Fall 2014
Pediatrics chair focuses on subspecialist hires in Las Vegas

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Dr. Nevin Wilson examines a young patient's ear

Ear examination

Nevin Wilson, M.D., examines a young patient's ear with an otoscope at the University Pediatric Center in Las Vegas. Photo by Edgar Antonio Núñez.

Story by Anne McMillin, APR

A familiar face returned to Las Vegas earlier this year when Nevin Wilson, M.D. '82, returned to his hometown to take up the reins of the School of Medicine's pediatrics department in southern Nevada.

Board-certified, he previously served as chair of the School of Medicine's pediatrics department in Reno, where he established a growing academic allergy and immunology practice and doubled the size of the department's clinical facility.

Back in southern Nevada for nearly a year, Wilson's focus has been on recruiting new faculty and adding medical subspecialty expertise to the pediatrics department.

His goal has been to provide new services by partnering the departmental expertise in allergy and immunology with related conditions. To that end, he established an eosinophilic esophangitis clinic combining the expertise of allergy with that of pediatric gastroenterology to treat young patients who have allergies of the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow.

He also created an immunodeficiency clinic marrying the subspecialties of infectious disease and allergy and immunology to address the needs of children who get repeated infections.

The department also is working in collaboration with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder to pull together medical doctors from the School of Medicine with doctorate research faculty at UNLV to work toward increased research opportunities with the goal of improving health care for southern Nevada's children with conditions on the disorder spectrum.

"Our goal is to raise our profile in the community by improving our subspecialty services in southern Nevada to increase the quality of care for our young patients," he said, adding that in the process, the department will also offer expanded educational opportunities for students, residents and community physicians.

"We hope to open our collaborative research potential to improve patient care," he said.

The pediatrics department is reaching out to the Clark County School District and placing its residents in school-based health centers, primarily at middle schools, for their adolescent medicine rotations.

"Sometimes, the only time these kids see a doctor is our residents in a school-based health center," Wilson said.

Wilson and Mary Beth Hogan, M.D., pediatrics professor with expertise in allergy and immunology who also transferred to the Las Vegas pediatrics department from Reno, hope to pick up their allergen research studies now that they are in southern Nevada.

Hogan said that their clinical research previously was focused on what they saw in the practice that was then applied to help patients.

One research interest has been sorting out mold allergy sensitization in the Nevada desert.

"The Great Basin sits in a geographical bowl with little rain so the pollens can't be washed out; they are perennial," Hogan said. She didn't expect to see patients presenting with mold and dust mite allergies. Yet they were.

They developed patient surveys and subsequent statistical analysis revealed that patients with swamp coolers had higher incidents of dust mite and mold allergy than patients in homes with air conditioners. Based on these results, specific recommendations for avoidance measures to patients and their families have been instituted.

In addition, Hogan has partnered with University of Nevada, Reno microbiologist Ruth Gault, Ph.D., and the Centers for Disease Control to identify which molds are prevalent indoors and outdoors in the Great Basin.

Each desert climate is unique to mold growth and little research has been performed in the desert southwest. This research to identify mold species is important to allergic asthmatic individuals as they may have increased disease severity if sensitized to certain mold species.

Wilson said he wouldn't be surprised to see increased cases of weed and grass allergies and fewer mold and dust mite allergies in the Las Vegas Valley, since more households have air conditioners than swamp coolers due to the higher overall temperatures.

New studies are in progress investigating the association of obesity, allergies and asthma. It is not known whether obesity is a consequence of lack of exercise due to asthma or if obese children are more susceptible to asthma. It is hoped that preliminary work in this area might also lead to developing an intervention to break the cycle of inactivity that asthmatic children experience which also will assist in weight control.

This work is being performed in conjunction with Sheniz Moonie, Ph.D., a researcher in epidemiology and biostatistics at the UNLV School of Community Health Sciences, who is in a joint doctorate program with the University of Nevada, Reno.