The Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV takes the “LV” in UNLV seriously. After all, community engagement is at the heart of the school’s mission to improve health care in Nevada. The community faculty program is one way the school connects students, residents, and fellows with Southern Nevada’s health care community. Through the program, hundreds of local physicians volunteer their time to help the medical school in aspects of education, research, community engagement, or care of others.
Of the community faculty members, Dean Marc J. Kahn says, “They are critical to the success of the medical school. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Who are these physicians who are so generous in sharing their time and expertise? Below, you will find the stories of four community faculty members and the reasons they’re investing in the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV.
Dr. Michael Edwards – Plastic Surgery
Among the many titles Dr. Michael Edwards holds – including past president of the Clark County Medical Society and of The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery – one position he is proud to hold is that of full clinical professor at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV, a position he holds through the community faculty program.
Edwards came to the school in 2015 after the passing of Dr. William Zamboni, who, at the time, served as then-University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Chair of Surgery and Chair of Plastic Surgery. Always looking for ways to bolster Southern Nevada’s medical community, Edwards and his partners stepped in, opening up their practice to plastic surgery residents to carry on Zamboni’s legacy of supporting resident education.
“Dr. Zamboni was very involved in teaching the plastic surgery residents the aesthetic part of their education,” Edwards explains. “When he passed away, there was a void. So I went to Dr. John Fildes who, at the time, was the chair of surgery. After talking to my partners, we opened our practice up to let the plastic surgery residents rotate here, which we still do.”
These rotations typically last for three months, with residents spending a month’s time training with Edwards or one of his two partners, Dr. Terry Higgins and Dr. Andrew Silver. In this rotation, residents gain experience in a clinical setting and the operating room, all while getting exposure to the pragmatic and administrative aspects – such as billing and hiring – of operating a private practice.
“If they're going into their own private practice, we try to share with them things that we didn't learn when we were in residency,” Edwards says. While the title of full clinical professor sits nicely atop Edwards’ lengthy and impressive CV, he is passionate about this volunteer position because he sees it as a way to give back. “Leadership has always been important to me,” Edwards says. “I was in the military for 19 years and helped command a field hospital in the desert as well as serving as chief of staff at Mike O’Callaghan Federal Hospital. I've always enjoyed being involved. I don't like to do things just to put them on my CV. It's just good to give back.”
Dr. Sid Khurana – Psychiatry
Dr. Sid Khurana, a psychiatrist and community faculty member, has played a role in recruiting and retaining a number of psychiatrists to the Las Vegas Valley. As Dr. Lisa Durette, department of psychiatry and behavioral health vice chair at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV, puts it, “What I think is the greatest testament to Dr. Khurana’s compassion, mentorship, and clinical acumen is the fact that he has successfully recruited and retained several graduates from our programs to work and grow in our local clinics.”
Khurana is such a proponent of Las Vegas that he’s successfully convinced his parents- and brother-in-law to move to the Valley. Throughout his decade-long career in Southern Nevada, Khurana has witnessed firsthand the impact of partnerships like the one between the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV and Healthy Minds, a practice comprised of a diverse group of mental health experts, and Nevada Mental Health, a practice specialized to teach high quality community-based psychiatric care.
“The number of child psychiatrists in our town has doubled in the last eight to 10 years, and that is thanks to our [child and adolescent psychiatry] fellowship program,” Khurana says. “We have been able to meet the needs of Southern Nevada by having more locally trained psychiatrists who know the local community, the local culture, and can apply that knowledge in this context.”
Given Khurana’s investment in engaging with the Las Vegas community, you may be surprised to learn that he grew up 7,700 miles away in the Indian state of Punjab. In India, he initially worked as a cardiothoracic surgeon before moving to the U.S. to completely restart his medical education to pursue a career in the field he is most passionate about: psychiatry. Even after investing years in his medical education in the U.S and India, Khurana still has a thirst for knowledge. “I find teaching as rewarding for two reasons: it's the best way to learn, because if you can't teach it, then you don't know it. Answering questions keeps us on our toes,” Khurana says. “Secondly, teaching is the best way of giving back. Somebody taught us and trained us, and it's now my turn to help the next generation of doctors be well-trained, and then hopefully they stay here and serve local Nevadans.”
Dr. Lloyd Jensen – Pediatrics
Dr. Lloyd Jensen moved to Las Vegas at an auspicious time. “I moved here right as the school of medicine was enrolling their first class, summer 2017,” he explains. Jensen made his way to Las Vegas by way of Utah … and Latin America, Africa, and Eastern Europe.
Over the past 20 years, Jensen, a pediatrician, has facilitated resuscitation courses in limited resource areas. His work with the World Health Organization, Latter Day Saint Charities, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and partnerships with USAID have taken him to a total of 19 developing nations where he has helped train medical professionals. Whether at home or abroad, Jensen embraces the role of educator. He first stepped into that role while he was working at a hospital in Idaho that participated in the University of Washington School of Medicine’s WWAMI program which gives residents the option to rotate through Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho, hence the acronym.
In his interactions with WWAMI-participating residents, Jensen “found that being involved with them was something very beneficial,” he says, “not only to me, but to them, and I think it did help me stay up to date on the different areas of medicine that I was practicing.”
Before arriving in Las Vegas at that auspicious time, he was working at the University of Utah’s Primary Children’s Hospital where he was also involved in resident education, an involvement that has continued in his work at Sunrise Children’s Hospital. Here, Jensen sees second- and third-year pediatric and OB-GYN residents from the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV who are interested in pediatric and newborn intensive care rotate through.
Beyond residents, Jensen also gives this unique training opportunity to medical students as well. “We have kind of said that if a student is interested in doing pediatrics, then we think that the experience that they could have in the newborn ICU could really help prepare them for their residency,” Jensen says.
Dr. McKenna Geary, a fourth-year OB-GYN resident who has rotated through Sunrise Children’s Hospital says of Jensen, “He’s a very good resource for us to talk to about all the complicated patients … I’ve had an invaluable experience with him, and we’ve really appreciated his mentorship these past four years.” Having spent years serving as a mentor throughout the Mountain West and throughout the world, Jensen’s mentorship knows no bounds.
Dr. David Obert – Emergency Medicine
A bull rider comes into the emergency room. This is not the set up for a punchline; this is what happened one night nine years ago while Dr. David Obert, now chief of emergency medicine at University Medical Center (UMC), was on the emergency department floor. “I started talking with the athlete’s doctors, and before I knew it, I got myself invited out to the rodeo the following year,” Obert recalls.
This encounter led to Obert serving as medical support at events – boxing and MMA fights, Raiders games, and Electric Daisy Carnival to name a few – across Southern Nevada. As a community faculty member with the school of medicine, Obert has been able to bring residents with him to several of Vegas’s sports and entertainment offerings so that residents gain hands-on experience in event medicine. “We started with pulling residents into hockey games as part of their EMS rotation,” Obert says.
Event medicine opportunities for residents have since expanded with residents having the option to work in an EMS capacity at concerts, college bowl games, and soccer games. Second-year emergency medicine resident Nathan Hollister, MD, is one of many residents who has had the opportunity to work these events under Obert’s direction.
According to Hollister, Obert’s ceaseless encouragement is one of many laudable attributes that make him an ideal mentor. Hollister says, ”When you get a chance to shadow Obert or work events with him, he really brings you into the team. He's a great hype man.”
The respect between the instructor and resident is mutual. Hollister, a trapeze artist himself, has gotten involved with Las Vegas’s robust performer community, providing medical support to the city’s world-class circus artists. Of Hollister’s medical work with the circus community, Obert says, “None of this is money-motivated. It’s interest related. He’s doing something that he loves and has a true passion for. He’s looking into how he can provide medical support, education, and unique literature for an underserved population.”
Obert’s energy has fueled Hollister’s work, and the respect between mentor and mentee is mutual. “He is a ‘yes, and’ type of person,” Hollister says. “Dr. Obert is just one of the people that will listen to your idea and say, ‘That might be a little bit difficult, but these are ways we can make it work.'"