Presenting Vegas Inc’s 2024 Health Care Headliners

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Thu, May 23, 2024 (2 a.m.)

Vegas Inc’s Health Care Headliners honors some of Southern Nevada’s most creative and industrious health care leaders. These 10 headliners are dedicated to their craft and to the health and well-being of every member of the community. They are scientists, doctors and educators and they represent the resilient spirit of the Las Vegas Valley through their work every day.  

The 2024 Health Care Headliners originally appeared in a special issue of Vegas Inc’s Health Care Quarterly. Sign up to get each of Vegas Inc’s special publications delivered to your inbox on the day of their release.

Aimee Foord

Research/Science

Director of the Bleeding and Clotting Disorders Clinic, Cure 4 The Kids Foundation | Years in Health Care: 11

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Aimee Foord

Aimee Foord wears many hats as the director of research at Cure 4 the Kids Foundation. She meets with patients, conducts research studies, coordinates care, champions comprehensive health care, and acts as an adjunct assistant professor at Touro University to prepare and train the next generation of hematologists. 

Foord specializes in pediatric hematology, including benign disease such as bleeding disorders, thrombophilia, abnormal blood counts and sickle cell disease.

She is a key member of Cure 4 the Kids Foundation—the only pediatric hematology and oncology practice in Southern Nevada. 

“Studies show that with chronic disease like sickle cell disease, patients do clinically better when taken care of in a comprehensive approach,” Foord said.

At her clinic, this means the patient will meet with the physician and undergo routine labs; see the nurse coordinator who will educate the patient and parents and provide referrals and plans for the next year; go over medications and storage with a pharmacist; discuss emotional, financial and educational needs with social workers, an education team and neuropsychologist; receive screenings by pediatric dentists and physical therapists; and meet with a representative from a community organization that supports families of patients. 

In 2022 only 27 of 200 Cure 4 The Kids patients were cared for in comprehensive clinic. After identifying barriers and addressing concerns, 57 patients were seen in comprehensive clinic in 2023—more than double the number of patients who received that level of care the previous year. 

Andrew Priest

Education

Campus President and Provost, Touro University Nevada | Years in Health Care: 35

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Andrew Priest

Touro University is Nevada’s largest school of medicine and only school of osteopathic medicine. It trains doctors, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, physician assistants and medical educators, many of whom choose to stay in Nevada after graduation. As the campus president and provost, Andrew Priest’s vision for the school is driven by a deep desire to improve the quality of life for Nevada residents. Under his leadership, the vision of Touro University is to place 100 medical students into Nevada residencies every year for the next decade. “Many of our graduates choose to practice in Nevada and are selected by residency programs here,” said Priest. “The more providers we can get to live and practice here, the less patients will have to ‘wait or wander’ to get the health care they need.”

As part of his mission, he has made it possible for Touro’s students to provide free health care in the community. He plays an instrumental role at Project Homeless Connect, which provides services to more than 2,500 people experiencing homelessness every year. He has also led Touro in partnerships with organizations including the Engelstad Foundation and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to provide medical training and equipment to first responders.

Overseeing one of the fastest-growing medical schools in the western United States, Priest wants all students to achieve their dreams. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he worked closely with faculty and other administrators to find a balance of safety and learning for Touro students while also determining how they could best make a difference. Learning and service continued and many students excelled in their programs despite the difficulties they faced.

Priest serves on the board of the Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow, Las Vegas HEALS and Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance. He and his wife also work with their church’s 12-step addiction recovery program.

Naomie Warner

Physician

Ophthalmologist, Nevada Eye Physicians | Years in Health Care: 23

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Naomie Warner

“Helping a child achieve their best possible vision also sets them up for a lifetime of success,” said Naomie Warner, an ophthalmologist subspecializing in pediatric ophthalmology and pediatric neuro-ophthalmology. The only physician with her specific set of subspecializations and fellowships, Warner has treated patients of all ages but takes special pride in caring for children, even removing pediatric cataracts from two newborn patients.  

Warner uses burgeoning technology and trailblazing techniques to best serve her young patients. In her practice she uses Luminopia, an alternative lazy eye treatment that has shown significant results in correcting children’s vision. Luminopia utilizes a VR headset to strengthen the eyes as a substitute for traditional lazy eye treatments such as wearing a patch that children find embarrassing or uncomfortable.

One of the aspects Warner loves about her job is how near immediate the results are for many of the surgeries she performs. “I love helping people,” said Warner. “I love when I can improve the vision, eliminate double vision or improve someone’s self-confidence.” She also champions the needs of children with visual impairments through her service on the board of the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation. The nonprofit organization provides a preschool for young visually impaired children and after school services for older visually impaired children. “This is important to me because it’s the only program of its kind in Las Vegas and Nevada is one of the only states in the country without a dedicated school for the blind. We need to create more services like this for our children,” said Warner.

Warner suggests that anyone who is concerned about their vision should see a specialist as early as possible so an effective treatment plan can be made, noting that most eye problems are easier to solve with an early diagnosis.

She is grateful for the ongoing support she receives from her husband, two children, and parents.

Matthew Thacker 

Dentistry

Clinic Director and Program Director of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency, Roseman University of Health Sciences | Years in Health Care: 10

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Matthew Thacker 

At Roseman University, Matthew Thacker leads the Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency and manages Roseman’s dental clinic in Summerlin, partnered with Cure 4 The Kids Foundation.

Thacker expanded the AEGD program from one clinic with two residents to two clinics with four full-time faculty and four residents. He’s also increased the number of patients. In 2022, the Summerlin clinic saw four patients a month. By August 2023, the clinic was registering 73 a month.

Thacker served four years in the U.S. Navy after graduating from dental school, and his current leadership continues to embody the Navy’s four attributes of initiative, accountability, integrity and toughness.

“My previous service as a dental officer in the U.S. Navy instilled in me a profound dedication to serving those who serve,” Thacker said. “This dedication didn’t end with my military service; it evolved into a heartfelt mission to make a lasting difference in the lives of service members and veterans.”

Working with the Adopt a Vet Dental Program, Thacker provides local veterans with prioritized, comprehensive dental care at no cost.

Thacker has worked tirelessly to develop and establish a comprehensive care model with the Roseman College of Medicine. This model is built on communal referrals, shared patient records and open lines of communication between providers. 

He’s also working with the college of pharmacy to coordinate rotations for pharmacy students to review medications for complex polypharmacy patients. To encourage future medical providers of Southern Nevada, Thacker also supports Roseman’s Aspire program to expose local high school students to the dental profession.

Charles Bernick 

Lifetime Achievement

Senior Director, Cognitive Disorders, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health | Years in Health Care: 40

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Charles Bernick 

Charles Bernick has dedicated nearly four decades to researching and improving brain health in Nevada and beyond.

In 1994 Bernick moved to Las Vegas and became the only neurologist specializing in dementia in Southern Nevada. Since then, he has conducted more than 30,000 patient visits.

Bernick was also the first physician hired at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health where he has been the lead primary investigator of every major Alzheimer’s or dementia trial in the center’s portfolio for the past 15 years. 

“I came to Las Vegas, like a lot of people, with the intent to build or create something needed and hopefully lasting,” Bernick said. “In my case, it was to develop a statewide system of Alzheimer’s care in Nevada that would equal or exceed anywhere in the nation. I believe we accomplished that.”

As early as 1996, Bernick pioneered telemedicine via video conferencing, enabling rural Nevadans to receive care.

In addition to his work with Alzheimer’s and dementia, Bernick has led research on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy since his launch of the Professional Athletes Brain Health Study in 2011. The study examined the effects of repetitive head impacts in professional and retired boxers and MMA fighters. It continues to study early detection of accumulating brain injury and early risk factors of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in an expanded range of athletes including more than 900 participants ranging from professional bull riders to motorsport competitors.

Carla Laos 

Emergency Services

Medical Director, St. Rose Siena Pediatric Emergency Department, Pediatrix | Years in Health Care: 19

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Carla Laos 

Carla Laos began leading the Pediatric Emergency Department at Siena Hospital in 2022.

Before relocating to Nevada, Laos practiced medicine in Florida, Alaska, Texas, California and Peru. New to the hospital and to Nevada, Laos’ goal was to provide the highest quality of care to gain the trust of the community.

To accomplish this, Laos staffed the pediatric emergency department with physicians double-boarded in pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine. She introduced coaching and team building, cultivating medical professionals who were focused on delivering quality compassionate care to every patient.

Leading a pediatric emergency department is no small feat. “This involves interfacing with a myriad of different services external and internal to the hospital,” Laos said. “The art of orchestrating multiple teams to work together towards a common goal is incredibly fulfilling.”

Laos is excited by the upcoming generation of physicians and their potential. She’s also encouraged by the technological advancements in the medical field and the evolution of medical education and care augmented by AI.

 She remains involved in the education of future medical professionals by hosting medical students from Touro and UNLV in Siena’s pediatric emergency department. 

Outside of work, Laos enjoys hiking, biking and spending time with her family. She coaches her daughter’s soccer teams and encourages them in their academic endeavors. 

LaTeisha Morgan 

Community Outreach

Clinical Manager/Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Intermountain Health | Years in Health Care: 16

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LaTeisha Morgan 

As a licensed clinical social worker, LaTeisha Morgan chose a career path that aligned with her core values of compassion, empathy and service to others. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Mississippi, Morgan moved to Las Vegas to pursue her master’s degree in social work. She now serves as a clinical manager and licensed social worker with Intermountain Health. 

“What I find most rewarding about my job is witnessing the transformative impact on individuals’ lives as they develop healthy coping habits and regain their ability to make empowering choices,” Morgan said.

Morgan strives to provide inclusive and culturally sensitive care as she integrates mental health services into primary care. 

In her opinion, suicide prevention is one of the most critical issues in Southern Nevada and should be a health care priority. Morgan’s work allows her to connect with patients and teach them coping skills.

Her advice for living a healthful life includes being present in the moment. “By embracing the present moment, we can fully engage in activities that bring us joy and cultivate a sense of gratitude,” Morgan said. 

Morgan also participates with local community organizations, firmly believing in contributing to positive change for everyone. In addition to the service she provides in her profession, Morgan has been a member of the Las Vegas Urban League Young Professionals, Junior League of Las Vegas, Top Ladies of Distinction and the National Association of Black Social Workers.  

Keyona Cole 

Nursing

Regional Chief Nursing Officer, Intermountain Health | Years in Health Care: 27

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Keyona Cole 

Keyona Cole, regional chief nursing officer at Intermountain Health, began her career in health care as a senior at an inner-city high school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The school provided two health care tracks for students, and Cole began her training to become a certified nursing assistant, graduating with her license.

Cole went on to receive her bachelor of science in nursing from Alverno College in 2001. She is a board-certified nurse practitioner and a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Association. 

Cole’s proudest accomplishment to date is the inception of Intermountain Health’s medical assistant program, which she helped establish with NV Careers.

The program provides applicants with the necessary training to pursue a career in health care, regardless of their financial situation. It creates opportunities for individuals in underserved communities, while also helping address staffing shortages. It’s on its way to becoming a state-recognized apprenticeship program.

Cole also serves as a diversity, equity and inclusion leader and board member of Goodwill of Southern Nevada, dedicating herself to reducing poverty and its effect on Southern Nevadans’ health. 

When asked what health advice she’d share with everyone, Cole said, “Prevention, prevention, prevention. Living healthier lifestyles that focus on healthy eating, physical activity, and spiritual and mental well-being are key to preventing health care problems. Getting preventative exams and completing lab work and testing can help to identify and stop or prevent advancement of health issues.”

Ryan Grabow 

Innovation

Owner and Medical Director, Concierge Carpal Tunnel and Hand Surgery - A National Carpal Tunnel Center of Excellence | Years in Health Care: 18

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Ryan Grabow 

Ryan Grabow is the owner and medical director of Concierge Carpal Tunnel and Hand Surgery, the only National Carpal Tunnel Center of Excellence in Las Vegas and the entire West Coast.

In his practice, Grabow implements modern technology to perform surgery as minimally invasive as possible. With the help of ultrasound guidance, he can treat carpal tunnel and trigger finger quickly using only local anesthesia and an incision the size of a breath mint.

Many patients return to work in a matter of days and only need over-the-counter pain medications for postoperative discomfort. 

“I believe I was inspired to pursue a career relieving my patients’ pain and restoring function to their hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders because my own hand use defines who I am as a person,” Grabow said. “My hands have always been the tools of my creative mind. I understood early on in my medical training that a patient with carpal tunnel syndrome or a broken wrist doesn’t just have a problem with what they can do, they are also suffering a crisis of who they are due to their loss of hand function. While it may be a calling or career for some of us, we all use our hands as musicians, artists, mechanics, chefs, and healers. It is good for our soul to create with our hands. Having the privilege to use my hands to restore my patients’ ability to use theirs, is not just what I do, it is what I was called to do, it’s who I am.”

Instilled with the belief that a doctor’s job is not just to treat illness and injury but also to prevent it, Grabow educates his patients on safety measures. He also creates informational videos, shared via social media, to spread awareness of common hand injuries, including cutting avocados incorrectly and suffering unnecessary burns in the kitchen. 

Shana Tello 

Award Category: Manager/Administrator

Academic and External Affairs Administrator, UMC | Years in Health Care: 32

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Shana Tello 

For the past 26 years, Shana Tello has devoted herself to service, setting an example of compassion and resilience for fellow health care professionals and administrators.

Tello oversees UMC’s partnerships and government affairs, including its innovative collaboration with the U.S. Air Force. Through this program, approximately 100 Air Force physicians, nurses and medical technicians work with UMC staff to provide high-level care to Southern Nevadans while preparing for future deployments. It’s the largest military-civilian partnership of its kind in the U.S. Because of her trusted leadership and support, the Air Force designated Tello as an honorary commander.

One of Tello’s priorities for advancing health care in Southern Nevada is improving access. She’s played a key role in opening seven new clinic locations, including quick care, primary care and specialty clinics.

She’s also excited about the expansion of telemedicine, especially the UMC Online Care app. Community members can use the app to contact health care providers at UMC at any time of the day or night with an average wait time of six minutes for online urgent care visits. 

Tello also provides valuable service in the community, working with local organizations such as Courtney Children’s Foundation, which provides mentorship and support for teenage mothers.

“As a former teen mom, I served as a mentor for two young mothers, sharing my experience and offering valuable guidance at a critical point in their lives,” Tello said.

She also supports Vegas Stronger, a nonprofit dedicated to helping community members struggling with substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness.

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