We at NvCLPPP are grateful to have numerous partnerships with key entities that work to reduce the incidence childhood lead poisoning and provide care and support to children who have been exposed to lead. In this series, we had the opportunity to interview and highlight Dr. Dodds Simangan. Dr. Dodds Simangan is an assistant professor and pediatrician from at the UNLV School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics.
What inspires and motivates you within the areas of Community Pediatrics and Pediatric Advocacy?
My background in Sociology, Public Health, and my experiences in Community Health Centers and volunteer work originally laid the groundwork for my goals and aspirations, which is to do all I can to help the most vulnerable members of society, our children. As a Pediatrician, I feel I should not be limited to the confines of the clinic or hospitals where I practice. Although practicing medicine is the primary focus of our career, we need to recognize that we are also leaders in our community and should use our expertise and standing to advocate for our patients, their families, and the communities we all live in. What inspires me is that with children, there should be no politics at play, and they should be given every opportunity to achieve their highest potential, regardless of their background or socio-economic limitations. Access to health and healthy living is the most basic of human rights and I have dedicated my career to making a difference to the individual through my clinical and hospital practice, through my role as an educator to Pediatric residents and medical students, and through advocacy work.
What do you think about the fact that Nevada has one of the lowest lead testing rates in the nation?
I think that what contributes to Nevada having one of the lowest levels of lead testing rates is a lack of education on sources of lead, a lack of priority and initiative, and the perception that only cities with older homes and plumbing are at risk. Additionally, testing rates are low because Nevada is rated very poorly with access to healthcare with the lowest percentages of child health insurance, children in a medical home, and a very poor provider to patient ratio; all of which have been worsening. If we were able to improve children’s access to healthcare this should in turn also increase the rates of lead testing and other important health screenings that are time dependent on the maximum benefit for intervention.
Why do you think it’s important to test children for lead?
It is important to test children for lead because there is a proven correlation between lead exposure/poisoning to cognitive, behavioral and educational outcomes. There is no safe level of lead in the blood and screening for lead poisoning is simple, cost-effective, and can be life changing. Since no therapeutic interventions currently exist for low blood lead concentrations, prevention of exposure is paramount, especially since there are irreversible effects of low-level lead toxicity. The earlier we know, the earlier something can be done both for that individual or for that community. Preventative care is the cornerstone of Pediatrics and it is our duty to make sure all children live healthy and safe lives.
Why do you think it’s important for pediatric residents to learn about lead poisoning and lead testing?
Pediatric residents must learn about lead poisoning and testing as this directly impacts the populations we treat. It is important for our residents to be taught with a systems based approach to healthcare, and being exposed to this approach now is important as it will benefit them in treating their patients holistically in their future practice. In the immediate setting (for example in our pediatrics clinic) we automatically screen for lead poisoning at one and two years of age, and for any time we suspect that a child may need testing (such as with behavior concerns, school failure, and known or high risk exposure). From the training, our residents are better equipped on how to gather further information on sources of lead exposure, and how to intervene from both medical and public health approaches.
How is this partnership beneficial to UNLV Pediatrics?
Medical issues are not simply limited to the medical field nor the individual, and often have multiple factors, (especially socioeconomic), that contribute to health outcomes. Partnering with the UNLV School of Public Health and the Nevada Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is one such way for UNLV Pediatrics to be more aware about these factors, to put this knowledge to action, and to use our networks at UNLV for the mutual benefit of our departments and most importantly to benefit the Las Vegas community.
How many pediatrics residents have received the Lead Poisoning 101 training?
About 6 residents thus far have participated, and one is scheduled for next month. I hope to continue this training opportunity monthly as a one-on-one or two-on-one experience given its advantage as a teaching modality. This knowledge on lead poisoning is important to carry with them wherever they may end up practicing.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share?
I would like to thank Dr. (Erick) López for this great opportunity he has provided for our residents and I hope for more continued collaborations like this to improve both medical education and the health of our community’s children.