A native Texan, Dr. Elkins says she first thought about becoming a doctor in the first grade. Her grandmother, who had to drop out of school in the eighth grade and became a nurse’s aide, made her promise to get as much education as possible and instilled in her a love for what modern medicine could accomplish.
“I did a report on the heart and the cardiovascular system in the first grade and I was on my way,” notes Dr. Elkins, who says she was happy that her grandmother saw her in medical school before she died. “My grandmother was my greatest inspiration.”
She became interested in an ENT specialization while working as a teen at a summer camp for hearing impaired children. “I learned sign language and became very interested in why some children couldn’t hear.”
Prior to starting medical school at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Houston, where she also did her residency in ENT, Dr. Elkins earned a bachelor’s degree in communications disorders at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
It was while she was at Texas Tech that she met Dr. Robert Wang, now the chairman of the UNLV School of Medicine Department of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery. “I worked in his clinic there for three years,” she says. “He’s been my mentor since then. I worked in his research lab...he taught me work ethic, the importance of a busy day in the clinic. He knows what he’s doing.”
Before moving to Las Vegas in 2018 to join the UNLV School of Medicine faculty, Elkins was the primary owner of a successful general ENT practice in Athens, TX for 14 years. At the clinic 72 miles outside Dallas, she treated conditions that included difficulty breathing due to septal deviation or tonsil enlargement, allergies, ear infections, throat infections, hearing loss, thyroid masses, skin cancers, and head and neck cancers.
Elkins, who has been on an ENT medical mission to Peru and has made plans for a mission to Romania, also incorporated new in-office techniques into her private practice, including balloon sinuplasty for chronic sinusitis that is often allergy generated. During sinuplasty, the physician inserts a flexible catheter into the patent’s nostril under endoscopic (a small fiber-optic tube) guidance. Using the endoscopic image on a nearby video monitor, along with a CT scan of the patient’s sinuses, the physician guides the tiny catheter into the affected cavity. Then the doctor inserts a small balloon along the wire inside the catheter. Once the balloon is properly positioned in the blocked area, the doctor inflates it, causing microscopic fractures in the thin bone of the sinus openings that heal in the new wider, dilated positions. After the widening, the balloon is deflated. While the patient may still have allergies, they can be treated with medications and the sinuses remain open.
“I’m very picky about who I do the procedure on,” says Elkins, who points out some patients may have underlying problems that do not allow the balloon sinuplasty to be effective. “I want them to come out better than they came in.”
UNLV Medicine appointments: 702 660-UNLV (8658)