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.