Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011 | 2 a.m.
The New York Times beat us at our own story.
It is big news in Las Vegas when 2,000 to 3,000 residents who suffer from multiple sclerosis don’t have a doctor or the ability to be treated in one of the largest metropolitan areas of the country. They haven’t had a doctor who is an expert in MS for quite awhile — not since the only one in Las Vegas left our community.
That is not an uncommon story in Las Vegas. Although the quality and quantity of medical care in our valley is slowly improving, the history has been that we are underserved compared with other metro areas. That is one of the main reasons Heather and Jim Murren started the Nevada Cancer Institute, which like most Nevada businesses has been through some very difficult times the past three years. And that is a major reason why the entire community got behind the effort until, well, we all know what has happened to Las Vegas.
A desperate need for locally based treatment is also the reason why Larry Ruvo and a few other community leaders created what has become the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. The younger Ruvo was inspired to action because his wonderful father, Lou, succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer’s, and Larry decided that his fellow Las Vegans should have better opportunities for treatment.
It has been a long and difficult adventure, but the results are clear. The Frank Gehry-designed facility, which is in the middle of Las Vegas, stands as not only a monument to the can-do attitude of Nevadans but also as a living, loving and incredibly successful manifestation of the American spirit, which is constantly inspired by acts of loving kindness.
The Las Vegas Sun has been one of the community institutions to embrace the Lou Rivo center and its mission, which is not only to treat brain-related diseases but also to be at the cutting edge of research that will find cures.
That is why I was surprised to see that an advertising supplement in the Times a few weeks ago carried a Las Vegas story. It should have been a Sun story. The story was about Dr. Timothy West, a premier MS specialist, who is now working in Southern Nevada.
I am not really upset, of course, because I am thrilled to report that MS sufferers in Las Vegas now not only have a doctor and a treatment facility to help them deal with their challenges, but they also have the best of the best.
The story of how West wound up at the Ruvo Brain Center is a purely American story, and now part of the Las Vegas story.
When his mom, Abby, was diagnosed, it changed the direction of West’s life. He could have been a pediatrician, but what young children lost out in a talented doctor, the rest of us have gained in a medical professional dedicated to treating MS sufferers and finding a cure.
It was his curiosity about his mother’s diagnosis that inspired West to take time off from medical school to do clinical research at the University of California, San Francisco. That is when he embarked on a career as a neurologist, which took him back to UCSF and, eventually, here to Las Vegas to lead the new MS program at the Ruvo Center.
None of this would have been possible without the selfless determination of my dear friend Larry Ruvo, whose mission — finding treatments and cures for brain diseases — is his life’s work. Even though he is plenty busy with his day job, his wonderful family and his lifelong commitment to the Las Vegas community, Ruvo still finds time to do what the Cleveland Clinic’s crown jewel in the desert needs most. That is the continued and unrelenting effort to raise money to help pay for the incredible talent that has made its way to our community since the Ruvo Center opened.
In that regard, I am sure we will all be hearing from Ruvo. He is not bashful.
But when the call goes out, even in these difficult times, remember what it is for. Until not too long ago, thousands of MS sufferers had to seek treatment out of town. Now they have one of the best doctors available anywhere to help them.
And when it comes to Alzheimer’s research and treatment, efforts to end the scourge of Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other diseases that have so far eluded the most brilliant minds, rest assured that great strides are being taken at the Ruvo Center. That is what the Cleveland Clinic brings to our city.
We aren’t the paper that broke the good news about West, but we are the first to welcome him to Las Vegas.
There is more good news coming. Stay tuned to the Las Vegas Sun.
Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.