Seven years ago, Dr. Peoples got a late-night phone call from a friend. Nancy’s dog, Nawla, was hit by a car. “It was in bad shape with a fracture and dislocation of the spine and a punctured lung,” Peoples recounts. “The next day, the dog’s tail moved a bit, so it was obvious that there was some spinal connection. The cost to fly the dog to UC Davis for surgery was enormous and the recommendation was to put the dog down. I asked: is there any reason why I can’t fix this dog?”
That question changed Dr. Peoples’ life and the lives of many Las Vegas dog owners.
Peoples, who specializes in adult and pediatric neurosurgery, has a passion for animals, and is the proud owner of two beautiful Leonbergers: Mikey and Maggie. He is board certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners and the American Board of Neurological Surgery. Peoples graduated from Santa Clara University in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology, the University of California Davis in 1981 with a Master of Science Degree in Immunology, and received his Medical Doctorate Degree from Loyola University of Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine in 1985. He completed his neurosurgical specialty training at Loyola in 1991, which included a fellowship in Pediatric Neurosurgery at the University of California, San Francisco.
After medical school, Peoples was lured by friends to Las Vegas and stayed because he felt our growing city was a good place to start a practice.
Being involved and giving to the community is important to Dr. Peoples who serves as a member of the St. Rose Dominican Hospitals Health Foundation Board, Children’s Miracle Network Board of Directors at St. Rose Siena Hospital, and chief of surgery at Spring Valley Hospital. He is a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, as well as local medical societies.
His community service doesn’t end there. Dr. Peoples volunteers his time and expertise to save dogs who have suffered traumatic spine and brain injuries, animals that would otherwise be euthanized.
“It was a unique situation,” explained Peoples who did a lumbar fusion surgery that saved Nawla’s life. “As part of my internship, we operated on dogs from a local pound that were scheduled to be euthanized that day. Now I would have a very hard time doing it, but a dog’s anatomy is like a human’s, although the brain is different.” Peoples’ early surgical training on dogs turned out to be more useful than he expected.
“The challenge after surgery is to keep the dog down and not to mobile,” explained Peoples. “It went well and Nancy was able to provide the care necessary.” Within nine months of spine surgery, Nawla started regaining bowel and bladder control. Then, there was leg movement. Within a year, the dog was up on three legs and also using a butt wheelchair to get around. “It changed Nancy’s life, and mine too. Operating on dogs has filled the void of a need to give something.”
Peoples has performed about fifteen surgeries on Las Vegas dog’s since then. “Several vets in town know that I do this and they call when they need me,” said Peoples. “It’s very simple for me. Basically, it’s the same thing I do for people. I operate on the brain and spine. I love putting a dog back with their owners.”
In many dog brain and spine injuries there isn’t much time and the costs of surgery would be prohibitive to saving the animal’s life. “A lot of vet operations cost more than the same procedure on people and I can’t even begin to determine what neurosurgery on an animal would cost. I don’t charge, it’s totally volunteer,” People’s said. “Knowing that these animals are going back to their families, I know I’m doing a service. When a family has a dog that’s saved, it’s almost like saving a family. Giving them something back that means a lot to them. That’s why I do it.”