Volume 15 - January 26, 2021
Friends & Colleagues,

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation in Nevada and throughout the country. When the virus initially hit our community hard, UNLV Medicine was the first major healthcare organization in Southern Nevada to step up with the curbside testing that is so critical in helping control the spread of the contagion. Our physicians remain on the front lines at UMC, treating intensive care patients with the virus 24/7. Today, our commitment to the community during this pandemic continues to expand. We not only obtained special freezers to house precious vaccines -- we are also part of a Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) effort to vaccinate individuals affiliated with NSHE, starting with those working in frontline roles in healthcare, public safety, law enforcement, public health and emergency first response. We will also be the primary vaccination point for Clark County School District employees. In today’s newsletter, we focus on three of our medical professionals who are literally injecting life-saving vaccines into the arms of Southern Nevadans.

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

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Breaking News

Medical student wins
AMA's Excellence in Medicine Award.
4th year student Sarah Grimley
Recipient of the AMA
Excellence in LGBTQ Health Award (Medical Student).
Congratulations Sarah!

Medicine By The Numbers

The number of deceased organ donors and deceased-donor organ transplants performed in 2020 in the United States reached an all time high -- more than 12,500, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

 Deceased and living donors in 2020 reached 18,317.

 The total number of transplants in 2020 hit 39,035.  

UNLV Medicine Professionals
To Join Historic Vaccination Effort
Dr. Michael Gardner inside the UNLV Student Union during day one of the NSHE vaccination effort January 11th 2021. Since then, additional vaccination stations have been added, allowing more people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Delicia Sullivan, Gabriella “Gabby” Benitez, Tina Galindo -- three UNLV Medicine medical professionals who say they’ll never forget this time in their lives, when they’ve had the opportunity, the honor, of vaccinating people against a virus that’s already taken more than 400,000 American lives.

Each woman is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) effort to vaccinate individuals against COVID-19, beginning with employees serving in frontline roles in healthcare, public safety, law enforcement, public health and emergency first response, both within NSHE institutions and, as designated by the Southern Nevada Health District, the broader community.

Soon, they, along with dozens of their colleagues from UNLV Medicine -- including doctors, medical assistants and UNLV School of Medicine students -- will also be vaccinating Clark County School District employees. Representatives of the UNLV and CSN Schools of Nursing, as well as nursing students from Nevada State College are also part of the large medical team.  

How Benitez, Galindo and Sullivan -- they've been working long days vaccinating people at the UNLV Student Union -- are reacting to their critical roles in conquering a pandemic, how they got to this time and place, is compelling.

“I’m not tired after giving vaccinations,” said the 31-year-old Sullivan, who normally works as a medical assistant in the UNLV Medicine Department of Internal Medicine. “I feel like I can run a marathon afterwards. It’s such an honor to meet and help first responders, healthcare workers, police officers -- so many people who are always helping our community. They thank me for being on the front lines helping them and I thank them for doing what they do for our country.” 

Not long ago, however, Sullivan wasn’t feeling well after work. She sat outside the UNLV student union crying. Colleagues gathered around her. She learned in a phone call that her mother had died.

“It was totally unexpected,” she said. “A blood clot came loose and filled her lungs with blood.” 

Sullivan, who’s taking prerequisite courses at CSN to become a nurse, said her mother, who suffered from lupus, had helped her care for her two young children, Jayden, 12, and Journie, 9. “I could work and not worry about them,” she said. 

Three years ago, the unmarried Sullivan, who was impressed with her grandmother’s big heart, decided to follow in her footsteps and became a foster mother. “I grew to love my foster kids, Jayden and Journie, and adopted them….Jayden said I saved them but I told him that and he and his sister saved me. I told him that they made me a better person. And they really have.”    

Three days after her mother died, Sullivan was back vaccinating people.
“My mother, who I cared for after she got lupus, was my rock. My mom said my biggest problem is that I didn’t believe in myself like I should...hey, I’m scared. I admit it. But I’m going to show my mother that I can make my dreams come true with her help…I still talk to her every day...I found a babysitter for my kids. It’s going to be harder. But I’m going to go on and become a registered nurse and then I’m going to be a doctor. I told my mother when she got lupus in 1997 that I was going to be a doctor and that’s what I’m going to do."

Sullivan, who studies in her rented home after her kids go to bed, truly enjoys helping people fearful of the coronavirus. 

“I’m proud of the person I’ve become. I was like too many young kids in high school, not listening, making mistakes. But now I’m the total opposite. I adore helping patients. Here I am, working with doctors and nurses. That’s not something I take for granted. It’s truly an honor to be entrusted with such a sensitive situation.” 

Like Sullivan, Benitez, who’s also a medical assistant in the UNLM Medicine Department of Internal Medicine, has found satisfaction in vaccinating people against COVID-19.

“It’s really remarkable to be part of something that can help so many people,” she said. “Every time I give a vaccination I know this person will always remember it. To be one of the first people doing this, I feel special and honored…People are so excited. They know this is history. They take selfies.” 

Though Benitez says it’s scary that a virus can come along and do damage to the entire world, she says she tries to focus on the positive -- the fact that there were scientists who could come up with a vaccine in a short time to save people from sickness and death. “I’m glad I can now be part of something that can relieve so much stress.” 

Not a serious student in high school, Benitez says that once she took a desk job at a medical clinic she knew healthcare was for her. “I found I was very attentive to people. I found I always want to know how I can help someone...If someone’s hurt, I run toward them.” 

She became a medical assistant and is now studying to become a nurse at the Arizona College of Nursing -- Las Vegas.
Like Galindo and Sullivan, Benitez does even more than give vaccinations. While the Pfizer vaccine must be stored in ultra low temperatures prior to use, it must also be diluted with 1.8 ml. of 0.9 % sodium chloride prior to administration. “The mixing is quite sensitive and I enjoy doing that,” she says.

While Benitez enjoys traveling, playing soccer and rollerblading -- she has visited Puerto Rico and much of Europe -- she says she appreciates how working in healthcare gives her life meaning. 

“I can make an impact on people’s lives...what I’m doing now with these vaccinations is going to motivate me to do much more.”
Delicia Sullivan
Gabriella Benitez
Tina Galindo
“It’s really remarkable to be part of something that can help so many people. Every time I give a vaccination I know this person will always remember it.
To be one of the first people doing this, I feel special and honored…
People are so excited. They know this is history.” 
--UNLV Medicine CMA Gabriella Benitez
For Tina Galindo, a senior clinic manager in the UNLV Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, vaccinating people has given her “overwhelming satisfaction.”

“One lady started crying. She told me how thankful she was that I was doing this. I told her how thankful I was that she came in for her vaccination. Because of her and others, I told her that we can get this pandemic under control.” 

Galindo also helped with UNLV Medicine’s curbside testing program. “It’s been a wild ride, but I think the community is really pulling together.” 

The mother of two sons, one 29 and the other 13, Galindo is also a grandmother, “I’m keeping a journal so my grandchildren will know what this pandemic has really been like.” When her 13-year-old does his studies at night, she does hers, too. She’s earning an online degree in healthcare administration from Purdue University. 

“I won’t get away from healthcare. It’s become a calling. I love UNLV Medicine, what we do for people. I just want to help people. I remember one lady that I vaccinated had both of her parents in ICU with COVID. How can you not want to help someone in that situation? It was really important to her to get vaccinated.” 

Galindo’s father is 87 and she worries about him contracting the virus. “I wish I could put him in a bubble. He lost his brother to COVID.” 

Originally, Galindo thought about becoming a lawyer. But babysitting for an Ob-Gyn who used to tell her stories about delivering babies, coupled with a part-time medical records job in high school, convinced her that healthcare was the way to go. She became a medical assistant, and she’s moved up to supervision roles in both the clinical and operational sides of medicine. 

“I drive in now at 6:30 in the morning and don’t get home until 7 at night. I’m very tired afterwards...but I wouldn’t want to change anything…I feel an overwhelming pride in what I’m doing. I want to save as many lives as I can.”
UNLV School of Medicine In The News
A Look Inside UNLV’s Vaccination Site


Interviewed: Dr. Michael Gardner
Doctors Stress Need For Convalescent Plasma As COVID-19 Deaths Continue to Rise


Interviewed: Dean Marc J. Kahn
Advocacy Group Calls for Type 1 Diabetes to be Added to Nevada’s Vaccination Priority List


Interviewed: Dr. Kenneth Izuora
Appointment, ID Not Always Required at Vaccination Site

Las Vegas Review Journal

Interviewed: Dr. Johan Bester

Is It Healthy To Be A Hopeless Romantic?

The Oprah Magazine

Interviewed: Dr. Katherine Hertlein

For an appointment at one of our 15 clinics,
call (702) 660-UNLV (8658)