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Brain center's internships offer insights into patients' needs

Perhaps it is no surprise that an intern program exists at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, 888 W Bonneville Ave. What might be surprising, however, is the wide range of disciplines from which the program draws.

“If a law student, an engineer or a chemistry student has an interest in the diseases we treat here or how we treat those diseases, we’re interested in helping them pursue that,” said Dr. Dylan Wint, who is spearheading the Education in Neurodegeneration programs. “Our patients spend most of their time out of a hospital setting, and the homes an architect might design or the device an engineer makes after seeing the issues our patients and their caregivers deal with might make their lives easier.”

The program has been running for 3 1/2 years and draws interns from UNLV, Touro University and resident neurologists from Valley Hospital Medical Center.

“Because we specialize in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, we’re trying to make ourselves an educational resource for people who want to learn about these diseases,” Wint said. “The trainees come in and watch what we do with patients so they’ll be more aware of the challenges the patients and caregivers are facing.”

Seven doctors take part in the program, and there are many interns interested in attending. Since much of the training is one on one, there are limitations to how many interns can participate. In addition to the work at the clinic, the doctors in the program also give lectures at the center and other sites for small groups of students.

Wint said because some of the diseases his patients have affect their judgment and perception, he was surprised at how well the patients and caregivers take to the presence of interns.

“Not only were most of them open to it, some of them remembered that an intern was there last time and that it was a positive thing,” Wint said. “With some of the patients it isn’t that they can’t form new memories, but that it takes a lot more input to form a new memory.”

When architecture students intern at the center, the hope is they will become more aware of the subtle needs and interests of the patients and seek solutions.

“When we speak to hospitality students at UNLV, we’re explaining not just what we do here and what kind of patients we have but how that can affect their world and work,” said Susan Farris, the education coordinator for the program. “They might be more able to make accommodations for people with memory loss, mental or physical limitations.”

Wint credits Farris with making the program work, figuring out which disciplines can be included in the program and scheduling it.

“She’s the one who has to implement my crazy ideas,” Wint said.

One of those ideas was to involve law student Bryn Esplin in the program.

“I’m very interested in ethics and how the law interacts with health issues,” Esplin said. “It’s an area that needs to be further explored.”

Wint hopes that bringing in many disciplines will lead to solving problems.

“Who knows where the answer might come from?” Wint said. “We’re trying to get them involved in the process, and we think there’s a greater chance of that if they are exposed to it.”

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at or 702-380-4532.