Fall 2015
Faculty Focus

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Las Vegas pulmonologist Dr. Hidenobu Shigemitsu consults with a patient.

Air Quality: Hidenobu Shigemitsu, M.D., administers a pulmonary function test to Maria Marin at University Medical Center in Las Vegas. Photo by Edgar Antonio Núñez.

Pulmonologist Creates Division, Fellowship

Story by Anne McMillin, APR

Enticed to move to Las Vegas with the promise of being able to start a pulmonary and critical care division from the ground up, Hidenobu Shigemitsu, M.D., did exactly that, and more, in his first two-and-half years at the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

"I arrived in May 2013 to create a division and to create a fellowship with the medical school and University Medical Center," he said.

"The essential elements of a program already existed at UMC, so all that was needed was a dedicated person to put it together and lead it."

He gathered faculty, staff and community physicians and taught them how to instruct students while implementing a high intensity, 24/7 intensive care unit staffing model at UMC. The result improved accountability, reduced patient stays and improved quality.

Shigemitsu, working with Miriam Bar-on, M.D., associate dean for graduate medical education and Sandhya Wahi-Gururaj, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine, was the force behind establishing Nevada's first and only pulmonary and critical care medicine fellowship accredited by the American Council on Graduate Medical Education.

The program began July 2015 on the school's Las Vegas campus with the first three fellows entering the three-year training program.

The fellowship is held at UMC, the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System and the Mike O'Callaghan Federal Hospital at Nellis Air Force Base.

"The three training sites give us an unparalleled breadth of unique training opportunities," said Shigemitsu, who carries the title of chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine and fellowship program director.

The fellowship focuses on the inpatient and outpatient practice of pulmonary medicine and the care of patients in the ICUs of the three hospitals. Fellows are caring for patients presenting with lung diseases, along with critically ill patients in the ICU.

"The fellowship will help create a robust platform to build research, advance patient care, and bring an academic pulmonary and critical care medicine practice in Las Vegas and Nevada," Shigemitsu said, adding that the goal is to keep fellows in Las Vegas upon completion of their training.

Prior to coming to Nevada, Shigemitsu was co-director of the sarcoidosis and interstitial lung disease program at USC, one of the largest programs in the U.S. He also was director of the medical ICU at the Los Angeles County Hospital and has expertise in ICU management and care of critically ill patients.

Ultimately, he'd like to develop the expertise at UMC to offer lung transplants for patients.

Shigemitsu's current project, the SPOTS (Screen Pulmonary Oncologic Tumor Services) program, is the lung screening program established by UMC and the School of Medicine. This program offers low dose CT scans to patients at high risk for lung cancer. Patients who undergo screening are followed by a multi-disciplinary team of physicians and palliative care specialists, with the benefit of expedited referrals, decreased time to therapy and coordinated treatment.

This team cares for people who are at risk for lung cancer using the most advanced technology including navigational bronchoscopy. Navigational bronchoscopy uses a small camera that is put into the lung using a complex navigation system to accurately locate abnormal areas in the lungs for biopsy, which helps in early detection and diagnosis.