The Amazing Journey of Dr. Sid Khurana...

and His Mission to Improve Las Vegas's Mental Healthcare

The Amazing Journey of Dr. Sid Khurana and His Mission to Improve Las Vegas’s Mental Healthcare

The Khurana family now calls Las Vegas home. Sid Khurana

The Khurana family, who now call Las Vegas home.

Sid Khurana’s childhood didn’t resemble that of most other psychiatrists practicing in the United States. He was born and raised in the northern state of Punjab, India, just west of the border with Pakistan. He grew up speaking four languages: English, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu (the main language of Pakistan).
One of his parents was Hindu and the other Sikh, but they nevertheless sent him to a local Catholic school to get an education.

“For me and my friends, diversity was normal. Secularity and various religions working together was just how things worked. It wasn’t until later in life that I came to realize that many people see the world in more binary terms.”

Sid's old class photo is a little grainy, but you can still get a sense of the ethnic diversity he grew up with based on the varied attire.

Sid’s old class photo is a little grainy, but you can still get a sense of the ethnic diversity he grew up with based on the varied attire.

In 9th grade, Khurana was the literary captain of his school and was asked what he wanted to be during an interview. “I want to be a doctor,” he responded. Reflecting back, he recalls having no idea why he said he wanted to be a doctor, beyond the fact that he loved biology and other fields of science, plus “the idea of wearing a white coat and stethoscope appealed to me,” he says, chuckling.

A young Sid Khurana. We're thankful he didn't decide to become a fighter pilot, or he wouldn't be a part of the Healthy Minds team today.

A young Sid Khurana. We’re thankful he didn’t decide to become a fighter pilot, or he wouldn’t be a part of the Healthy Minds team today.

Nevertheless, from that point on, he focused on pursuing a career in medicine. Unlike in the US, specialized career-focused education begins much earlier in India, and Khurana went straight from high school to medical school. Upon graduation from medical school, he began to work in cardio-thoracic surgery.

Despite his talent and the importance of the medical care he provided, he soon regretted his decision to become a surgeon.

“The patient is unconscious before I start and I know almost nothing about them – as a surgeon, I was missing the entire story of the person’s life.”

Khurana realized that he’d chosen a specialty area poorly suited to his personality and interests. He needed to deeply know, understand, and connect with his patients in ways he would never be able to as a surgeon. That’s when he started preparing for a move to the United States to pursue a career in psychiatry – despite the fact that this meant he’d have to start anew in his education.

After moving to the US, Khurana went for a Masters and Graduate degree in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, from San Diego State University. He was so well-regarded by the faculty, that he was awarded the opportunity to be a TA in a graduate class on Behavioral Analysis, just a semester after completing the class. Khurana was also asked to teach three undergraduate classes on Chronic and Infectious Diseases independently as a lecturer.

After grad school, he moved across the country to the University of Virginia, where he began a residency program, followed by a psychiatry fellowship program. He loved the work, reinforcing his decision to not only change careers, but also to live in a new country and culture.

Another positive outcome of his decision: at the University of Virginia, Khurana met his future wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth, a native northeasterner, was getting her Masters in Speech Pathology at UVA.

Wedding day! Sid and Elizabeth getting married and enjoying a traditional Indian wedding.

Wedding day! Sid and Elizabeth getting married and enjoying a traditional Indian wedding.

Moving to Las Vegas

After Sid and Elizabeth finished their respective trainings, they began looking for a place to start their medical careers. They both wanted to head to the west coast, and identified San Diego as their dream destination.

Then Khurana got a job offer that brought him to Las Vegas. Soon after, he heard about a mental health provider, Healthy Minds, that was doing work directly aligned with his interests and talents.

Then as today, Las Vegas was known as a fun place to visit or perhaps even host a medical conference, but not a place to launch a medical career – especially in the field of mental health. In fact, Nevada is ranked in the bottom three in the country for both education and mental health care.

Nevertheless, given Healthy Minds’ vision of improving patient outcomes and the quality of mental health services in Las Vegas, combined with Khurana’s own desire to make an immediate impact, he began working at Healthy Minds.

Today, Dr. Khurana is Healthy Minds’ Assistant Medical Training Director. In addition to staff training, he specializes in the treatment of bipolar disorder, PTSD, and anxiety problems.

Improving Mental Health Care In Las Vegas and Southern Nevada

Dr. Khurana loves Las Vegas and considers it home. He and his wife now have two children, a 3 ½ year old daughter and a nine month old son. They’ve also convinced Elizabeth’s brother and parents to move to Las Vegas as well.

Sid and Elizabeth's adorable children.

Sid and Elizabeth’s adorable children.

“We’re working on the paternal side now, but that’s a little more difficult since they live in India” he says, laughing.

Part of loving the community you call home is trying to make it a better place. Dr. Khurana describes his work as both “frustrating and exciting.” Frustrating because he sees how far there is to go to bring the overall quality of Las Vegas’s mental health care to a higher level, yet exciting because he sees both huge potential and the impact of the improvements he’s helping to bring about.

“There’s nothing more gratifying than helping an at-risk child change trajectories and excel in school and life, rather than falling through the cracks,” he says.

About 80% of Khurana’s patients are children and adolescents and 20% are adults. Dr. Khurana utilizes the bio-psychosocial model of psychiatric disorders and applies elements of the cognitive behavioral approach during his medication management visits.

His focus on children is not by accident. “Despite the size of Las Vegas, there are only 12 child & adolescent psychiatrists here, which is a tiny fraction of what’s needed. Las Vegas is a veritable desert for mental health professionals, and we’re actively working to change that.”

Khurana feels he has a calling to help children. “I subscribe to the notion that ‘a stitch in time saves nine;’ basically, if we can treat a child early in life, we not only stop a potential cycle of harm that impacts countless others, but we can help that child grow into a healthy, productive adult. The more children we can provide with quality mental health care in Nevada today, the less problems and costs we’ll have 5 or 10 or 20 years down the road.”

Even though he lives and works in Las Vegas, Khurana is also able to help children living in underserved rural communities through telemedicine. He notes an interesting pattern between rural and urban Nevada:

“Las Vegas is more of a transient city where people are often socially isolated from their families who live elsewhere. Relative to rural Nevada, there’s less extended familial support to fill the gap for the child when the parent is in trouble, which leaves these children even more vulnerable.”

As you might imagine, effectively treating the resulting mental health issues that result from children living in such an environment is not a simple task, nor is it one that Dr. Khurana takes lightly.

Healthy Minds is unique in that it utilizes a team-based approach while also trying to treat the family as a whole unit. Psychiatrists like Dr. Khurana work in concert with psychologists, substance use disorder specialists, therapists, and healthy home experts to try to holistically address the upstream problems, rather than simply subscribing medications that mask downstream symptoms.

In addition to treating patients and training staff at Healthy Minds, Khurana is also intent on increasing the number of mental health professionals who practice in Nevada. Along with Healthy Minds’ Dr. Lisa Durette, Dr. Khurana has worked diligently to develop UNLV School of Medicine’s Child & Adolescent Psychiatry residency program, which will help attract, train, and retain mental health professionals who would otherwise go elsewhere.

Are You Getting Good Mental Health Care? Advice From Dr. Sid Khurana…

When asked what message he’d like someone in Las Vegas who’s suffering from a mental health problem to know, Khurana pauses thoughtfully. “I’d like them to know what good mental health care looks like so they can choose doctors and care teams wisely.”

How does a patient know whether they’re getting good mental health care? That might seem like a tall task for a non-expert, but Khurana thinks it’s fairly straightforward.

“Don’t go to a psychiatrist who’s going to give you medication after two minutes. Good care is a blend of quantity and quality. You should feel like you’ve had ample time to talk about the problems you’re experiencing. You should feel supported and that you have buy-in to your treatment plan. And your treatment plan is made better when there are multiple specialists involved in crafting it as a team, which is one of the truly unique things we do at Healthy Minds that leads to our better patient outcomes.”

Dr. Sid Khurana’s describes two personal goal he has for himself: first, to raise a good family and provide a good life for them, and secondly to serve the Las Vegas community, his home, to the best of his abilities for as long as he can.

At Healthy Minds, we’re incredibly grateful to have Dr. Khurana on our team and will continue to work with him to make Las Vegas a better, healthier community for everyone, one patient at a time.


2018-07-10T16:22:04-04:00June 19th, 2018|Mental Health, Psychiatry, Team Stories|

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