supporting medical, educational, social service, scientific research and other charitable endeavors. The foundation and Kerkorian’s estate continue to have a lasting and meaningful impact on projects throughout the world.

Photo: Charter Class of Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV. Courtesy of UNLV.

Thanks to Donor Support, Professional Athletes Brain Health Study Marks Its 10th Anniversary

The Professional Athletes Brain Health Study (PABHS) is a landmark longitudinal study of athletes exposed to repeated head impacts (RHI). Since the first participant was enrolled in 2011, the PABHS has become an international effort led by Cleveland Clinic that brings together a multidisciplinary team of scientists to study the neurological effects of RHI over the lifespan of professional athletes.

2011 to 2021 Milestones: link to infographic.

Role of Philanthropy
Given that the PABHS is focused on the long-term effects of RHI, the longer an athlete is followed, the more longitudinal — and therefore more valuable — the information collected during that individual’s annual study visits.

A study of this magnitude requires significant resources that the Cleveland Clinic cannot bear on its own. Thus, since its inception in 2011, the PABHS has largely relied on philanthropic donations, many of which have come from the combat sports industry.

UFC has been a valued supporter of the study from the beginning, providing strategic guidance on the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), referring its athletes for participation, as well as providing funding. In February 2016, following a five-year, $1 million donation, UFC became the study’s largest financial contributor in combat sports. In 2021, UFC is reinvesting in its commitment to brain health with another five-year, $1 million donation.

“UFC is proud to continue its support of both Cleveland Clinic and the Professional Athletes Brain Health Study. We have supported this study since its inception, and we take pride in standing at the forefront of helping set new standards for athlete health and safety in all sports,” says UFC Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein.

On behalf of athletes everywhere from the pros to the weekend warriors, Cleveland Clinic thanks UFC for its commitment to brain health.

Photo: UFC Chief Operating Office Lawrence Epstein, left, and Mixed Martial Artist Forest Griffin at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Courtesy of Cleveland Clinic.


Prestigious Designation Recognizes Excellence in Imaging Efficiency, Safety and Quality Care

Desert Radiology, a premier diagnostic imaging practice that has served Southern Nevada for more than 50 years, recently announced it received a renewal as a Diagnostic Imaging Center of Excellence™ (DICOE) from the American College of Radiology (ACR), a designation that represents the pinnacle of medical imaging services. Desert Radiology was the first outpatient imaging practice ever in Nevada to receive this recognition in 2015.

This prestigious distinction reflects Desert Radiology’s continued high standard of care since it became the first practice in Nevada to earn the DICOE designation, which honors excellence in imaging efficiency, safety and quality care.

One of the largest medical associations in the United States, the ACR awards the DICOE designation based on a comprehensive assessment of a medical imaging practice, including facility organization and management; equipment and IT infrastructure; radiation and general safety; quality management; patient rights; policies and procedures and more.

The ACR strives to raise standards of value-based care through the DICOE program, created for facilities aiming to surpass ACR Accreditation. Considered the gold standard of medical imaging, ACR Accreditation documents facilities that meet requirements for equipment, medical personnel and quality assurance.

“The DICOE designation signifies the very top level of care in our industry, and to maintain this status reflects our team’s dedication to providing Southern Nevadans with the best possible medical imaging services,” said Rich Bodager, CEO and executive vice president of Desert Radiology. “Our physicians and team members look forward to providing the safest and highest quality of care for many years to come.”

A facility becomes eligible to receive a DICOE designation by meeting a variety of criteria, including receiving ACR Accreditation in all modalities in which  ACR offers accreditation, participation in the Dose Index Registry® and General Radiology Improvement Database, pledging to Image Gently® and Image Wisely®, and participation in a site survey conducted by an ACR survey team.

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 www.desertrad.com, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/desertradiology

Photo: Desert Radiology building in LVMD.

Do You Snore? Tell Your Dentist.

Dr. Tanya Al-Talib advocates for dentists becoming the first line of defense against sleep breathing issues.

UNLV School of Dental Medicine orthodontist Tanya Al-Talib considers good oral health integral to maintaining good overall health, and encourages her dental students to treat patient visits as opportunities for identifying other possible ailments during their earliest stages.

There’s one ailment she’s passionate about detecting—sleep breathing issues such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

“People who snore usually know they do thanks to a bed partner, but those who may be susceptible to, or have the more serious sleep apnea may not,” said Dr. Al-Talib. “And unless a person expresses concern, a medical professional won’t automatically check for signs of the disorder.

“Since most comprehensive dental exam check vitals, height and weight, and head and neck pathology, I saw an opportunity to look for potential indicators of sleep breathing issues that could lead to earlier diagnoses before serious medical issues manifest.”

Dr. Al-Talib implemented questionnaires that, paired with anatomical criteria, evaluate the risk levels for sleep apnea and other sleep breathing issues among children and adults.

She used the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to calculate a person’s excessive daytime sleepiness, “STOP BANG” for OSA and Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT), which is used to identify different skeletal and dental issues for orthodontic patients, to determine airway volume.

“I also collect data on height, weight, neck circumference, alignment, and skeletal make-up, and then combined it with data from the Epworth survey, airway measurements, and jaw discrepancy. So far, we have found an interaction between daytime sleepiness and skeletal make-up.”

The tools
The questionnaires for adult and pediatric patients are completed during the comprehensive dental exams.

Adult patients complete two questionnaires. One targets excessive daytime sleepiness and features questions such as “How likely are you to nod or fall asleep during the following situations: 1. Sitting and Reading 2. Watching TV, (etc.)?”

The STOP BANG questionnaire focuses on risks for obstructive sleep apnea and includes questions about a patient’s loud snoring, high blood pressure during sleep, or witnessed apnea, which occurs when a person stops breathing while asleep.

The pediatric sleep questionnaire addresses a child’s snoring and breathing during sleep, a child’s level of sleepiness during the day, and the child’s overall behavior.

While examining patients, dental students in the general clinics calculate a numeric score. Questionnaires with higher scores indicate greater risks for sleep disordered breathing, which prompts students to request a consult with Dr. Al-Talib.

The school started using the adult questionnaires during summer 2018 and has screened nearly 8,600 adults with possible sleep breathing issues. Dr. Al-Talib evaluated those with high questionnaire scores and referred them accordingly to local sleep labs for evaluation. The pediatric questionnaires have been implemented and are being used more recently.

Dentists and sleep apnea
Dr. Al-Talib is clear the questionnaires are not diagnostic—they are only screening tools.

“Diagnosing sleep apnea and other sleep disorders require 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.”

Dr. Al-Talib said local dental offices should become 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 cannot tolerate the CPAP, an oral appliance made by a trained dentist could be a successful treatment option provided it is prescribed by a sleep physician. The appliance, which is similar to a retainer, employs an advancing mechanism that moves the lower jaw forward and helps open the airway during sleep. This appliance can also aid those who snore.”

If you snore, experience daytime sleepiness, or are concerned about yourself or someone else’s sleep or sleep breathing problems, remember to speak with your primary care provider, and your dentist.

Photo: Dr. Tanya Al-Talib. Courtesy of UNLV School of Dental Medicine.