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Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson
 Issue 207 - August 13, 2019
Friends & Colleagues,

Back in February, when I announced my intention to step down from the day-to-day operations and assume a new leadership role with the school of medicine, my greatest hope was that we find the perfect person to take us to the next level. I couldn’t be happier with the selection of Dr. John Fildes as interim dean of the UNLV School of Medicine. John will take over Sept 1, and I am very excited to work with him, providing any help or guidance he may desire as he settles into his new role. As an internationally known surgeon, Dr. Fildes has traveled the world telling medical professionals about the medical response to the Oct 1 shooting. One of his messages: how preparation and teamwork was absolutely critical to the process. I expect John to deliver a similar message to all of you. Success in building a medical school requires thoughtful planning, attention to detail and constant collaboration. I hope you’ll join me in making John feel welcome as we continue to push forward, building the UNLV School of Medicine into a world-class center for academic medicine.  
Barbara signature, first name only
Dr. John Fildes Named Interim Dean
Veteran trauma surgeon Dr. John Fildes says he will continue to see patients on a limited basis after becoming interim dean in September. He believes that remaining connected to patients, staff and students will help him in the dean's role.
Dr. John Fildes gives keynote address at 48th World Congress of Surgery in Krakow, Poland August 12th, 2019.
Many of the world’s best surgeons were in attendance Monday at the 48th World Congress of Surgery in Krakow, Poland as Dr. John Fildes, recently named interim dean of the UNLV School of Medicine, delivered the keynote address on handling mass casualty situations.

Dr. Fildes, inaugural chair of the school of medicine department of surgery, told the physicians at a conference sponsored by the International Society of Surgery that it wasn’t a question of if they would have to deal with a multiple casualty incident, but when.

The coordinator of the Oct. 1, 2017 medical response to the mass shooting on the Strip that killed 58 and injured more than 800, Dr. Fildes urged conferees to not only prepare for such tragedies, but also to practice and plan on a regular basis.
The clinical working groups at the World Congress of Surgery lay the foundation for future diagnostic and surgical challenges, discussing approaches and standards allowing surgeons around the globe to work together toward real-time, patient-oriented solutions.  

In the wake of Oct. 1 tragedy, President Donald Trump commended the UMC medical team and Dr. Fildes -- a past chair of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma -- for their response to a shooting where more than 1100 rounds of ammunition were fired. 

“The doctors, the nurses, all of the people at the hospital have done a job that’s indescribable,” the President said after touring UMC and meeting with patients.

On Aug. 8, the day before Dr. Fildes -- longtime medical director of UMC's Trauma and Burn Centers -- left for Poland, he was named interim dean of the UNLV School of Medicine by UNLV President Marta Meana: 

“John is an exceptional leader and brilliant physician and he has been a key member of Barbara’s team since day one. As our inaugural chair of the department of surgery, he prepares our state’s future doctors with the knowledge and skills to help the most critical of patient needs. Our school of medicine is in very good hands.” 

Dr. Fildes’ appointment was applauded by UMC CEO Mason VanHouweling. 

“Driven by his passion for saving lives, Dr. John Fildes has guided the UMC Trauma Center to become a world-renowned leader in trauma care,” Mr. VanHouweling said. “His unparallelled leadership skills played an instrumental role in UMC’s successful response to the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. He remained incredibly calm under pressure while leading our team...As a result of his commitment to preparation and excellence, every single patient who entered UMC with a pulse that night survived ...In addition to serving as a world-class trauma surgeon, Dr. Fildes remains committed to training and mentoring future generations of health care professionals. As a trusted leader and dedicated educator, Dr. Fildes serves as the perfect choice for the interim dean position at the UNLV School of Medicine."
Under Dr. Fildes’ guidance, UMC, the main training hospital for the UNLV School of Medicine, has become a leader in trauma medicine. Of those who arrive alive at the trauma center -- many have less than a 1 percent chance to live -- 96 percent survive and are discharged. 
A true believer in academic medicine -- where research gives birth to cutting edge surgical techniques and other breakthroughs -- Dr. Fildes’ research has appeared in 64-peer-reviewed publications, including the American Journal of Surgery, the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, Critical Care Medicine, Academic Emergency Medicine, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Journal of Surgical Research, and Cancer Medicine Journal.  
Dr. Fildes looks forward to the challenges before him as interim dean.

“I am honored to champion Dean Atkinson’s vision for the school going forward,” he said. “Under her leadership, we are indeed creating a world-class center of excellence and innovation for medical education, patient care and research -- a school that prepares Nevada’s physicians for serving the health needs of our diverse urban community. I will carry that vision forward 110 percent. I have been a huge supporter of what she has done for this community.” 
“My goal is to make the UNLV School of Medicine enormously successful. I plan to do that carefully, through managing our growth, ensuring the best education for our students and residents.” -- Dr. John Fildes
As Dr. Fildes looks into the future, he sees positive possibilities. 

“My goal is to make the UNLV School of Medicine enormously successful,” he said. “I plan to do that carefully, through managing our growth, ensuring the best education for our students and residents...I would also like to grow all types of new specialty programs at UNLV. I want to see a liver transplant center, comprehensive surgical oncology treatment for cancer, expanded pediatric surgery, the kind of things people now have to leave Las Vegas for.” 

Dr. Fildes says UNLV is becoming known as a destination for top surgeons of the future. He established the nation’s first acute care surgery fellowship at UMC. “I look for surgeons who exhibit grace under pressure, who are able to operate under uncertain conditions.” 

It was in elementary school that Dr. Fildes first thought about becoming a doctor.

What other third graders took for granted -- you went to a doctor to get well if you were sick or injured -- caused 8-year-old John Fildes to ask a question: How do you become a doctor?

He wanted to know how he, too, could one day make people feel better.

“I decided very early on after a few injuries and illnesses that I wanted to be trained in medicine -- that I had to learn a body of knowledge that was large and complex,” said Fildes, whose father was an engineer with IBM in Poughkeepsie, NY. “A lot of kids wanted to be astronauts with NASA back then. I wanted to work in human service... to directly help people.” 

An honors graduate of Union College in Schenectady, NY, Fildes majored in biomedical engineering. While there, he worked at a local hospital as an orderly, pathology aide and EKG technician. “It was gratifying to take care of people...also the science and technology was engaging.”    

That experience also laid the groundwork for his interest in surgical critical care, in trauma medicine. He saw people die from car wrecks or burns from industrial accidents that he was sure could have been saved had the hospital been prepared.  

“Those patients didn’t get what they deserved,” said Fildes. 

After graduating with high honors from the medical school at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines, he would complete a residency and fellowship in general surgery at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital in the Bronx, NY and a fellowship in surgical critical care, burns and trauma at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Both hospitals deal with a huge volume of patients who are crime victims, often arriving in critical condition from shootings or stabbings.

“It was unbelievable what we saw there,” said Fildes, who has been a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons since 1990. “I found that I was good under pressure, that I was making a difference in people’s lives.” 

Fildes’ stellar work in Chicago led in 1996 to his move to Las Vegas as director of the UMC Trauma Center. UMC is Nevada’s only Level 1 Trauma Center, only Pediatric Trauma Center and only Burn Center.  

At a meeting of the American College of Surgeons in San Diego, UNLV trauma surgeon Dr. Deborah Kuhls spoke about Fildes' leadership. She said he found ways for staff to utilize every possible area of the hospital to quickly treat patients, such as turning the ambulatory surgery unit into another emergency room.

“I just try to find ways to get the best job done,” Dr. Fildes said.
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