Robert Summers, PhD, is the chief operating officer at Nevada Botanical Science, a medical marijuana production facility in Reno.

Summers worked in the health care field for more than 30 years. He paid his way through college working as an EMT and firefighter in Reno, later moved into hospital management and, prior to this job, traveled the United States as a health care consultant.

He lead the day-to-day operations and work directly with the state and local cannabis agencies to ensure compliance. He assists his team of local physicians who work hard every day to educate the medical community and patients about medical cannabis.

Summers focuses on the medical benefits of marijuana and how different types of marijuana can apply to different physical ailments all over the body. He said he has never actually taken marijuana in any form and prefers to focus on the science.

How did you get this great job?

Our CEO, Dr. Bob Dalrymple and I met 20 years ago when we worked together at Washoe Medical Center. I was asked by him to help establish Nevada Botanical Science, Inc. I immediately said yes, because he is an amazing physician with a heart and passion for helping others. It has been an extremely challenging and exciting few years, but I am so happy to be a part of this compassionate team.

This is the best job I have ever had and I love working with so many talented people in this industry. As the fastest growing industry in the country, medical marijuana is the wave of the future. It is changing lives for the better and will help shape our community in the next few years. I am honored to be a small part of that.

What is the most important skill needed to do your job?

Leadership. My favorite subjects in graduate school were change management and corporate culture. Thank goodness for that, because in this new industry, change happens fast, and your corporate culture better be set up to be able to handle it.

I have years of experience leading healthcare professionals, but I have never worked with cannabis growers. They are both very passionate and opinionated groups, and when they converge it requires a ton of leadership and communication skills. The beautiful thing is that both groups have the same goal: to help Patients.

Every day, I learn something new, and often this means stepping out of my own comfort zone and developing new leadership skills. That is the most amazing part of this job. I feel 20 years younger, because I am constantly learning and growing.

Why did you choose to work in Reno?

Reno is my home. I grew up here, attended Bishop Manogue High School, where I met my wife Stacey Whitton. We both have large families here and we love this area. She is an entertainer and I love the outdoors, sort of a city mouse vs. country mouse scenario so Reno-Tahoe area is perfect for both of us.

Why did you start work in medical marijuana business?

My wife and I were both traveling 10 months of the year; she as an impersonator and I as a consultant. We were never home enough and both getting tired of the road, so we were ready for a career change. Our mutual friend Ralph Morgan, CEO of Openvape is actually the one who convinced us to get into the medical marijuana business.

Ralph grew up in Reno then moved to Colorado years ago and began experimenting with cannabis extraction. He enlisted the help of some of the nation’s brightest scientists to perfect the oil extraction process, and Openvape has now become the largest cannabis brand in the world. Nevada Botanical Science is the exclusive Northern Nevada manufacturer of Openvape products, because the extraction process is medically safe, environmentally friendly and pure. We use this Critical carbon dioxide extraction method and the Vape pen because it delivers a consistent and pure dose of medicine.

Working is this new industry is very much like my last career, in that it is all about the patient, so it is a good fit for me.

What is the best part of your job?

Helping people. We have one patient in particular, Bella, who is a beautiful little girl with amazing will and the heart of an angel. Bella, (her parents call her “Paper Doll”) unfortunately has a debilitating seizure disorder. The CBD Cannabis oil has been able to help lower her seizure activity, reduce the amount of harmful pharmaceuticals she must take and increase her quality of life immensely.

I look forward to a day when we can legally research this oil, using the best scientific and medical minds in America. We’ve all heard the stories about how helpful this natural substance has been in the fight against cancer, PTSD, glaucoma, etc. Our team of physicians just wants to study it and make sure it is safe and effective for patients.

What do you see as the most important thing Reno needs to continue to grow?

I think Reno is on the right track, and I am impressed with what Mayor Hillary Schieve has been able to accomplish in the Midtown district. We have had a cultural revival of the city and we need to continue that momentum. Gaming and manufacturing will continue to be a big part of our growth, but I think we should push the art and adventure theme. The Whitney Peak Hotel climbing wall and the Winfield kayak park are both wonderful examples of this.

We are a destination city and we host some of the biggest and best special events in the world. We should continue to focus our activities on attraction the big events such as Burning Man and Hot August Nights, but we can’t forget about locals. The strides we have made in improving the downtown area came from local business owners like my friend Shawn for example. He owns 1864 bar on California Street. His place celebrates Reno's heritage in an artful way. It is a good example of how we boast our unique brand of beautiful outdoor adventure and big city night life together.

I guess many major city struggles with how to increase tourism and keep their own unique identity intact. I think Reno has done a good job of that lately. If we continue to develop art, adventure and fun new local business, we will continue to grow.

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