Also among her more than 30 honors and awards is the 2019 Presidential Citation for outstanding contribution to the Society of Critical Care Medicine. Most recently, she was named president-elect of CCMS.
“I am truly honored,” says Kuhls, who has been a member of CCMS for 20 years and served on its board for several years. She’s now president-elect and serves on their executive council. “This is a very exciting time for Nevada and Southern Nevada in particular with historic numbers of Nevadans entering medical school ...and new and expanding residency and fellowship programs being approved...Next year will be a legislative year and I plan to represent physicians and patients in the most responsible manner as president of CCMS.”
Kuhls is understandably proud of the fact that the UMC Trauma Center is nationally renowned, with National Trauma Data Bank Statistics showing that while many people arrive with less than a 1 percent chance to live, an amazing 96 percent survive. As medical director of the UMC Trauma Intensive Care Unit, she helps care for those who are most injured. She feels there is no greater joy than to have a patient who was literally dying come back to visit.
Her commitment to the community was on display on Oct. 1, 2017, when Las Vegas was the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Supposed to have finished her UMC Trauma shift at 7 p.m., she was still on duty at 10 p.m. when word came in that mass casualties were coming to UMC. Kuhls, along with Dr. Syed Saquib, quickly implemented the hospital’s mass casualty plan, triggering contact that would bring other staff to the hospital. Repeated training, she said, paid off in saved lives all during the night.
“We went from zero to 40 patients in five minutes and then it was 50 to 100,” recalls Kuhls, who’s made dozens of presentations in the U.S. and Europe on how to prepare for a mass casualty event. A strong believer in American medical professionals sharing their expertise with medical groups with less specialized medical training, she taught doctors in Thailand how to develop a trauma center and how to prepare for mass casualty events following the tsunami in 2012.
A former president of the Nevada Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, Kuhls loves teaching and mentoring young men and women with an interest in surgery. Medical students, residents and fellows have been mentored on career choice, research topics and presentations that number in the dozens.
“I had great teachers, and I want to teach what I’ve learned to others,” she said. “I want to pass it on.“
In 2017, the Las Vegas Review Journal interviewed one of her students, resident-physician Lian Farino, about her teaching methods. Farino said Kuhls shows that teaching is an art.
“She can distill the jargon down from the very high level she practices at, to something medical students understand,” he said. “That takes a particular skill that not very many people can do.”
The more you learn about Dr. Kuhls, the more you realize she is a physician who believes in service responding to concern, involvement by highest commitment. She understands that the cause of better healthcare in the community is still ahead of us, that it is an enduring purpose. It is a call to arms without bloodshed or violence, something she has dedicated her life to.
“We need to always work toward the best healthcare possible,” she says.