Archive for the ‘Medical Professionals’ Category

Routine Colonoscopy Leads to Shocking Diagnosis

Duane-and-Clara-Johnson

It started on the first anniversary of 9/11. Duane Johnson, a retired schoolteacher, wanted to make a difference. He stopped by a local Red Cross blood drive and rolled up his sleeves. From there on out, it became a trend.

“I pretty much donated blood every 53 days or so,” says Johnson. “It’s easy, painless and so important to the recipients. I enjoyed helping.”

But, a few years ago, a routine visit to the Red Cross left Duane a bit concerned.

“They told me my iron count was low, which had never happened before,” explains Johnson. “A couple months later, same problem. They told me to go home, eat some spinach and steak and come back. But, when I did, the same thing happened.”

Johnson was due for his annual exam at Nebraska Medicine, so he scheduled an appointment with his primary care physician, Dennis Goeschel, MD, with plans to discuss this with him. In April 2014, hospital staff ran a series of tests, including a colonoscopy. Five days later, Johnson received a shocking call from his gastroenterologist, Gary Volentine, MD.

“They found lymphoma in my small intestine. I couldn’t believe it,” he recalls. “I was puzzled by my low iron count, and felt fatigued at times, but had no inkling that anything serious was wrong. At 69 years old, I just contributed it to getting older.”

Dr. Volentine told Johnson, finding the lymphoma explained his anemia. He was immediately referred to Nebraska Medicine oncologist/hematologist Philip Bierman, MD, who was also surprised by the diagnosis.

“Lymphoma is very uncommon to find during a colonoscopy,” explains Dr. Bierman. “Typically, when we perform a colonoscopy, we’re looking for the more common types of colon cancer. Lymphoma would be an unexpected finding.”

Dr. Bierman decided the best course for treatment would be six sessions of chemotherapy. Johnson lost his hair, along with his appetite.

“At first, chemo affected my taste buds and made me feel like a groggy doggy,” jokes Johnson. “By the third week, I was doing much better. I remember telling the staff, ‘it feels good to feel good.'”

After completing the six chemo sessions, Johnson had another colonoscopy in September 2014. This time, the results were much different. Johnson was cancer free.

“It was such a relief to hear those words,” says Johnson. “My wife and I were very optimistic throughout the entire process, and that’s because we knew I was at the right place. No doubt about it. We’re really fortunate that Nebraska Medicine is here in Omaha. They did a wonderful job.”

These days, Johnson enjoys gardening and taking long car rides with Clara, his wife of 40 years. Because of his cancer diagnosis, Johnson can no longer donate blood at the Red Cross. But, he’s found a new way to make a difference. He encourages others to get a colonoscopy – especially during March, which is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

“Starting at age 50, low risk patients should get a colonoscopy every 10 years. This includes men and women,” explains Dr. Volentine. “If you have a family history of colon cancer, it’s best to get screened earlier and have a colonoscopy every five years. Work with your doctor to develop an individualized screening plan.”

Nebraska Medicine is ranked by U.S. News and World Report for having one of the nation’s top gastroenterology programs. They offer two convenient locations for colon cancer screenings. To schedule an appointment, call (800) 922-0000.

“I cannot stress how important it is,” says Johnson. “Getting a colonoscopy saved my life. It’s the best, most thorough way of finding cancer cells. Without it, I may not be here today.”

Nebraska Ebola team draws presidential praise

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations

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From left, Angela Hewlett, M.D., Phil Smith, M.D., Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.

World-class care.

That’s the verdict of President Barack Obama while discussing the treatment received by Richard Sacra, M.D., at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine’s Biocontainment Unit.

President Obama was speaking Wednesday at an event to recognize the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis. He mentioned Dr. Sacra, “who received world-class care at Nebraska Medical Center.”

The event highlighted how the U.S. government has worked with other governments, international organizations, private sector leaders and non-government partners to support a focused response to the virus.

See the president speaking here.

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., Phil Smith, M.D., medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at Nebraska Medicine-Nebraska Medical Center, and the unit’s associate medical director, Angela Hewlett, M.D., attended the event.

“It is both humbling and gratifying to be praised by President Obama for the level of our care in the face of this crisis,” Dr. Gold said. “This is a compliment for the dedicated health care professionals of our Biocontainment Unit, but also for the professionals of Nebraska Medicine and UNMC as a whole. We also should see it as a challenge to maintain our national and international leadership position in the worldwide fight against Ebola and other highly infectious agents as we continue our global educational efforts and regional preparedness.”

UNMC/Nebraska Medicine has one of three biocontainment units in the nation that have treated Ebola patients. Having drilled for countless hours since the unit opened in 2005, the Nebraska biocontainment team was uniquely qualified to answer the call. The original team was soon joined by other experts on campus.

Cancer center attracting top talent

by Karen Burbach, UNMC public relations

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The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, which will open in 2017, has added five new translational cancer researchers to its staff in recent months.

The recruits hail from some of the nation’s top scientific and medical institutions. Collectively, they bring more than $5 million in cancer research funding to Nebraska. All have begun their work at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center during the past four months.

“When we launched this ambitious project to build the world’s finest cancer center right here in Omaha, we believed that it would attract the very best minds in cancer research from around the world,” said Ken Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. “These recruits exemplify that vision. We are building a place where pioneering scientific exploration will shape the future of cancer science and medicine — and these recruits are just the start.”

They are:

Michael Green, Ph.D.

  • Recruited from Stanford University. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Nov. 1.
  • $195,000 grant funded by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Dr. Green works to identify and understand the genetic alterations that give rise to lymphoma and allow it to evade the immune system. He is interested in the genetics of B-cell lymphoma, with the goal of using genetic profiling to understand disease biology and inform treatment decisions.
  • For more information on Dr. Green, click here.

Nick Woods, Ph.D.

  • Recruited from H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Oct. 1.
  • $400,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Cancer Institute (NCI) grant in breast cancer.
  • For more information on Dr. Woods, click here.

Amar Singh, Ph.D.

  • Recruited from Vanderbilt University. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Oct. 1.
  • $1.65 million National Institutes of Health grant in colon cancer
  • Brought one other Ph.D. level researcher with him to Nebraska.
  • For more information on Dr. Singh, click here.

Punita Dhawan, Ph.D.

  • Recruited from Vanderbilt University. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Oct. 1.
  • $950,000 Veteran’s Affairs Health Grant in colon cancer
  • Recruited one additional Ph.D. postdoctoral fellow from Chicago.
  • For more information on Dr. Dhawan, click here.

Rebecca Oberley-Deegan, Ph.D.

  • Recruited from National Jewish Hospital in Denver. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Aug. 1.
  • $1.65 million National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute grant in prostate cancer
  • For more information on Dr. Oberly-Deegan, click here.

 

CAR T-Cell Therapy Now Offered at Nebraska Medicine

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After the T cells are collected from the patient, they are sent to a California lab to be restimulated to fight their own lymphoma. They are then returned to Nebraska Medicine to be reintroduced to the patient.

Seeking Patients with Relapsed B-Cell Lymphomas for Clinical Trial

It’s the fifth most common type of cancer for adults in U.S. For years, traditional therapies to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) have included chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell/bone marrow transplant. For the first time, a promising new option will be offered at Nebraska Medicine called Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR T-Cell Therapy). It’s a way of taking the patient’s own immune system and modifying it to attack the cancer.

Dr_-Vose-135x190- Julie Vose, MD

“T cells are white blood cells that help our bodies fight infection and cancer,” explains Julie Vose, MD, chief of Hematology/Oncology. “In lymphoma patients, these cells have gone haywire. They don’t fight the cancer properly. This clinical trial will allow us to take the patient’s own T cells outside the body and restimulate them to be able to fight their own lymphoma.”

From start to finish, the entire process takes about three weeks. During the first phase, the patient’s T cells are collected during an outpatient procedure at the hospital. The cells are then sent to a lab in California for processing. In the meantime, the patient receives several days of intense chemotherapy. When the cells return to Omaha, they’re placed in a specialized processing center here to complete the procedure. The patient then has their own modified T cells given back to them. A specialized team monitors the patient at the hospital for the next 7-10 days, including frequent blood tests and exams.

“It’s a great opportunity for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients who have failed every other therapy,” says Dr. Vose. “So far, this clinical trial has only been done in a few patients, but it looks very promising with high response rates.”

In the past, CAR T-Cell Therapy has only been offered at a few places, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Nebraska Medicine is one of the first hospitals in the Midwest to offer the clinical trial.

“This type of treatment can’t be done at just any hospital or center. It’s specialized with respect to what’s needed to collect and process the cells,” explains Dr. Vose. “We have a very large lymphoma program at Nebraska Medicine, which specializes in research and clinical trials. We’re hoping to attract patients from all over the region.”

The clinical trial is open to adult patients (19 years and older) with relapsed b-cell lymphomas, which is a subtype of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Because the treatment is extensive, the patient must be in good enough shape. Some of the treatment aspects are paid for by the study. Dr. Vose is looking to attract 5-10 participants over the next year, but will take more if interest is high.

“Clinical trials are very important, especially when it comes to cancer. That’s the way we discover new treatments,” says Dr. Vose. “Everything we have today is because of clinical trials in the past. Without patients on clinical trials, we wouldn’t have any cancer treatments today or tomorrow.”

To sign up for Dr. Vose’s clinical trial, call Nebraska Medicine at 402-559-5600. To learn more about the upcoming clinical trial, watch the video below.

Nebraska ranks as 10th healthiest state

by Elizabeth Kumru, UNMC public relations

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Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the College of Public Health, traveled the state in 2014 to talk with stakeholders about how to improve the state’s health indicators. His goal is to have Nebraska rank as the healthiest state in the U.S. by 2020.

Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the College of Public Health, traveled the state in 2014 to talk with stakeholders about how to improve the state’s health indicators. His goal is to have Nebraska rank as the healthiest state in the U.S. by 2020.
Nebraska has moved into the top 10 among the healthiest states in the country.

In a report issued by the United Health Foundation earlier this month, Nebraska moved up one notch after ranking No. 11 last year. This marks the 25th year that UHF has issued state rankings.

About the rankings

America’s Health Rankings is the longest-running report of its kind. It provides analysis of national health on a state-by-state basis by evaluating a historical and comprehensive set of health, environmental and socioeconomic data to determine national health benchmarks and state rankings. The rankings employ a unique methodology that is developed and annually reviewed and overseen by a Scientific Advisory Committee of leading public health scholars. It is published by the United Health Foundation in partnership with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

The data in the report come from well-recognized outside sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Medical Association, FBI, Dartmouth Atlas Project, U.S. Department of Education, and the Census Bureau.

See the rankings in full.

Use dropdown menus to narrow or expand information.
“We are heading in the right direction,” said Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., dean of UNMC’s College of Public Health. “With a real concerted effort, we can reach No. 1 by 2020.”

Since joining UNMC in July, Dr. Khan has traveled across the state to talk about how to improve the state’s health indicators. He supports UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., and his strategic goal to work with all health systems and private and community partners to help make Nebraska the healthiest state in the union by 2020.

The report, “America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for Individuals and their Communities,” analyzed the health of the nation holistically with in-depth data and analysis. Its focus is on behaviors, community and environment, policy and clinical care to provide a comprehensive picture of the nation’s health. Indicators are: low birth weight, smoking, obesity, drug deaths, physical inactivity and adolescent immunizations.

First, the good news – Nebraska ranks:
•First – High rate of high school graduation. In the past two years, high school graduation increased 12 percent from 82.9 percent to 93 percent for incoming ninth graders. Nebraska is tied with Vermont for the highest graduation rate in the nation.
•Second – High immunization coverage among children. In the past year, immunization coverage among children increased by 9 percent from 72.6 percent to 79 percent for children aged 19 to 35 months.
•Third – Low rate of drug deaths.
•10th – In the past year, the number of children in poverty decreased by 27 percent from 19.6 percent to 14.3 percent.
•24th – In the past year, preventable hospitalizations decreased by 13 percent from 63.8 to 55.8 per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries.

Still, it isn’t all good news.

In areas that need work, Nebraska ranks:
•16th – In the past two years, the percentage of adults with diabetes increased 10 percent from 8.4 percent to 9.2 percent.
•21st – Percentage of adults who are smokers (self-report smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoke).
•23rd – Public health funding.
•27th – Percentage of adults who are obese.
•44th – Percentage of adults who self-report drinking alcoholic beverages on at least one occasion in the last month: women – four or more drinks at one sitting; men – five or more drinks at one sitting.

Dr. Smith attends State of the Union

Smith1118Philip Smith, M.D.

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse hosted Philip Smith, M.D., medical director of the Nebraska Medicine Biocontainment Unit, as his guest at Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address. Dr. Smith, a professor of internal medicine-infectious diseases at UNMC, leads the specialized Nebraska team that treated three Ebola patients last year.

“By risking their lives for strangers, Nebraska’s biocontainment team inspired us to service above ourselves,” said Sen. Sasse. “The courage, precision, and hard work of these doctors, nurses, and medical professionals saved lives, educated health providers, and calmed public fears. Nebraskans are tremendously grateful for Dr. Smith’s team, and it is an honor to welcome him to Washington as a representative of Nebraska Medicine and UNMC’s dedicated staff.”

“I am deeply honored to have been invited by Sen. Sasse to attend the State of the Union Address. This is a tribute to all of our dedicated and skilled staff who make it possible for us to care for Ebola patients at the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit,” Dr. Smith said.

Nebraska Medicine’s Biocontainment Patient Care ‎Unit is the largest in the country and one of just three facilities in the United States equipped and trained to handle Ebola patients. Between September and November of last year, the world-class Biocontainment Unit successfully treated Dr. Rick Sacra and freelance journalist Ashoka Mukpo.

Nebraska Medicine and UNMC have established the gold standard in treatment of Ebola, Sen. Sasse said. Since the fight against Ebola began, the Biocontainment Unit staff has trained the staffs of more than 40 hospitals across the United States in how to safely handle and treat Ebola patients.

UNMC trial explores injectable HIV medications

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations

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Study coordinator Angela Felton-Coleman performs an injection as study coordinator Frances Van Meter looks on.

Study coordinator Angela Felton-Coleman performs an injection as study coordinator Frances Van Meter looks on.
A potential new drug-delivery system, being tested in UNMC’s HIV Clinic as part of a clinical trial, might not only treat the condition, but offer additional peace of mind.

In a few decades, HIV has gone from being a death sentence to a chronic condition. These days, many of us who don’t have it think about it infrequently, if at all. But, those who have HIV have to think about it every time they swallow another pill.

But UNMC’s clinic is one of a handful of sites nationwide taking part in a clinical trial that tests the efficacy of getting periodic injections rather than taking pills.

“This is something that’s never been done before,” said Uriel Sandkovsky, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine. “Injectable medicine is something we’ve been waiting for years.”

These injections, theoretically, last for long periods of time. So, you’re good for a good while. That way, there’s no forgetting to take your pills.

But, you can forget that you have to.

“It allows me to put that to the back of my mind,” said a clinical trial participant, who asked to remain anonymous. “I have had a lot of anxiety finding out that I was HIV-positive.”

And he would be reminded of that anxiety every time he took a pill.

But, getting two shots every four weeks? “For lack of a better term, I feel normal,” he said.

Susan Swindells, M.B.B.S., professor of internal medicine and the clinic’s medical director, is not surprised. A 2012 UNMC study told her much the same thing. Given a choice, many HIV-infected patients would prefer periodic injections instead of daily pills.

And, for many, it goes beyond convenience, or even peace of mind.

“Some have competing subsistence demands,” Dr. Swindells said. “They need a roof over their head and food. They’re worried about the security of themselves and their children, keeping the electricity on. Medicine-taking is down the list. It gets forgotten and left off.

“Although this is in the early stages of development, this option, where you’d come here for an injection every other month or so, would be fantastic.”

The drugs were developed by the pharmaceutical company ViiV, which wanted to work with UNMC on this project due to the medical center’s longstanding role as a leader in HIV-drug research. Howard Gendelman, M.D., chair of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience, also is studying the ViiV drugs in his lab.

Lydiatt new vice chair of NCCN thyroid guidelines panel

by Mallory Car, UNMC public relations

 

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William Lydiatt, M.D.

William Lydiatt, M.D., professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery in the UNMC College of Medicine, has been appointed vice chair of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Thyroid Guidelines Panel.

A member of the head and neck committee since the 1990s, Dr. Lydiatt is excited to serve in a leadership position.

“This role provides an opportunity to make a real difference in the standards of care for treating thyroid cancers,” he said. “The chair and vice chair have an important role in guiding the committee, using best evidence to enhance and improve care nationally.”

NCCN, a not-for-profit alliance of 25 of the world’s leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research and education, is dedicated to improving the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of cancer care so that patients can live better lives. As one of the 13 original NCCN member institutions, Nebraska Medicine remains committed to the organization’s vision by serving as a leader in defining and advancing high-quality, high-value cancer care.

“As founding members of NCCN, our faculty members have been extensively involved in developing and updating yearly comprehensive guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of more than 97 percent of cancers affecting patients in the United States,” said Peter F. Coccia, M.D., Ittner Professor and vice chair of pediatrics at UNMC and NCCN board and guidelines steering committee member. “Thyroid cancer accounts for 4 percent of all cancers and more than 1 percent of people will develop thyroid cancer in their lifetime. Bill’s appointment as vice chair of the thyroid guidelines panel recognizes him as a national expert in the diagnosis and management of thyroid cancer.”

“This is not only an outstanding recognition for Dr. Lydiatt and the expertise he has in thyroid cancer but also his talent in collaboration and building consensus with respected colleagues in premier cancer programs,” said Theresa Franco, cancer care service line executive director at Nebraska Medicine. “This brings prestige and value to our cancer program and advances the reputation of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.”

“To have this kind of influence in setting standards of care is such an honor,” said Ken Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. “This appointment reflects Dr. Lydiatt’s unwavering commitment to educating the world in best cancer care practices.”

Five cancer researchers recruited to Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center

 

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The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine, has added five new translational cancer researchers to its staff in recent months.

The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center is Nebraska’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. It is affiliated with the University of Nebraska Medical Center and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine. Located at 45th Street and Dewey Avenue, the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center is scheduled to open in 2017.

The recruits hail from some of the nation’s top scientific and medical institutions. Collectively, they bring more than $5 million in cancer research funding to Nebraska. All have begun their work at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center during the past four months.

“When we launched this ambitious project to build the world’s finest cancer center right here in Omaha, we believed that it would attract the very best minds in cancer research from around the world,” said Ken Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

“These recruits exemplify that vision. We are building a place where pioneering scientific exploration will shape the future of cancer science and medicine – and these recruits are just the start.”

The $323 million Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center – the largest construction project ever on the medical center campus – will create approximately 1,200 jobs at the medical center alone, plus thousands of others in construction and related industries. In total, the project will provide 4,657 new jobs to the metro area, infusing $537 million annually into the economy on an ongoing basis.

As translational cancer researchers, these new recruits conduct research that applies discoveries generated in the laboratory directly to patients’ bedsides.

The new recruits are:

Nick Woods, Ph.D.
• Recruited from H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Oct. 1.
• Has a $400,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Cancer Institute (NCI) grant in breast cancer.
• A Fairfield, Neb., native and cancer survivor, Dr. Woods’ primary research interest is systems biology based analysis of protein-protein interactions networks associated with cancer signaling pathways to identify novel targets for cancer therapies. His future goals are to examine acute myeloid leukemia signaling pathways associated with Fanconi Anemia proteins.
• For more information on Dr. Woods, click here.

Michael Green, Ph.D.
• Recruited from Stanford University. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Nov. 1.
• Has a $195,000 grant funded by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
• Dr. Green works to identify and understand the genetic alterations that give rise to lymphoma and allow it to evade the immune system. He is interested in the genetics of B-cell lymphoma, with the goal of using genetic profiling to understand disease biology and inform treatment decisions.
• For more information on Dr. Green, click here.

Amar Singh, Ph.D.
• Recruited from Vanderbilt University. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Oct. 1.
• Has a $1.65 million National Institutes of Health grant in colon cancer.
• Brought one other Ph.D. level researcher with him to Nebraska.
• Dr. Singh’s research focuses on understanding the role of the tight junction proteins, claudins, in the regulation of barrier function, colonic inflammation and neoplastic transformation and growth in correlation with the EGF receptor signaling.
• For more information on Dr. Singh, click here.

Punita Dhawan, Ph.D.
• Recruited from Vanderbilt University. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Oct. 1.
• Has a $950,000 Veteran’s Affairs Health Grant in colon cancer
• Recruited one additional Ph.D. postdoctoral fellow from Chicago.
• Dr. Dhawan focuses her research on claudins, metastasis, tumorigenesis, signal transduction and trafficking, and cell death and differentiation.
• For more information on Dr. Dhawan, click here.

Rebecca Oberley-Deegan, Ph.D.
• Recruited from National Jewish Hospital in Denver. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Aug. 1.
• Has a $1.65 million National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute grant in prostate cancer
• Dr. Oberley-Deegan’s research examines the role of oxidative stress and inflammation in the context of radiation and cancer biology. Her laboratory previously has shown that a catalytically active antioxidant can protect normal prostate tissues during radiation, but not prostate tumor tissues. The focus of her research is to determine the mechanisms by which antioxidants can protect normal tissues from radiation while simultaneously making the tumor vulnerable to radiation damage.
• For more information on Dr. Oberly-Deegan, click here.

Nebraska moves into top 10 of healthiest states in U.S.

Liz Kumru

Ali_Khan_M_D_

Ali Khan, M.D.

Nebraska has moved into the top 10 among the healthiest states in the country.

In a report issued by the United Health Foundation earlier this month, Nebraska moved up one notch after ranking No. 11 last year. The five states surrounding Nebraska ranked between 18 and 36.

“We are heading in the right direction,” said Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health. “With a real concerted effort, we can reach No. 1 by 2020.”

Since joining UNMC in July, Dr. Khan has traveled across the state to talk about how to improve the state’s health indicators. He supports UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., and his strategic goal to work with all health systems and private and community partners to help make Nebraska the healthiest state in the union by 2020.

The report, “America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for Individuals and their Communities,” analyzed the health of the nation holistically with in-depth data and analysis. Its focus is on behaviors, community and environment, policy and clinical care to provide a comprehensive picture of the nation’s health. Indicators are: low birth weight, smoking, obesity, drug deaths, physical inactivity and adolescent immunizations.

First, the good news – Nebraska ranks:
• First – High rate of high school graduation. In the past two years, high school graduation increased 12 percent from 82.9 percent to 93 percent for incoming ninth graders. Nebraska is tied with Vermont for the highest graduation rate in the nation.
• Second – High immunization coverage among children. In the past year, immunization coverage among children increased by 9 percent from 72.6 percent to 79 percent for children aged 19 to 35 months.
• Third – Low rate of drug deaths.
• 10th – In the past year, the number of children in poverty decreased by 27 percent from 19.6 percent to 14.3 percent.
• 24th – In the past year, preventable hospitalizations decreased by 13 percent from 63.8 to 55.8 per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries.

Still, it isn’t all good news. In areas that need work, Nebraska ranks:
• 16th – In the past two years, the percentage of adults with diabetes increased 10 percent from 8.4 percent to 9.2 percent.
• 21st – Percentage of adults who are smokers (self-report smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoke).
• 23rd – Public health funding.
• 27th – Percentage of adults who are obese.
• 44th – Percentage of adults who self-report drinking alcoholic beverages on at least one occasion in the last month: women – four or more drinks at one sitting; men – five or more drinks at one sitting.

This marks the 25th year that UHF has issued state rankings in partnership with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

America’s Health Rankings is the longest-running report of its kind. It provides analysis of national health on a state-by-state basis by evaluating a historical and comprehensive set of health, environmental and socioeconomic data to determine national health benchmarks and state rankings. The rankings employ a unique methodology that is developed and annually reviewed and overseen by a Scientific Advisory Committee of leading public health scholars.

The data in the report come from well-recognized outside sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Medical Association, FBI, Dartmouth Atlas Project, U.S. Department of Education, and the Census Bureau.

To view the rankings in full, go to www.americashealthrankings.org.

How the states rank

Here are the top 10 states, and the last:

1 – Hawaii

2 – Vermont

3 – Massachusetts

4 – Connecticut

5 – Utah

6 – Minnesota

7 – New Hampshire

8 – Colorado

9 – North Dakota

10 – Nebraska

States surrounding Nebraska and their rank:
• South Dakota – 18
• Iowa – 24
• Wyoming – 25
• Kansas – 27
• Missouri – 36

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