Volume 11 - August 25, 2020
Friends and Colleagues,

The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at the UNLV School of Medicine encompasses hospital and clinic based mental health services and educational programs in psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry and couple and family therapy. Not surprisingly, our medical professionals in these areas are currently working with men, women and children whose challenges include finding a path that allows them to overcome the emotionally-draining manifestations of the COVID-19 pandemic. In today’s newsletter, we are introduced to child psychiatrist Dr. Lisa Durette, the program director of our two year Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship. Even while addressing her own medical issues, she has worked hard to overcome the severe shortage of child psychiatrists in Southern Nevada by training young physicians in the full spectrum of child and adolescent psychiatry. 

Michael Gardner, MD, MPH, MMM
President & CEO, UNLV Medicine
Vice Dean of Clinical Affairs
UNLV School of Medicine

Breaking News

Senator Jacky Rosen
Meets With UNLV Medicine, Ackerman Autism Center Officials

In a 30-minute Zoom call last week, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen heard about work being done at the Ackerman Autism Center and the need for more autism care providers in the state.

They discussed telehealth, the importance of increasing autism awareness and Medicaid reimbursement.

Senator Rosen is co-sponsor of the Coronavirus Medicaid Response Act, which would increase a state’s Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage as unemployment levels increase.

Senator Rosen told the group she would continue to fight for the needs of hospitals with high percentages of Medicaid and Medicare patients as the Department of Health and Human Services distributes the $100 billion healthcare fund included in the CARES Act.

Attending the meeting were Dr. Michael Gardner, Terri Janison, President/CEO of Grant a Gift Autism Foundation, and three members of the Ackerman Center:
Dr. Mario Gaspar de Alba, Dr. Julie Beasley
and Ackerman Center Executive Director Brian Hager.
Staying Balanced During a Pandemic:
UNLV Medicine Psychiatrist Dr. Lisa Durette
Family fun during the pandemic. UNLV Medicine Psychiatrist Dr. Lisa Durette and family camped out in their yard for a night. Top to bottom: Robert Durette, PhD, an adjunct faculty member teaching research methods and statistics, daughter Allison, and Lisa. The dogs are Rita and Barkley.
UNLV Medicine childhood psychiatrist Dr. Lisa Durette, who the media has called on for her expertise on how to handle children forced to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, remembers…

How, when she practiced in South Carolina, she was brought in to help one of three sisters who had been molested by their father -- the man who killed their mother.

“I saw her for weekly therapy for a couple of years, helped her work through her trauma,” the 45-year-old physician says. “And then one day (years later)...I received this email from her -- she had just gotten her master’s degree in speech therapy...It’s moments like that that mean so much. You realize there are interventions you can put in place that can make such a difference...that you’ve given someone the seeds so they can grow into a successful future.” 

You also realize, Durette says, the “incredible resilience” of some children, their ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis like abuse or COVID-19 induced shelter-in-place. “I’m really torn as to whether you’re born with it (resilience)...Is it nature or nurture?”

The more you talk with Durette, the more you realize that few people, if anyone, better embodies the definition of resilience than this physician who serves as the founder and program director of the UNLV School of Medicine Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship.

She’s overcome four bouts of Hodgkin Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, through radiation, chemotherapy, and a stem cell transplant. She’s also won a fight with thyroid cancer. While Durette was being treated for cancer, her mother died of the disease.

No doubt about it, this high school dropout by choice -- not being challenged, she left high school after her junior year and won a college scholarship -- has been severely tested.

“To say that I’ve cried a lot and experienced an enormous amount of psychological pain is an understatement,” she says.” How I’ve dealt with these various traumas is by allowing myself to feel the pain, not hiding it or hoping it will go away on its own. I’ve honored those feelings. I set aside time to fully experience them before moving forward, but I knew even while crying my eyes out that I was going to eventually move forward, that this was just a normal and necessary step in the healing process…Sharing these experiences with my support network of friends (she affectionately refers to them as her ‘Fight Club') and family has been essential to my healing, and I’m also incredibly thankful to have a wonderful therapist I can talk with as well. Yes, mental health professionals rely on other mental health professionals, too.”

Now two years cancer-free after the stem cell transplant at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston -- Durette spent part of her time there speeding across a skybridge in a wheelchair -- she said she’s “made the best” of admittedly tough situations, always seemingly positive about the future.”You have to accept that life is going to be unpredictable,” she says. “You do what you can to enjoy it.” 

When she was just 8-years-old, Durette knew she wanted to be a doctor. Two presents from her family -- the Visible Man Anatomical Science Model Kit, which allowed her to paint all of the vital organs, coupled with a microscope that allowed her to see individual cells -- sparked an interest in medicine that has never died.
"It’s really important to remind kids there is an end to this...kids are sponges, and they absorb what you say verbally and what you don’t say verbally, so if you, as the adult, are also appearing withdrawn and distressed, kids are going to pick up on it and act on it.” -- Dr. Lisa Durette
She is a favorite of journalists trying to explain to readers and viewers the mental and emotional health ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic on children. 

“Look out for a child being more irritable than usual,” she told the Las Vegas Weekly. “Not enjoying things as much, overeating or not eating, exhibiting difficulty falling asleep or sleeping in excess, not taking care of their hygiene and appearance, declining academic performance, thoughts of not wanting to be around and passive suicidal thinking - these are issues that should be addressed.”

To help deal with this behavior, Durette suggests adults recommend “anything that kids can do to have some sense of connectedness, including using social platforms like Zoom or Facetime” and engaging in activities they enjoy, such as arts and crafts, dancing, and board games during family time. “It’s really important to remind kids there is an end to this...kids are sponges, and they absorb what you say verbally and what you don’t say verbally, so if you, as the adult, are also appearing withdrawn and distressed, kids are going to pick up on it and act on it.”

A native of South Carolina who did her undergraduate work at Agnes Scott College outside Atlanta, Durette received her MD from the University of South Carolina, and completed her residency in psychiatry and fellowship in childhood and adolescent psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina. She moved to Las Vegas in 2004, rising to major in the U.S. Air Force Reserves as a flight surgeon at Nellis Air Force Base. 

After spending eight years in Las Vegas as the medical director of a private psychiatric center, she opened, with her husband and friend, the Healthy Minds outpatient treatment center in 2012. It provides mental health treatment for adults and children as well as addiction services. In 2013 she founded the two year fellowship in childhood and adolescent psychiatry that is now headquartered at UNLV. “We needed more child psychiatrists...and I decided it would be best to grow our own. Every fellow has stayed in Las Vegas.” 

Though Durette, an assistant professor at the UNLV School of Medicine, is presently seeing fewer patients in the wake of her stem cell transplant, she continues to teach and direct the fellowship program. She’s also the Nevada delegate to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and serves on its advocacy and adoption and foster care committees. In addition, she serves as an appointee on the Governor’s Commision of Behavioral Health and on the state’s Children’s System of Care Behavioral Health Subcommittee.

The married mother of a 12-year-old daughter, Durette says that despite her own health challenges, she’s been able to stay focused on her professional goals of helping children with mental health problems because of love. “I love what I do, and the people I do it with.”
UNLV School of Medicine In The News
Desert Companion Top Docs

August 2020

20 UNLV Physicians Recognized

What Should We Do When Students Exhibit Signs of Depression Over Their Social Isolation

Las Vegas Weekly
Interviewed: Dr. Lisa Durette

Medical Students In The Age of Covid 19. The Good, The Bad, And The Unknown

CCMS: County Line Magazine

Written by: Maran Shaker, Class of 2021

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