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Clinic breaks new ground tracking preemies’ progress

More than 2,400 infants are born prematurely each year in the Las Vegas Valley. The city is now home to the state’s first High Risk Infant Follow-up program in the recently opened Foundation for Positively Kids Neopediatric clinic, 2480 E. Tompkins Ave.

The clinic is the result of a shared vision between local board-certified neonatologist Farooq Abdulla and Fred Schultz, founder and CEO of the foundation. Abdulla has practiced in Las Vegas for more than 20 years.

Premature babies are at increased risk for learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, neuropsychological deficits, borderline to lower than average intelligence quotients and behavioral problems.

“I wanted to do something which would improve the quality of care of these babies that are born prematurely,” Abdulla said. “I put my proposal (a follow-up clinic) to several people, and everybody said, ‘Oh, it’s a very good program, but we don’t have funds.’ So I thought I will just have to do it myself.” Before he moved forward with building his own clinic, he met with Schultz.

Schultz started the foundation in 1999, “out of the trunk of my car with little file folders and plastic boxes,” he said. The nonprofit now employs more than 72 medical professionals and provides daily comprehensive health care services to more than 600 medically fragile and/or developmentally delayed Clark County children through school programs and the family health care clinic at Child Haven, 701 N. Pecos Road.

Positively Kids also offers an early intervention program for children from birth to 2 years of age that includes screening and assessments, speech and physical therapy, home health, vision, audiology and pediatrician services and more. These children are covered under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 at no cost for services to families.

When Abdulla presented his follow-up clinic model to Schultz, the plan came together for the High-Risk Infant Follow-up program to meld with the foundation’s early intervention services.

“This was just a perfect fit for us,” Schultz said.

Not only is the program unique to Nevada but also the nation. Other states have follow-up programs but only for infants who fall within certain criteria, Abdulla said.

“They will not follow babies of 32 to 37 weeks gestation. Approximately 80 percent of admissions to NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) are babies who fall into this category. This program will follow all babies born before 37 weeks of gestation.”

Some of the goals and objectives of the new program are to monitor the nutritional status, growth and development of NICU graduates; provide support and education for the family; identify early deviation of growth, behavior and neurodevelopment status; maintain a comprehensive database to track the long-term outcomes of NICU graduates; and provide teaching for health care students.

The professor and chairman of the department of pediatrics at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, Dr. Nevin Wilson, views the development of the new clinic as a “very positive step for our community.” Pediatric residents will rotate through the clinic to enrich their educational experience, he added.

The clinic will also provide care for all children from birth to age 18, Abdulla said. “Every child needs a medical home, which means easy access to health care, patient-centered and compassionate,” he said.

“They will see the same physician every time. The need for this clinic is not today. It should have been yesterday.”

For more information, visit positivelykids.org or call 702-262-0037.

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