Why Southern Nevada Needs an Infectious Diseases Society
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

Back to All