Doctor profile: Las Vegas surgeon reaps special rewards caring for children

Nick Fiore is a member of an exclusive club of specialists in Las Vegas, and it’s a passion driven by a love of children.

Fiore, 50, is one of the region’s four pediatric general surgeons. He came to Las Vegas in 1998 to launch his career, 12 years after he entered college as a freshman.

After an undergraduate degree at Notre Dame, the Indiana native spent the required four years of medical school at the University of Indiana in Indianapolis, six years of residency in general surgery and two years of pediatric surgery training.

“I was training for so long that I didn’t got a job until I was 34,” Fiore joked. “It was totally a whim that I came out here. There was nothing in particular that attracted me to Las Vegas other than the job opportunity.”

Fiore said his move offered an opportunity to help advance surgical care for infants and children. About 30 doctors a year nationwide become pediatric surgeons, with about 1,000 practices in the U.S., he said. More than 40 percent are older than 55.

“There was a need here, first of all. People that are well-trained and have an entrepreneurial spirit can do good things here and make a difference,” Fiore said. “The reason I’m here hasn’t changed, and we’re committed to state-of-the-art-care for infants and children. We do a nice job in general in Las Vegas. I think sometimes the medical community gets a little bit of a bad rap, but we have a lot of good care that’s given in this city and I’m proud of that.”

Fiore said he had a “surgery mentality” and knew it would be his career path, but he didn’t know he would specialize in pediatric surgery until his third year of medical school. A mentor influenced him when he rotated through the pediatric surgery component and was caring for kids.

“I knew what I wanted even though it was a massive commitment,” said Fiore, the father of 17-year-old twins Dominic and Mia. “I love kids. It pulls at your heartstrings to see what some of the kids go through. I think if you deal in that arena all day, you’re going to be completely dysfunctional (if you let it get to you) because you’re mostly going to be sad.”

The specialty alone added nine years of training, Fiore said. That included working as much as 120 hours per week for two years, with one day off during the final year of his fellowship.

“It was crazy hard work, but I knew I loved it,” Fiore said. “When it’s in your blood, you can’t deny it. Ultimately, you got to follow your passion in life and that’s where mine ended up even though it was an incredibly hard road.”

Pediatric surgeons are general surgeons who perform a range of surgeries from hernia and appendectomies to removing gallbladders and tumors, and dealing with congenital deformities, Fiore said. They don’t handle orthopedic, cardiac or neurosurgery.

“Kids are amazing,” Fiore said. “They don’t smoke. They don’t drink. They’re innocent and want to get better and are incredibly resilient. Generally, they recover very well from incredible insults. It’s sort of their nature and their attitudes are incredible. Most kids just want to get better. They don’t know about being sick. They want to go to the playroom. They want to get up and walk about, which is all part of the recovery process. They get through the pain a little more easily than those who might cognitively worry about it more.”

The challenge in dealing with children is relating to them, and it’s important to develop instincts about how to communicate with them, Fiore said. For toddlers, it may be through a cartoon, a pet or doll, but the key is finding common ground to put them at ease, he said.

“Kids in general are anxious,” Fiore said. “They see the doctor in the white coat and scrubs and they think they’re automatically going to get a shot. You have to disarm them so at least you can examine them and explain to them on some level what to expect and have them cooperate.”

Fiore has served on the board of the Clark County Medical Society since July 2012 and is head of its speaker’s bureau dealing with community outreach and public service. He said he joined the organization because he’s interested in the “nuts and bolts of the medical system” and wanted to make a difference in shaping it in Clark County and statewide.

“The medical community takes a lot of pride in the care it provides and wants to make people feel comfortable about the care they receive in Las Vegas,” Fiore said. “By and large, we achieve that, but like anything you do, there’s a rotten part of any profession. You’re going to have your bad apples, but in general people are committed to providing state-of-the-art care. I’m impressed with what the Clark County Medical Society does for doctors, and encourage physicians to get involved because they make a difference in that they are a single voice that we doctors have in going to bat for us.”

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