October 2016

Skilled Hands & Thoughtful Planning

Dr. Quynh Feikes Inspires Confidence Among Patients and Colleagues at UMC

Story and photos by Scott Kerbs

Dr. Quynh Feikes works alongside her team members in a UMC operating room.

It’s easy to see why patients across the Las Vegas Valley trust Dr. Quynh Feikes to perform many of the most complex and difficult cardiothoracic surgical procedures. As she deftly navigates the halls of UMC prior to her first case of the day, Feikes exudes confidence, bringing a calming influence to her team and setting the tone for the hard work ahead. Upon arriving in the operating room, Feikes greets a highly trained team and begins her work, utilizing a steady hand and a steadfast dedication to preparation in an effort to save and improve lives.

It is clear that Feikes always has a plan. Every skillfully made incision, every suture and every carefully planned process brings her one step closer to the ultimate goal: providing her patients with positive medical outcomes. For Feikes, who serves as UMC’s Section Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery, it is all about patient outcomes.

“Sometimes, you only have one chance to make a good decision,” Feikes said, underscoring the immense responsibility surgeons have to their patients. While many people would simply crumble under the weight of this responsibility, Feikes possesses an unwavering confidence in her surgical skills and decision-making, putting her colleagues and patients at ease, even under incredibly difficult circumstances.

Recognized as a leader in her field, Feikes performed 254 surgeries at UMC during the final three quarters of 2015, surpassing this figure during the first three quarters of 2016, with 258 surgeries at the hospital in just nine months. These surgeries include coronary bypasses, lung resections for cancer patients and heart valve replacements, among other highly specialized procedures.

Working in a traditionally male-dominated field, Feikes takes pride in serving as the first woman to train in cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Southern California. In her 12 years as a cardiothoracic surgeon, Feikes has built her reputation by producing results for her patients.

A Blessing in Disguise

Michael Kessler, a 74-year-old Las Vegas man, recently experienced the benefits of Dr. Feikes’ dedication to providing her patients with the highest level of care. Following a motor vehicle collision in July, Kessler received treatment for his injuries at the UMC Trauma Center, where physicians recognized signs of a serious cardiovascular condition. “The accident might have been a blessing in disguise,” Kessler said, acknowledging that he likely would have remained unaware of his condition if he had not received care for his injuries.

Requiring bypass surgery to restore the flow of blood to five blocked arteries, Kessler wanted to ensure that he found the best possible heart surgeon. He asked around, and multiple people brought up one name in particular. “Everyone I spoke with recommended Dr. Feikes,” he said. “They told me that she is the best.”

After meeting with Feikes and discussing the surgical procedure, Kessler felt an overwhelming sense of relief. “She really instilled confidence in me,” he said, commending Feikes for taking the time to carefully explain the coronary artery bypass procedure in understandable terms. “I knew everything was going to be OK.”

Describing Feikes as a kind and caring physician, two words not typically associated with highly focused surgeons, Kessler continued to express gratitude for the resounding success of his surgery. “I was in the hospital for 19 days, and when I came out, I just felt really good,” he said. “I was walking around like there was nothing wrong.”

Kessler is quick to convey gratitude toward Feikes, attributing his impressive recovery to her highly refined skills.

“I don’t think you can find anybody better,” he said, adding that he is back to enjoying life to the fullest, utilizing his free time to follow his passion for restoring classic cars. “I almost forget sometimes that this procedure was done. I owe that to Dr. Feikes.”

Role Model

Kessler’s story is just one example of Feikes’ commitment to her patients. Her colleagues can recall numerous occasions in which she went above and beyond for the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who put their lives in her hands. Brandy Norland, a Cardiac Monitor Technician in UMC’s Cardiovascular Care Unit (CVCU), where patients recover following heart surgery, said she remains impressed by Feikes’ dedication to patients following surigical procedures. “She will stay until that patient is stabilized,” Norland said, recalling a situation in which Feikes stayed in the CVCU all night to monitor a patient, consult with nurses and write orders.

“She is the type of person who truly cares about her patients,” said Kamala Liggins, a UMC Respiratory Care Practitioner who frequently works with Feikes. Liggins admires Feikes for her hands-on approach and meticulous attention to detail. Feikes also promotes a collaborative work environment, respecting the opinions of others and fully utilizing the expertise of her colleagues. “She treats everyone with the same level of respect,” Liggins said.

After Feikes began working at UMC in 2015, several of her team members followed her to the hospital for the opportunity to continue working alongside one of the valley’s most talented cardiothoracic surgerons. John Cousett, a Certified Heart Scrub Tech, has worked with surgeons across the Las Vegas Valley, and he chose to come to UMC in 2015, shortly after Feikes began her work at the hospital.

“She is one of the best,” Cousett said shortly before Feikes began an early morning case, adding that she would be his first choice if he required heart surgery. “I know for a fact that she is going to do the best job.”

Kerwin Gaden, an Operating Room Registered Nurse who has worked with Feikes for eight years, said her calm, focused demeanor serves as a valuable asset to UMC and its patients. “During a crisis, she is very much in control and always calm,” Gaden said.

Feikes is also frequently praised for her ability to plan, multitask and collaborate. Feikes said she, like many other mothers, hones these skills in her personal life while raising two children. Feikes works tirelessly to bring team members together to foster the development of ideas and work toward a common goal.

Feikes attributes her success to her dedicated and highly skilled colleagues at UMC and Cardiovascular Surgery of Southern Nevada. “It all begins with a group of people who are committed to providing excellent care,” she said, commending her team members and UMC administrators for their dedication to advancing cardiothoracic surgery in Southern Nevada.

Looking Toward the Future

Feikes has a bold vision for the future of cardiovascular surgery at UMC, positioning the hospital as a major heart center. Her goals include expanding the hospital’s capabilities to allow two to three heart operating rooms to run concurrently, in addition to updated intensive care unit rooms and revamped waiting areas.

She is also working as part of UMC’s award-winning Cardiology & Stroke Center team in an effort to work toward the development of a hybrid operating room, which allows for a more collaborative approach by combining an operating room with a full complement of imaging services.

Feikes says she knows UMC is well-positioned for future success as a major heart center. “UMC has all of the necessary elements in terms of support, and I look forward to working alongside this team to build upon the level of care provided to our patients.”

As she continues to plan for the future, Feikes never loses sight of the most important part of her job: the patients. With an aging generation of baby boomers who are expected to live longer than their parents, Feikes recognizes the need for less invasive surgical options to provide positive outcomes for older patients, including those in their 80s. This will likely include an increased focus on the development of transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) programs, which allow for minimally invasive surgery to replace a heart valve while eliminating many of the risks associated with open surgery.

Feikes and her colleagues at UMC currently participate in groundbreaking clinical trials and perform highly specialized surgeries, including stent graft surgery and valve-sparing operations. While many people believe these types of procedures are only available outside of Nevada, Feikes is working to change this inaccurate perception.

For many of her colleagues and patients, Feikes represents the future of cardiovascular surgery in Southern Nevada. In addition to her skilled hands and dedication to strategic planning, Feikes provides her patients with the compassion and respect they deserve. While Feikes may be too humble to admit it, many others fully recognize her tremendous impact on UMC and the health care community as a whole.

“She has been a huge part of the renaissance of UMC,” said Assistant Chief Nursing Officer Donald Galloway. “She holds her team members accountable and fosters collaboration to ensure our patients receive the best possible care.”

Dr. Quynh Feikes, UMC’s Section Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

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