Why Southern Nevada Needs an Infectious Diseases Society

By Dr. Luis Medina-Garcia, UMC.

As the COVID-19 pandemic tightened its grip on the world last year, it crystalized an idea I had long been pondering:  the need for an infectious diseases society in Southern Nevada. In times of crisis, information, collaboration and sharing of resources is everything. At no time in recent history has this been more apparent, especially in the early days of COVID when the world was grappling with a highly infectious disease whose fallout would change almost everything in our daily life.

As an infectious disease specialist at UMC, I was acutely aware that our region did not have an organization that brought together physicians, advanced practice providers, pharmacists and other health care professionals to share critical information and brainstorm solutions, advocate for research, interpret data and support others to pursue careers in infectious disease. Most states with large metropolitan areas have infectious disease societies that help prepare communities to fight public health challenges today and in the future.

Through this turbulent time and with the help of many, especially Las Vegas City Councilman Brian Knudsen, who has generously provided meeting space, resources, encouragement and support, the Southern Nevada Infectious Disease Society was born and continues to grow. As the first professional society for infectious disease practitioners in Nevada, we are still in our infancy but are meeting regularly and actively recruiting medical professionals to join us.

A major goal of the Southern Nevada Infectious Disease Society is to promote the formation of the state’s first infectious diseases fellowship training program. By encouraging more medical professionals to become infectious diseases specialists, we can help meet the dire need for these services both locally and nationwide. To that end, we plan to establish scholarships and provide financial support for the trainees through our nonprofit and philanthropy. Currently, there are only about 20 practicing infectious disease doctors in Clark County. Given our growing population and our huge influx of tourists, the need is far greater.

It takes a community of experts to deal with the societal scourge of infectious diseases like influenza, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, pneumonias and many common preventable infections for which vaccines are readily available, including measles, mumps and chickenpox; and of course, COVID-19. And that’s just scratching the surface of a long list of infectious diseases that have the potential to disrupt both personal lives and impact public health.

Las Vegas leads the nation as the city with the highest number of syphilis cases, which sadly means we also see a commensurate number of syphilis cases in newborns. Because of our large global tourist population, we have a fair number of tuberculosis cases, and the Las Vegas area is endemic for an infection with a fungus called Coccidioides. These are just a few examples outside of COVID that illustrate the need for more infectious diseases doctors and specialists. Sadly, there are just not enough of us to meet the need.

An important issue within the infectious disease universe is antibiotic resistance: bacterial diseases where the organisms mutate to become resistant to antibiotics. This is often a result of these drugs being commonly overprescribed. That’s why antibiotic stewardship programs inside our hospitals and nursing homes are critical to guide health care professionals in the appropriate use of antibiotics. By including pharmacy specialists in our society, we are better positioned to leverage improved physician-pharmacist relationships to choose the best medicine for patients, especially in difficult cases.

Now is the time to strengthen our public health workforce which includes those who specialize in treating infectious diseases. Pandemics haven’t occurred that often, but with globalization, they are going to become much more common. We are working hard toward growing our society to become affiliated with the Infectious Diseases Society of America, one of the world’s most prestigious ID societies, an important step that will give us even greater access to resources and information to protect Southern Nevada.

Let’s do this together for Nevada!

The Society website details more about membership.

Photo: Aerial image of Las Vegas Medical District courtesy of city of Las Vegas

Does Someone in Your Home Have COVID-19? Here’s What to Do

How to care for them while protecting yourself and others

Your spouse develops a dry cough and says they feel feverish. Or your roommate starts feeling achy, exhausted and short of breath after finding out a coworker tested positive for COVID-19. As cases continue surging across the country and new variants emerge, more people are finding themselves in these situations.

So, what should you do if someone in your household starts showing COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive for the virus? Here’s some guidance on how to care for someone who has COVID-19 while limiting the chances that the virus will spread easily in your household.

“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of infectivity in homes, where someone who’s sick infects others they live with,” says James Merlino, MD, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer.

What to do if someone in your house has COVID-19

  • Isolate and quarantine the person who’s sick by placing them in a separate bedroom and have them use a separate bathroom if possible.
  • Caregivers should also isolate to protect the public. Both patient and caregiver should stay isolated for at least 5 days.
  • Create as much air circulation as possible and open the windows weather permitting.
  • Wear masks.
  • Watch for warning signs such as difficulty breathing, persistent chest pain, new confusion, trouble waking or staying awake, bluish lips or face, and seek emergency medical care immediately if these symptoms appear.
  • Trace and inform others who have been in contact with the person who is ill.
  • Offer emotional support.
  • Monitor temperature and use over-the counter cough, cold and fever-reducing medications.
  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces every day and ensure your household disinfectant is effective against the coronavirus.
  • Don’t share personal household items with the person who is sick. Wash all of their cups, dishes and eating utensils with dish soap and hot water (or in the dishwasher).
  • Avoid visitors to your home — especially anyone who’s at high risk for COVID-19 complications.

“COVID-19 often gets in through the back door — it spreads when someone loosens up on precautions or when a family member isn’t careful,” Dr. Merlino says. “So, we have to be very vigilant with these precautions.” For more information please refer to the full article on the Cleveland Clinic website.

Article and Image are Courtesy of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

Spirit of Children Donates $202,000 to UMC Children’s Hospital

Funds Support Improved Hospital Experience for Pediatric Patients

Spirit Halloween’s Spirit of Children program presented UMC Children’s Hospital with a record-breaking donation of more than $202,000 on February 4 to support valuable child life services. This is the largest annual donation UMC Children’s Hospital has ever received from Spirit of Children.

UMC CEO Mason Van Houweling and UMC Children’s Hospital Medical Director Dr. Meena Vohra joined local Spirit Halloween store owner Brinnon Scott for a check presentation event at UMC.

The funds raised by Spirit of Children make hospital stays easier for young patients and their families through non-medical treatment and healing play. Proceeds were collected at local Spirit Halloween stores, SpiritHalloween.com and from business partners. One hundred percent of local donations stay in the community.

The Spirit of Children program has raised more than $844,000 for UMC Children’s Hospital since 2010, supporting vital child life services to improve the hospital experience for young patients and their family members.

Previous funds from Spirit of Children allowed UMC Children’s Hospital to launch a groundbreaking virtual reality program and introduce new sensory equipment for the hospital’s Child Life Department. The hospital has also allocated Spirit of Children funds to support a large-scale remodel of UMC Children’s Hospital in the future. This project will create an improved care environment for pediatric patients.

Each year, Spirit of Children and local Spirit Halloween stores also bring Halloween to the young patients at UMC Children’s Hospital, providing costumes, activity books and other goodies to every child receiving care at the hospital.

Photo: 2021 Spirit of Children Halloween costume delivery to UMC; courtesy of UMC

Valley Hospital Celebrates 50-Year Anniversary in 2022

Valley Hospital recently commemorated 50 years of caring for southern Nevada residents and tourists in January 2022.

Originally built as a nursing home, Valley Hospital was converted into an acute care hospital with 269 beds and four operating rooms by seven local businessmen. In 1979, Valley Hospital was acquired by Universal Health Services (UHS) founder Alan B. Miller, creating the foundation of one of the largest hospital management companies in the US. Today, the 328-bed hospital specializes in advanced cardiovascular and neurological care, emergency and surgical services, adult behavioral health, and an outpatient wound care and hyperbaric medicine care.

“When you think about the incredible growth in population and tourism over the past 50 years, and the role Valley Hospital has played in saving lives, caring for patients and training our future physicians, it’s a pretty impressive arc,” said Claude Wise, CEO of Valley Hospital. “Valley Hospital’s culture and its commitment to caring for patients, families, coworkers and our community is one of its greatest strengths.”

Fast Facts & Highlights
Excellence in Stroke Care – In 2020, Valley Hospital was the first hospital within The Valley Health System to become an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center from The Joint Commission and The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. The hospital was accredited as a Primary Stroke Center in 2007 and established its neurology residency program in 2007.

Adding Physicians to Southern Nevada. In 2006, Valley Hospital established its graduate medical education program for physicians. Today, it offers residencies and fellowships in family medicine, internal medicine, neurology and orthopedic surgery, and fellowships in pulmonary critical care and gastroenterology, along with a Pharmacy residency program. Many graduates of the residencies and fellowships have established their practices locally.

Expanding Tourist Access to Medical Care – In 2021, Valley Hospital acquired Elite Medical Center, located at 150 E. Harmon, adjacent to Las Vegas Boulevard.

Flight For Life: The area’s first “flying emergency room” – Flight For Life was the first hospital-based air ambulance service in Southern Nevada and had an air speed of 140 mph. Established in February 1980, it made 365 patient flights its inaugural year. In December 2001, the service was sold to Mercy Air, having logged approximately 20,000 flights within a four-state radius.

“Firsts” to Celebrate – Over the years, Valley Hospital was the first in the community to provide new services and technological advances which are now taken for granted. For example, it was the first Nevada hospital to initiate a new program to prepare intravenous (IV) medicine (1974), install a CT scan (1977), offer the region’s first hospital-based air ambulance service (1980), perform a successful percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty in Southern Nevada, organize the state’s first eye bank (1982), install the first MRI in Clark County (1987) and offer labor-delivery-recovery suites in its obstetrics unit (1987).

Establishing The Valley Health System – Valley Hospital is the namesake and foundation of The Valley Health System which includes Summerlin Hospital (1997), Desert Springs Hospital (acquired 1998), Spring Valley Hospital (2003), Centennial Hills Hospital (2008), Henderson Hospital (2016), The Valley Health Specialty Hospital (2021) and West Henderson Hospital (groundbreaking 2022).

Updated information about The Valley Health System can be found on:
Facebook: TheValleyHealthSystemLV
Instagram:  www.instagram.com/thevalleyhealthsystem
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/the-valley-health-system
YouTube: www.youtube.com/TheValleyHealthSystem

Photo: Valley Hospital in 1970; courtesy of Valley Hospital Medical Center

Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine and UMC Continue Partnership To Improve Healthcare In Southern Nevada

Mason Van Houweling, CEO of University Medical Center (UMC) and Marc Kahn, MD, dean, UNLV’s Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine share a common goal – the improvement of healthcare in Southern Nevada. And it’s not hyperbole to say that a continued alliance between these two institutions is transformational.

As leaders in this strategic relationship, Van Houweling and Kahn view the medical school/hospital partnership as mutually beneficial. So intertwined are the medical school and UMC that it is impossible on any given day to not see School of Medicine faculty physicians, fellows, residents, and students either working cases at the hospital or in the midst of training.

UMC benefits from having medical school faculty physicians practicing and teaching in 17 specialty programs that range from surgical critical care to pediatrics. Medical school students, residents and those in fellowship programs, benefit from learning at a hospital that affords specialty programs clinical homes and provides the most advanced surgical technology in Nevada.

In addition to a Level 1 trauma center – the state’s highest rated trauma center, UMC is also home to Nevada’s only center for transplantation, verified burn care center, designated pediatric trauma center, and pediatric robotic surgery program – all of which support patients and UNLV medical teams.

Nowhere has this partnership been more high profile than in the institutions’ joint efforts in dealing with the pandemic. “It’s been all hands on deck. Without residents going the extra mile, we couldn’t have handled it,” “said Van Houweling.

Van Houweling and Dr. Kahn also are working on an initiative that will strengthen services for patients at UMC who are dealing with neurological, vascular, stroke, oncological, and mental health issues. In addition, UNLV is launching Nevada’s first academic health center that, with UMC as its primary teaching hospital, will bring together the university’s five healthcare professional schools in nursing, integrated health, community health sciences, dentistry, and allopathic medicine to advance the region’s health care.

The relationship between a county safety-net hospital and a public medical school is indeed sacrosanct in the combined mission to care for our community.

Photo: Courtesy of Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV; Dr. Marc Kahn, MD, and UMC CEO Mason Van Houweling