Archive for the ‘Medical Professionals’ Category

The Nebraska Medical Center Named To List Of 100 Great Hospitals In America

Becker’s Hospital Review has published the 2014 edition of “100 Great Hospitals in America,” a compilation of some of the most prominent, forward-thinking and focused healthcare facilities in the nation. For the first time, The Nebraska Medical Center is on the list – a list that includes the Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts General and Cleveland Clinic, among others. The Nebraska Medical Center is the only hospital in Nebraska on the list.

“To be named to this list is quite an honor,” said Bill Dinsmoor, CEO of the Clinical Enterprise that includes The Nebraska Medical Center. “It’s an indication of the direction in which this organization is headed and something all of our colleagues should be extremely proud of.”

Hospitals included on the list are home to many medical and scientific breakthroughs, provide best-in-class patient care and are stalwarts of their communities, serving as academic hubs or local mainstays.

“We’ve always believed those aforementioned qualities describe this medical center perfectly,” said Brad Britigan, MD, president of the Clinical Enterprise that includes The Nebraska Medical Center. “To have tangible proof of this from an independent organization that is so highly thought of in the health care industry like Becker’s, makes being named to this list extremely significant.”

To develop the list, Becker’s Hospital Review’s editorial team conducted research, considered nominations and evaluated reputable hospital ranking sources, such as U.S. News & World Report, Truven Health Analytics’ 100 Top Hospitals, Healthgrades, Magnet designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, The Leapfrog Group and several other resources.

The hospitals included in the 2014 edition of the list are:

  • Advocate Lutheran General Hospital (Park Ridge, Ill.).
  • Allina Abbot Northwestern Hospital (Minneapolis).
  • Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
  • Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center (Milwaukee).
  • Baptist Memorial Hospital – Memphis (Tenn.).
  • Barnes-Jewish Hospital (St. Louis).
  • Baylor University Medical Center (Dallas).
  • Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak (Mich.).
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston).
  • Billings (Mont.) Clinic.
  • Boston Children’s Hospital.
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston).
  • Carle Foundation Hospital (Urbana, Ill.).
  • Carolinas Medical Center (Charlotte, N.C.).
  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles).
  • CHI St. Luke’s Health Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center (Houston).
  • Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
  • Children’s Hospital Colorado (Aurora).
  • Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
  • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
  • The Christ Hospital (Cincinnati).
  • Christiana Care Hospital (Newark, Del.).
  • Cleveland Clinic.
  • Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (Lebanon N.H.).
  • Duke University Medical Center (Durham, N.C.).
  • Emory University Hospital (Atlanta).
  • Evanston (Ill.) Hospital.
  • Geisinger Medical Center (Danville, Pa.).
  • Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center.
  • Henry Ford Hospital (Detroit).
  • Hospital for Special Surgery (New York City).
  • Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).
  • Houston Methodist Hospital.
  • Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital (Indianapolis).
  • Inova Fairfax Hospital (Falls Church, Va.).
  • The Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore).
  • Lahey Hospital and Medical Center (Burlington, Mass.).
  • Lancaster (Pa.) General Hospital.
  • Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center (Portland, Ore.).
  • Lehigh Valley Hospital (Allentown, Pa.).
  • Loyola University Medical Center (Maywood, Ill.).
  • Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston).
  • Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn.).
  • Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston, S.C.).
  • MedStar Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center.
  • Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center (Houston).
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York City).
  • Montefiore Medical Center (New York City).
  • Mount Sinai Hospital (New York City).
  • The Nebraska Medical Center (Omaha).
  • NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (New York City).
  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Chicago).
  • Novant Presbyterian Medical Center (Charlotte, N.C.).
  • NYU Langone Medical Center (New York City).
  • Ochsner Medical Center (New Orleans).
  • The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (Columbus).
  • Oregon Health & Science University (Portland).
  • Providence Portland (Ore.) Medical Center.
  • Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center (Los Angeles).
  • Rush University Medical Center (Chicago).
  • Scottsdale (Ariz.) Healthcare Shea Medical Center.
  • Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla (Calif.).
  • Sentara Norfolk (Va.) General Hospital.
  • Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital (Grand Rapids, Mich.).
  • St. Francis Hospital (Roslyn, N.Y.).
  • St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center (Phoenix).
  • Stanford Hospital & Clinics (Palo Alto, Calif.).
  • Sutter Davis (Calif.) Hospital.
  • Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital.
  • Texas Children’s Hospital (Houston).
  • Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (Philadelphia).
  • UAB Hospital (Birmingham, Ala.).
  • UC San Diego Medical Center.
  • UCSF Medical Center (San Francisco).
  • UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital (Cedar Rapids, Iowa).
  • University Hospital (Salt Lake City).
  • University Hospitals Case Medical Center (Cleveland).
  • The University of Arizona Medical Center (Tucson).
  • University of Chicago Medicine.
  • University of Colorado Hospital (Aurora).
  • UF Health Shands Hospital (Gainesville, Fla.).
  • University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (Iowa City).
  • The University of Kansas Hospital (Kansas City).
  • University of Maryland Medical Center (Baltimore).
  • University of Michigan Medical Center (Ann Arbor).
  • University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview (Minneapolis).
  • University of North Carolina Hospitals (Chapel Hill, N.C.).
  • University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center.
  • University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston).
  • University of Virginia Medical Center (Charlottesville).
  • University of Washington Medical Center (Seattle).
  • University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics (Madison).
  • UPMC Presbyterian (Pittsburgh).
  • UT Southwestern Medical Center (Dallas).
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Nashville, Tenn.).
  • Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center (Richmond, Va.).
  • Virginia Mason Hospital (Seattle).
  • Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (Winston-Salem, N.C.).
  • Woman’s Hospital (Baton Rouge, La.).
  • Yale-New Haven (Conn.) Hospital.

The complete list can be read here:

Note: This list is not an endorsement of included hospitals, health systems or associated healthcare providers, and organizations do not and cannot pay for inclusion on this list. Hospitals are presented in alphabetical order.

About Becker’s Hospital Review

Becker’s Hospital Review is a monthly publication offering up-to-date business and legal news and analysis relating to hospitals and health systems. Content is geared toward high-level hospital leaders, and we work to provide valuable content, including hospital and health system news, best practices and legal guidance specifically for these decision-makers. Each issue of Becker’s Hospital Review reaches more than 18,000 people, primarily acute-care hospital CEOs, CFOs and CIOs.

181 Medical Center Physicians Recognized Among Best Doctors In America

A total of 181 physicians who practice at The Nebraska Medical Center have been recognized on this year’s list of Best Doctors in America®. The doctors include private practice physicians as well as full and part-time faculty at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who are also affiliated with UNMC Physicians, the UNMC faculty physician group.

The list of physicians was excerpted from the Best Doctors in America® 2013-2014 database of more than 45,000 doctors in the United States. Physicians are selected on the basis of the question, “If you or a loved one needed a doctor in your specialty, to whom would you refer them?” A peer-review survey by thousands of doctors determines the doctors included in the database. Only those doctors who earn the consensus support of their peers are included and only physicians in the Best Doctors database are allowed to receive the survey, nominate others and vote.

Best Doctors in America® was founded in 1989 by two physicians affiliated with Harvard Medical School and is today a leading resource to those seeking medical advice and information.

The Nebraska Medical Center physicians and their specialty featured in the 2013-2014 database are identified below.

  • Dean Antonson Pediatric Gastroenterology
  • Kimberly Apker Radiology
  • John Andresen Pediatrics
  • Chandrakanth Are General Surgery
  • James Armitage Hematology/Oncology
  • Gregory Babbe Family Medicine
  • Kristina Bailey Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care Medicine
  • Claire Baker Endocrinology
  • Teri Barkoukis Pulmonary Medicine
  • B. Timothy Baxter General Surgery and Critical Care Medicine
  • Jennifer Beaty Colon and Rectal Surgery
  • Teresa Berg Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • John Bertoni Neurology
  • Joel Bessmer Internal Medicine
  • Philip Bierman Hematology/Oncology
  • Garnet Blatchford Colon and Rectal Surgery
  • Brian Boerner Endocrinology
  • Julia Bridge Pathology
  • Bradley Britigan Infectious Disease
  • William Burke Psychiatry
  • Charles Burt Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Samuel Cemaj Surgery
  • John Colombo Pediatric Pulmonology
  • James Commers Hematology/Oncology
  • Kevin Corley Pediatric Endocrinology
  • Kenneth Cowan Hematology/Oncology
  • Robert Cusick General Surgery
  • David Danford Pediatric Cardiology
  • Jeffrey Delaney Pediatric Cardiology
  • Cyrus Desouza Endocrinology
  • Andjela Drincic Endocrinology
  • Kim Duncan Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery
  • Arthur Easley Cardiology
  • James Edney Surgical Oncology
  • Charles Enke Radiation Oncology
  • Christopher Erickson Pediatric Cardiology
  • Paul Esposito Orthopedic Surgery
  • Pierre Fayad Neurology
  • David Finken General Pediatrics
  • Diana Florescu Infectious Disease
  • Kenneth Follett Neurological Surgery
  • Harris A Frankel Neurology
  • Alison Freifeld Infectious Disease
  • Kevin Garvin Orthopedic Surgery
  • James Gigantelli Ophthalmology
  • Mark Goebel Orthopedic Surgery
  • Steven Xavier Goebel Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Dennis Goeschel Family Medicine
  • Whitney Goldner Endocrinology
  • Mark D. Goodman Family Medicine
  • Bruce Gordon Pediatric Hematology/Oncology
  • George Greene Neurological Surgery
  • Timothy Greiner Pathology
  • Carl Gumbiner Pediatric Cardiology
  • James Hammel Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery and Pediatrics
  • David Harnisch Family Medicine
  • Jeffrey Harrison Family Medicine
  • Brian Hasley Orthopedic Surgery
  • Angela Hewlett Infectious Disease
  • Steven Hinrichs Pathology
  • T Holmes Internal Medicine
  • Barbara Hurlbert Anesthesiology
  • Kimberly Jarzynka Family Medicine
  • Dwight Jones Pediatric Otolaryngology
  • Michael Jones Gastroenterology
  • Prashant Joshi Pediatric Specialist
  • Andre Kalil Infectious Disease
  • D. Richard Kang Pediatric Specialist
  • Brenda Keller Geriatrics
  • Timothy Kingston General Surgery
  • Lynell Klassen Rheumatology
  • Sarah Konigsberg Internal Medicine
  • Christopher Kratochvil Psychiatry
  • John Kugler Pediatric Cardiology
  • Rudy Lackner Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery
  • Kristin Lake Rheumatology
  • Alan Langnas Transplantation Surgery
  • Jennifer Larsen Endocrinology
  • Paul Larsen Pediatric Neurology
  • Audrey Lazenby Pathology
  • Subodh Lele Pathology
  • Steven Lisco Anesthesiology
  • William Lydiatt Otolaryngology
  • Daniel Lydiatt Otolaryngology
  • William Lyons Geriatrics
  • Lynn Mack Endocrinology
  • Thomas Magnuson Psychiatry
  • Mark Mailliard Gastroenterology and Hepatology
  • Timothy Malloy Family Medicine
  • Monty Mathews Family Medicine
  • Abraham Philip Mathews Medical Oncology and Hematology
  • Timothy McCashland Gastroenterology and Hepatology
  • Rodney McComb Pathology
  • Paul Meissner Family Medicine
  • Ted Mikuls Rheumatology
  • Oleg Militsakh Otolaryngology
  • Jason Miller Plastic Surgery
  • John Mitchell II Gastroenterology
  • Matthew Mormino Orthopedic Surgery
  • Debra Mostek Geriatrics
  • Robert Muelleman Emergency Medicine
  • Sandeep Mukherjee Gastroenterology
  • Peter Murphy Pulmonary Medicine
  • J Scott Neumeister Internal Medicine
  • Amy Neumeister Endocrinology
  • Quan Dong Nguyen Ophthalmology
  • Stephen Obaro Pediatric-Infectious Disease
  • David O’Dell Internal Medicine
  • James O’Dell Rheumatology
  • Ann Olney Clinical Genetics
  • Matthew Omojola Radiology
  • Richard Osterholm Internal Medicine
  • William Palmer Rheumatology
  • Jennifer Parker General Pediatrics
  • Jennifer Parker Internal Medicine
  • Paul Paulman Family Medicine
  • Audrey Paulman Family Medicine
  • Craig Piquette Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care
  • Samuel Pirruccello Pathology
  • Sheryl Pitner General Pediatrics
  • Jill Poole Allergy & Immunology
  • Thomas Porter Cardiology
  • Jane Potter Geriatrics
  • Ruben Quiros Pediatric Gastroenterology
  • Stanley Radio Pathology
  • Stephen Raynor General Surgery
  • Elizabeth Reed Hematology/Oncology
  • Stephen Rennard Pulmonary Medicine
  • William Rizzo General Pediatrics
  • William Roccaforte Psychiatry
  • Kerry Rodabaugh Gynecologic Oncology
  • Debra Romberger Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care
  • Mark Rupp Infectious Disease
  • Paul Sammut Pediatric Pulmonology
  • Aaron Sasson General Surgery and Surgical Oncology
  • Edwin Schafer Gastroenterology
  • Michael Schafer Gastroenterology
  • Daniel Schafer Gastroenterology
  • Susan Scherl Orthopedic Surgery
  • Robert Schwab Internal Medicine
  • Patricia Seivert General Pediatrics
  • Ashish Sharma Psychiatry
  • Joseph Shehan Internal Medicine
  • Vijay Shivaswamy Endocrinology
  • Edibaldo Silva-Lopez Surgical Oncology
  • Kari Simonsen Pediatric-Infectious Disease
  • Joseph Sisson Pulmonary Medicine
  • Michael Sitorius Family Medicine
  • John Smith Family Medicine
  • Philip Smith Infectious Disease
  • Carl Smith Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Russell Smith Otolaryngology and Surgery
  • Sheilah Snyder General Pediatrics
  • John Sparks Neonatology
  • Sharon Stoolman General Pediatrics
  • Susan Swindells Infectious Disease
  • Thomas Tape Internal Medicine
  • Britt Thedinger Otolaryngology
  • Austin Thompson Pulmonary Medicine
  • William Thorell Neurological Surgery
  • Alan Thorson Surgical Oncology and Colon and Rectal Surgery
  • Edward Vandenberg Geriatrics
  • Joseph Daniel Verdirame Medical Oncology and Hematology
  • Chad Vokoun Hospitalist
  • Susanna Von Essen Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care
  • Julie Vose Hematology/Oncology
  • Michael Wadman Emergency Medicine
  • Timothy Wahl Endocrinology
  • John Walburn General Pediatrics
  • Richard Walker Emergency Medicine
  • Craig Walker Diagnostic Radiology
  • Phyllis Warkentin Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Pathology
  • Steven Wengel Psychiatry
  • William West Pathology
  • Douglas Wheatley Family Medicine
  • Mark Wilson Pediatric Pulmonology and Allergy and Immunology
  • John Windle Cardiology
  • James Wisecarver Pathology
  • Renee Young Gastroenterology
  • Zahi E. Zeidan Pediatric Specialist
  • Weining Zhen Radiation Oncology

A pioneer in brain imaging

by Elizabeth Kumru, UNMC public relations


Tony Wilson, Ph.D., and MEG 

For almost 14 years Tony Wilson, Ph.D., has been working with MEG — or magnetoencephalography.

Since his doctoral training, using the first — and at that time the only — high-density MEG system in the world, Dr. Wilson has pioneered ways to use MEG-based imaging to evaluate severe psychiatric and neurological diseases — HIV-associated cognitive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and Parkinson’s disease — and to illuminate how pharmacotherapies modulate human brain function.

On March 11, Dr. Wilson, assistant professor in pharmacology and experimental neuroscience, will receive UNMC’s 2013 Joseph. P. Gilmore Distinguished New Investigator award. The ceremony will be in the Eppley Science Hall Amphitheater at 2:30 p.m., with a reception to follow in the lobby.

MEG is a 100 percent silent, noninvasive imaging technique for mapping brain activity by recording magnetic fields produced by ultra-minute electrical currents that occur naturally in the brain. Dr. Wilson has used the method to pinpoint the regions of the brain affected by several neurologic and psychiatric disorders. He now measures the effectiveness of drugs or behavioral therapy on those areas.

“Our basic goal is to study human brain networks in the context of brain disorders,” he said. “We want to eventually connect abnormal activity in specific brain networks with individual neurologic and psychiatric disorders. The symptoms associated with these conditions reflect the involved brain networks, but we are only beginning to understand the precise mapping between expressed symptoms and specific networks.”

Dr. Wilson is at various stages of several ongoing studies, but still looks for ways to expand the use of MEG imaging in this golden age of brain research.

“Finding brain markers, or signatures of a specific disease, is important for advancing treatment and neuroimaging is critical to this effort,” he said.

Dr. Wilson joined UNMC in November of 2008 as the scientific director of the new Center for Magnetoencephalography. UNMC was one of the first medical centers in the United States to get a state-of-the-art 306-sensor MEG system, which remains the most advanced system currently available.

“We map regions of the brain that become active when a person performs memory or language tasks, executes simple hand movements, or utilizes one of many other cognitive functions,” Dr. Wilson said.

His long-term goal is to develop predictive markers for diagnostic and prognostic applications, as well as monitoring disease progression and testing new candidate treatments for neurologic and psychiatric disorders.

The Nebraska Medical Center To Expand Trauma Services To Provide 24-7 Care

Improved access to quality trauma care seen as the primary reason for expansion

Traumatic injury is the number one killer of Nebraskans under the age of 44, and a leading cause of death in older citizens. In Douglas County alone, more people die from trauma-related accidents than stroke. However, research shows that treatment at a Level 1 trauma center reduces the risk of death by 25%. As the premier health care facility in the region, The Nebraska Medical Center is expanding its trauma services to meet the needs of residents in Omaha and surrounding communities by preparing to provide them with a nationally-recognized Level 1 trauma center that will operate 24-hours-a-day and seven-days-a-week.

“This is the right thing to do for everyone who lives here,” said P.J. Schenarts, MD, trauma medical director at The Nebraska Medical Center. “Although the trauma system we’ve used for the last 20 years is functional, we think we have an obligation to provide something more.”

Since 1993, The Nebraska Medical Center has worked cooperatively with Alegent Creighton Health Creighton University Medical Center in a combined trauma system, one of the few systems of its kind that operates in this fashion in the United States. The joint program results in two part-time trauma centers that can’t be recognized by the American College of Surgeons – the national accrediting body that is the gold standard for trauma centers in the U.S.

Last year, while external, independent reviewers were re-assessing the Omaha trauma system for the State of Nebraska, they noted that while the current system met patient needs, it could be optimized even further. The surveyors specifically noted in their recommendations: “Most importantly; with outstanding new trauma leadership and executive commitment, The Nebraska Medical Center Trauma Center could function independently and provide outstanding Level 1 care to the greater Omaha community. This option should be explored vigorously.”

“The Nebraska Medical Center has been evaluating the possibility of becoming a Level 1 trauma center for several years now,” said Rosanna Morris, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer of The Nebraska Medical Center. “We have the resources and infrastructure in place to establish a dedicated trauma program. The timing is right. Level 1 trauma centers provide the highest quality of care to injured patients. It’s our duty to do everything we can to provide them with that.”

Health care reform was another factor in the decision to expand trauma services. “Nationally, there has been a constant push for health care systems to operate more efficiently,” said Morris. “This is just one of the ways we can do that. The many specialty services that we provide at The Nebraska Medical Center are also available to our trauma patients and will now be there for them every day of the week, around the clock.”

“The patients are our number one priority,” added Dr. Schenarts. “We provide specialty care in areas like vascular surgery, neurosurgery, pediatric trauma, ophthalmology and burn care every day as it is. It’s the right thing to do to provide access to that care for everyone in the region, regardless of what day of the week it is.”

A certification process will be performed by the American College of Surgeons in order for The Nebraska Medical Center to achieve official Level 1 trauma center verification status. Notice has been given to officials at Alegent Creighton Health Creighton University Medical Center of the plan to opt out of the current system August 1, 2014. “We appreciate the partnership we’ve had with our colleagues at Alegent Creighton over the years,” said Morris. “We want to thank them for their teamwork and recognize the contribution they’ve made to trauma patients across the region for so many years.”

Sarah Thayer, M.D., Ph.D., joins Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations


Sarah Thayer, M.D., Ph.D. 

Sarah Thayer, M.D., Ph.D., an internationally recognized physician-scientist from Harvard Medical School, will be joining UNMC to lead cancer surgery efforts and have a significant leadership role in the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

Dr. Thayer will start May 1 as associate director for clinical affairs and physician-in-chief for the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. She also has been appointed Merle M. Musselman Centennial Professor of Surgery and chief of surgical oncology at UNMC.

“This is a prominent example that the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center will attract the brightest minds in cancer care and research who will look to take advantage of our world-class infrastructure and collaborate with what is already an outstanding team,” said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to realize what the very best of cancer care can be,” Dr. Thayer said. “I’m extraordinarily excited and honored to be part of this innovative cancer center and to be working with the wonderful intellectual powerhouse that already exists. There’s a great synergy between clinical care and scientific progress that works really well at UNMC – and we believe that translation between the two is where our next inventions and innovations in patient care will come from.”

Dr. Thayer comes to UNMC following a 13-year stint at Harvard Medical School and its teaching hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital. She has served as the W. Gerald Austen Scholar in Academic Surgery since 2002 and as director of the pancreatic cancer biology lab since 2008.

She has been continuously funded since 2003 and has been part of five National Institutes of Health research grants, three as overall principal investigator. Dr. Thayer currently has a $2 million pancreatic cancer research project funded by the NIH’s National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Thayer is an active surgeon with a clinical and research focus on pancreatic cancer. Clinically, she also specializes in cancers of the breast and gastrointestinal system.

Dr. Thayer arrived on the national scene with a 2003 publication in the journal Nature in which her work revealed the role of a developmental gene (Shh) as an early initiator in pancreatic cancer. Later, her group was the first to categorize and classify three distinct forms of pancreatic ductal lesions and their role in regeneration and cancer. In 2010, her team identified a novel ductal compartment and named them “pancreatic duct glands.”

Genetic information a possible guide to drug treatment

by Karen Burbach, UNMC public relations


Julie Oestreich, Pharm.D., Ph.D.

Julie Oestreich, Pharm.D., Ph.D. Julie Oestreich, Pharm.D., Ph.D., knows prescription drugs don’t work the same for everyone.

But she wants to better understand how genes influence individual drug responses so doctors can prescribe the drug and dosage that works best for the patient being treated.

“I want to know how medicines work and how they change the body to create good — and to sometimes cause harm. Throw genetics into the picture and it’s an interesting and important area of study.”



This article originally appeared in the most recent issue of Discover, currently on newsstands throughout the UNMC campus or available online.

Although the field of pharmacogenomics is relatively new, it has the potential to one day eliminate the “one size fits all” medicinal approach and lead to more effective, safe medications and doses tailored to a person’s genetic makeup.

The use of genetic information to guide treatments is growing as physicians better predict who will benefit from a drug, who will not respond at all or who will experience a negative side effect.

An assistant professor of pharmacy practice in the College of Pharmacy, Dr. Oestreich (pronounced ace-try) researches personalized anti-platelet therapy (which medicines, and how much, work best) and genetic tests for risk factors for cardiovascular events among the area’s American Indian population.

She drives to Martin, S.D., and its surrounding area to find and interact with her research participants. Together, the UNMC team collaborates with Lyle Best, M.D., and Turtle Mountain Community College at Belcourt, N.D. Both entities also work with Missouri Breaks Industries Research Inc., which is American Indian-owned and has offices on both the Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River Sioux Reservations in South Dakota.

The project goes through not just UNMC’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) but one with the tribe itself, and one with the Aberdeen Area Indian Health Service.

Dr. Oestreich previously had been interested in the variability of platelet function and response to antiplatelet agents with regard to protecting people from adverse cardiovascular events. She was intrigued by the idea that ethnicity might be one factor in this variability.

After studies with a small group of American Indians, the team now plans to expand its research to a larger population and further test whether genetic variants impact drug response. Finding answers, she knows, will benefit patients far into the future.

“We don’t want to leave a population behind,” she said.

UNMC ranked in top 10 for primary care, rural medicine

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations


UNMC is ranked in the top 10 in two areas in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings of the nation’s top graduate schools.

UNMC remains the sixth-ranked primary care medical program in the United States, tied with the University of Minnesota. In addition, UNMC tied for ninth in the list of top rural medicine programs.

“The recognition of UNMC in the fields of primary care and rural medicine is gratifying,” said Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., UNMC chancellor. “These are areas of vital importance to the people of Nebraska, and it is a testament to the physicians, researchers and staff members at UNMC that their efforts have been acknowledged as among the nation’s finest.”

U.S. News surveyed 153 institutions during 2013 and 2014 while compiling the rankings, which were released Tuesday. Schools surveyed included medical schools accredited in 2013 by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and schools of osteopathic medicine accredited in 2013 by the American Osteopathic Association.

“Education is a vital part of UNMC’s overall mission,” said Dele Davies, M.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs. “This recognition of our educational programs underscores the excellent skills and abilities of our faculty and students. Our outstanding rankings in primary care and rural medicine reflect the priority the university has placed on expanding access to health care in Nebraska’s rural communities and creating a national model for other regions seeking to do the same.”

According to the U.S. News website, rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinions about program excellence and statistical indicators.

Primary care rankings included indicators such as the student admissions statistics (MCAT, GPA and acceptance rate), the proportion of graduates entering primary care specialties, peer assessment, assessment by residency directors and other factors.

Rural medicine rankings, like other specialties, were established through ratings by medical school deans or senior faculty, who identified up to 10 schools offering the top programs in each specialty.

UNMC remained at No. 64 for research in the new rankings. Although new rankings aren’t available in all categories for 2015, UNMC continues to be rated in four other programs:

  • 16th in physician assistant programs (last ranked in 2011);
  • 32nd in pharmacy programs (last ranked in 2012);
  • 34th in physical therapy programs (last ranked in 2012); and •36th in nursing master’s programs (last ranked in 2011).

UNMC pharmacy dean part of groundbreaking HIV research study

Teams with University of Minnesota researchers to better understand workings of HIV drugs

Drugs used to treat HIV penetrate poorly into lymphatic tissues where most HIV replication takes place, and there is persistent low-level virus replication in these tissues according to research from the University of Minnesota and University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The results appear in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“We know the drugs we use today are effective because HIV-infected persons are doing better and living longer, but these drugs cannot cure the infection,” said Courtney Fletcher, Pharm.D., the first author of the PNAS paper and dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “We wanted to know why and thought that maybe the drugs were not getting into the tissues where most virus replication is happening.”

Dr. Fletcher joined a team with Timothy Schacker, M.D., director of the Program in HIV Medicine at the University of Minnesota and Ashley Haase, M.D., Regents’ Professor and Head of Microbiology at the University of Minnesota, to measure drug levels and find the impact on HIV-1 replication in those tissues.

“These are very complex questions requiring expertise from many disciplines to get the data required to understand what is going on,” Dr. Schacker said. “This is a great example of the kind of team science we need to make progress in curing this disease.”

Dr. Schacker, the principal investigator of the project, assembled a cohort of patients and started them on antiretroviral therapy.  He collected lymph nodes and gut samples from these patients at frequent intervals.

Dr. Fletcher used highly specialized and sensitive methods, developed in his laboratory, for measuring drug levels inside cells obtained from lymph nodes and gut tissues.

“The common approach of looking at drug concentrations in plasma may provide misleading information,” Dr. Fletcher said. “What is most important to understand is the concentration of a drug actually inside an HIV-infected cell in the compartments where most of the virus is actually produced.

“What we found, in studies conducted during six months of therapy in 12 HIV-infected persons receiving combinations of five of the most commonly used drugs to treat HIV infection was that concentrations inside the cells from lymph tissues were surprisingly low compared with blood.”

Dr. Haase then used sensitive methods to precisely measure the amount and location of virus in the lymph node and gut tissues and found the virus continued to replicate in the tissues, even when it was undetectable in blood.

“Most HIV replicates in the lymph and gut tissues and that’s where we need to look to understand the efficacy of these drugs,” Dr. Haase said. “The ongoing replication we found in the lymph and gut tissues we tested directly correlated with the drug levels found there.

“This persistent low-level replication may be one cause of the chronic immune activation we find in these patients, and is likely an important factor in accelerated aging, increased cardiovascular events and early mortality common in these patients.”

Drs. Schacker, Fletcher, Haase and their collaborators are now working on a comprehensive survey of all available anti-retroviral drugs in an effort to identify a combination of drugs that will provide maximum penetration into lymph nodes and more effectively stop virus replication.

“We will not cure this disease until we can completely suppress virus replication,” Dr. Schacker said.

Funding for this research project was provided in part by the National Institutes of Health grants AI074340 and AI028433.

The College of Pharmacy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center is one of the nation’s outstanding institutions for pharmacy education and research, with its graduates advancing drug discovery, delivery and therapeutics and influencing the quality of health care in communities across Nebraska and the U.S.  Visit to learn more.

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Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at and follow us on social media.


Wanted: Smokers to participate in tobacco marketing study

UNMC, Roswell Park Cancer Institute seek 1,000 smokers to participate in $1.4 million study

Omaha, NE– What is the impact of tobacco marketing on smokers? Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) are asking that and other questions in a study which will examine point-of-sale tobacco advertising and smoking habits.

The three-year, $1.4 million study is being funded by the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“There is a gap in our knowledge about how tobacco marketing in stores affects smoking cessation and our study will help fill this void,” said Mohammad Siahpush, Ph.D., professor at the UNMC College of Public Health.  “Our goal is to examine how variations in tobacco marketing in stores influence attempts and success in stopping smoking.”

The tobacco industry spends $12.5 billion a year on marketing in the United States. As avenues for traditional tobacco marketing such as electronic, billboard, and print forms are restricted, the industry has come to rely on marketing at retail stores to advertise and promote their tobacco products.  This study will help to inform health care professionals about how exposure to tobacco marketing inhibits smoking cessation.

Researchers are seeking approximately 1,000 smokers who are 18 years of age and older, have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their life, currently smoke five or more cigarettes per day and live in the City of Omaha. Smokers will be asked to respond to a 30-minute telephone survey and, in six months, a 15-20 minute follow-up telephone survey. Eligible participants will receive a compensation for their time.

Information will be collected from each participant on a variety of smoking topics, such as their cravings to smoke, urge to buy cigarettes, unplanned purchases of cigarettes, the perception of social acceptability of smoking, and about how much they notice tobacco marketing,. Interviews will be conducted by the Survey Research and Data Acquisition Resource (SRDAR) at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.

Data also will be gathered about tobacco marketing from stores that sell tobacco in each participant’s neighborhood. This study is believed to be the first smoking cessation study to use geographical information technology to link tobacco marketing data from retail stores to information collected from smokers.

“The information obtained from this study will contribute to a greater understanding of the factors that impact smoking behavior,” said Andrew Hyland, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Health Behavior at RPCI. “The study results can guide health care professionals as they consider policies that support tobacco cessation and will ultimately help smokers quit.”

For more information or to participate in the study, interested parties can call the toll-free number for the project: 1-855-600-6960.

The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, RPCI is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at and follow us on social media.


Study may show new option for ovarian cancer patients

karpfAdam Karpf, Ph.D.

A study by UNMC and Roswell Park Cancer Institute shows that a combination treatment strategy may provide a new option for patients with recurrent ovarian cancer.

The study, published in Cancer Immunology Research, found clinical benefit for women who were treated with the drug decitabine prior to administration of chemotherapy and a cancer vaccine.

“We’re encouraged by the results from the phase I clinical study and look forward to extending this concept to the phase II setting, where treatment efficacy is the principal end point,” said Adam Karpf, Ph.D., associate professor, Eppley Institute, and member, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, at UNMC.

A prerequisite for the immune system to recognize and attack a tumor is the presence of high levels of a protein not normally found in healthy cells. Proteins with this profile are called tumor antigens and can be good targets for anticancer vaccines.

Phase II

Dr. Karpf’s co-principal investigator was Kunle Odunsi, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of gynecologic oncology and director of the Center for Immunotherapy at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, N.Y.

Based on the encouraging findings of the Phase I trial, the investigators are planning a Phase II trial at UNMC and Roswell Park to specifically evaluate the clinical efficacy of this novel chemo-immunotherapy approach in patients with recurrent ovarian cancer.

For the original study, see Cancer Immunology Research 2014; 2:37-49. The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, a Cancer Vaccine Collaborative Grant, the Anna Maria Kellen Clinical Investigator Award, and Eisai Pharmaceuticals. Drs. Karpf and Odunsi have declared no conflicts of interest.

“Preclinical studies by our group have shown that a specific class of tumor antigens is regulated by DNA methylation,” Dr. Karpf said. “Based on this knowledge, we developed the new clinical regimen.”

The investigators conducted a phase I dose-escalation trial of the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor decitabine, recruiting 12 women with epithelial ovarian cancer who had not responded to multiple lines of chemotherapy, with an estimated progression-free survival time of three months. Patients received decitabine on day one, the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin on day eight, and the cancer vaccine on day 15.

The investigators established the best sequence of drug administration: decitabine was effective only when administered before chemotherapy; it was ineffective if given after chemotherapy; vaccine administration was the last step.

Of the 10 patients evaluated, five had stable disease for up to 7.8 months, and one had a partial response with disease remission that lasted 5.8 months.

The dose escalation data suggested that lower doses of decitabine are associated with improved clinical response using this regimen. The treatment was well tolerated, and adverse events included hematologic side effects that were clinically manageable.

One remarkable result was that the therapeutic regimen led to a phenomenon called “antigen spreading,” Dr. Karpf said. “Although we immunized against a single antigen, we found induction of immune responses against an additional three antigens. We believe this may have resulted from the decitabine treatment.”