Cardiology | Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism | Gastroenterology and Hepatology | General Internal Medicine | Geriatrics | Infectious DiseasesNephrology | Oncology/Hematology | Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine | Rheumatology/Immunology


Daniel Anderson, MD, PhD, 559-8129

  • Title:  Protein Modification: Immune Sensitization, Cytotoxicity and Cardiovascular Disease
  • Overview:   We have multiple proposals and studies that aim to evaluate, determine and validate the association of MAA-adducted proteins and circulating IgM, IgG and IgA anti-MAA antibody isotypes to patients with normal coronary arteries and patients with stable and unstable atherosclerotic lesions. Specifically, we expect to validate that anti-MAA IgM, IgG and IgA antibody isotypes and MAA-modified proteins will serve as early biomarkers for subclinical atherosclerotic disease (IgM, IgG and IgA) as well as differentiate CAD patients who have stable (IgA) and unstable (IgG) atherosclerotic plaques. Furthermore, co-culture of MAA-modified proteins will result in proliferation, apoptosis, autophagy and necrosis and are hypothesized to be directly pathogenic in the development and progression of atherosclerotic disease. These pathogenic effects are expected to be dose and time dependent.
  • Anticipated outcomes: The long term global goal of these multiple studies are to develop tools that improve the rate and accuracy of diagnosing cardiovascular inflammation and disease. The overall objective of these proposals are to better understand the innate immunology of vascular injury.  Specifically, we aim to determine the impact of MAA-modified proteins in the development and progression of atherosclerotic disease.  By validating these mechanisms and our immunoglobulin assay we expect to differentiate and better risk stratify CAD patients.
  • Faculty involved: Dr. Daniel Anderson and Dr. Geoffrey Thiele
  • Title:  Cardiovascular Inflammation Reduction Trial (CIRT)
  • Overview: The purpose of this study is to determine if methotrexate decreases heart attacks, stroke, or death in people with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome that have had at least one heart attack. Methotrexate is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat adults with rheumatoid arthritis and other disease. The use of methotrexate is investigational for this study. It has not been approved for marketing by the FDA to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
  • Anticipated outcomes: CIRT will evaluate whether low dose methotrexate (LDM) will reduce rates of recurrent myocardial infarction, stroke, or cardiovascular death among patients with a recent history of myocardial infarction and either type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, conditions associated with an enhanced pro-inflammatory response. LDM is an effective anti-inflammatory therapy widely used to treat rheumatoid arthritis that lowers plasma levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and C-reactive protein (CRP) but does not otherwise have beneficial effects on lipids or biomarkers of hemostasis and thrombosis.
  • Faculty involved: Dr. Daniel Anderson, Dr. Ted Mikuls, Dr. Scott Shurmur, and Dr. Geoffrey Thiele
  • Title:   A Phase 3, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Group Study to Assess the Safety and Efficacy of Two Different Regimens of Mipomersen in Patients with Familial Hypercholesterolemia and Inadequately Controlled Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol
  • This study is detailed below by Dr. Shurmur.

Edward L. O’Leary, MD, 559-4874,

  • Title:  A Randomized, Multi-center, Placebo-controlled, Parallel-group Study to Determine the Effects of AMG 145 Treatment on Atherosclerotic Disease Burden as Measured by Intravascular Ultrasound in Subjects Undergoing Coronary Catheterization Global Assessment of plaque regression with a PCSK9 antibody as measured by intravascular ultrasound
  • Overview: To evaluate the effect of AMG 145 on the change in burden of coronary atherosclerosis as measured by percent atheroma volume (PAV) in subjects with coronary artery disease requiring angiography for a clinical indication who are taking atorvastatin.
  • Anticipated outcomes: The information from this study might help to develop better treatments for abnormal amounts of blood lipids (dyslipidemia).
  • Faculty involved: Dr. Edward O’Leary

Thomas R. Porter, MD, 559-8150,

  • Title:  The Definity Real Time Perfusion During Dobutamine stress Echo Database
  • Overview: Primary: To prospectively analyze and compare conventional stress echocardiogram and real-time myocardial contrast stress echocardiogram.
  • Secondary: To determine the effect of contrast agent used during real-time myocardial contrast stress echocardiogram on serum Troponin I level.
  • Anticipated outcomes:  Confirmation that RT-MCE is a better imaging modality for stress echocardiography in detecting coronary artery disease, and predicting patient outcome. The incremental benefit of RT-MCE could finally be demonstrated in a prospective randomized manner. Demonstrating this would lead to increased use of RT-MCE throughout the world, leading to better detection of coronary artery disease without the need for ionizing radiation or invasive procedures.
  • Faculty involved: Dr. Thomas Porter
  • Title:  Regadenoson Real Time Perfusion Imaging Trial
  • Overview: Examine the feasibility and accuracy of RTPE during vasodilator stress with 400 micrograms of the A2A receptor agonist Regadenoson for detection of significant coronary artery disease (CAD) in patients scheduled to undergo coronary angiography. Sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of perfusion and wall motion analysis to identify a coronary stenosis >50% in diameter by quantitative angiography will be analyzed.
  • Anticipated outcomes: The Regadenoson stress test requires that only a single bolus of the stress agent be given, and images obtained over a two to five minute period after the bolus injection. This will result in a stress test that can be easily performed, and will be at minimal inconvenience to the patient. If the real time perfusion technique with echocardiography performs as well as nuclear SPECT studies with Regadenoson, this will provide clinical information that could lead to a stress perfusion imaging technique that would not require patient exposure to radiation, and yet has higher spatial resolution and lower cost.
  • Faculty involved: Dr. Thomas Porter

  • Title:  Prospective Multicenter Imaging Study for Evaluation of Chest Pain
  • Overview: To determine whether an initial non-invasive anatomic imaging strategy with coronary CT angiography (CTA) will improve clinical outcomes in subjects with symptoms concerning for coronary artery disease relative to an initial functional testing strategy (usual care).
  • Anticipated outcomes:
  • Faculty involved: Dr. Thomas Porter

John R. Windle, MD, 559-9268,

  • Title:   Advancing Academic and Community Practices Through IAIM
  • Overview: The objective of this research is to evaluate the information technology culture at the Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska Medical Center and assess healthcare providers’ readiness for change
  • Anticipated outcomes: The information that you provide will contribute to a long-range guide for prioritization of information management projects and enterprise-wide adoption of “information best practices.”
  • Faculty involved: Dr. John Windle



Robert G. Bennett, Ph.D., 402-995-3360;

  • The role of the hormone relaxin in tissue function and repair
    • The use of relaxin as a treatment for fibrotic disease models.
    • Susceptibility to tissue injury in a mouse model deficient in relaxin signaling.
    • Determination of the signaling pathways triggered by relaxin in vivo and in cell culture models.
  • One month opportunity
  • We have found that mice lacking the receptor for relaxin develop more serious injury after an acute toxic injury. Furthermore, the mice accumulate more fat in the liver, suggesting that relaxin may protect against fatty liver. Finally, the mice appeared to have impaired liver regeneration, suggesting that relaxin plays a role in liver repair. We have extended these studies to include chronic liver injury.
  • Resident work scope: To determine the relative levels of markers of liver regeneration cell death, and lipid content in liver tissue from the acute and chronic injury studies. Techniques will include Western blotting, immunohistochemistry and histological staining, and image analysis.
  • Anticipated outcomes: The relaxin signaling-deficient mice will express decreased markers of liver cell growth and increased cell death. It is also anticipated that the lipid content in these livers will be greater in the mutant mice.
  • Faculty involved: Robert G. Bennett, PhD (Associate Professor)

Whitney Goldner, MD, 402-559-3579;

Area of Research Interest:

Thyroid nodules and Thyroid cancer

  • Evaluating possible environmental causes of thyroid nodules and cancer
  • Novel biomarkers in the detection and treatment of thyroid cancer
  • The role of estrogen metabolites in thyroid cancer
  • Usage of the Thyroid Nodule and Cancer Collaborative Registry (TCCR) in thyroid nodule and cancer research

The ICare2/TCCR is a web based bioinformatics registry with an associated biobank for tissue, blood, and urine developed for the purpose of doing additional studies in thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer.

Inpatient glucose control

  • Development of novel approaches to treating inpatient hyperglycemia
  • Outcomes following implementation of novel inpatient glucose management strategies
  • Quality improvement and education regarding the importance of inpatient glucose control and avoidance of hypoglycemia

One month or ongoing throughout year opportunity

Requirements: CITI training, at least 2-3 months advanced planning for IRB approval prior to the start of the month.

During the month: will be dependent on outcome of the project. Work may include; entering and retrieving of data in the TCCR database and EPIC database, database queries, recruitment of patient in the TCCR and for clinical studies. Basic science research will need to be discussed based on the project.

Frederick G. Hamel, Ph.D. 402-995-3032;

  • Role of Insulin-degrading Enzyme in: Insulin metabolism, Insulin action, Beta cell function, Mitochondrial activity, Generation of biologically active insulin degradation products, Exosomes
  • Etiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • Signal transduction mechanisms of peptide hormones

*Currently, no opportunities available*

Lynn R. Mack, MD; 402-559-6208,

  • Improving outcomes in women with diabetes during and after pregnancy;
  • Improving outcomes with cystic fibrosis related diabetes or bone disease;
  • Prevention and treatment of bone disease associated with transplantation.

*Currently, no opportunities available* 

Amy S. Neumeister, MD, 402-559-6876;

  • Improving glucose control in the hospitalized patient

*Currently no opportunities available*

Vijay Shivaswamy, MBBS, MS. 402-559-6208;;

Effects of immunosuppressants on insulin resistance, islet function, reproductive function and bone disease;

Effects of diabetes on bone disease after solid organ transplantation;

Improving diabetes outcomes among veterans

Improving outcomes after islet, pancreas and/or kidney transplant

  • One-month opportunity
  • Title: Projects associated with any of the above mentioned titles.
  • Overview: Immune suppression drugs are critical for successful solid organ transplantation but newer, more potent agents may also cause injury to the pancreas or decrease the effectiveness of insulin released from the pancreas. In our prior animal experiments, we have shown that tacrolimus and sirolimus, two common immune suppression drugs, cause resistance to the actions of insulin and reduce insulin secretion, resulting in elevated blood glucose levels. When the immunosuppressant treatment was stopped, glucose and insulin levels returned to normal within four weeks. In addition we have shown that metformin reduced the impact of immunosuppressant induced hyperglycemia. We have also shown that these drugs can affect reproductive cycles in female rats as can occur with insulin resistance. Hyperglycemia is associated with increased risk for vascular disease (heart disease, stroke etc.). We would like to investigate if newer immunosuppressants such as everolimus have similar effects as sirolimus on hyperglycemia and reproductive function and if these effects are preventable with the use of anti-hyperglycemic medications.
  • Resident work scope: The experiment will span approximately two weeks, followed by analysis of data. Resident will be administering the assigned treatments and measure pre-specified variables on a daily basis to rats. Subsequent to two weeks of treatment, resident will be involved in analysis of tissues/sera (RIA, TUNEL staining, IHC), depending on previous expertise and available time.
  • Anticipated outcomes: Everolimus will induce hyperglycemia and reproductive abnormalities in female rats. Antihyperglycemic agents will reverse or mitigate these abnormalities.
  • Faculty involved: Vijay Shivaswamy, MBBS; Frederick G. Hamel, PhD; Robert G. Bennett, PhD; John S. Davis, PhD.

Saraswathi Viswanathan, PhD, 402-995-3033; 

  • Research Projects
    • The role of adipose tissue inflammation in mediating obesity-linked metabolic disorders
    • Mechanisms involved in the hypolipidemic effects of fish oil
    • Fish oil and cyclooxygenase interplay in adipose tissue
    • Role of nanoformulated superoxide dismutase on adipose tissue oxidative stress.
  • One-month opportunity
  • Title:  Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors:  A Novel Approach to treat Dyslipidemia  
  • Overview: Fish oil containing ω-3 fatty acids, is the most widely used dietary supplement to manage dyslipidemia.  Although it is a safe alternative to other hypolipidemic agents, it only exerts a modest lipid-lowering effect at the recommended dose.  We previously reported that indomethacin which inhibits both cyclooxygenase (COX)-1 and -2 isoforms, potentiates the lipid-lowering effects of fish oil in low density lipoprotein receptor knock out (LDLR-/-) mice.  Our current data show that SC-560, a COX-1 specific inhibitor, is effective in potentiating the lipid-lowering effect of ω-3 fatty acids in liver of wild type mice, and suggest that this effect may be mediated via improved bile acid clearance.  Our goal is to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which a combination of ω-3 fatty acids and SC-560 exerts an enhanced lipid-lowering effect in liver cells. 
  • Resident work scope: Measure the mRNA and protein expression of genes involved in bile acid detoxification, a process involved in cholesterol catabolism, in liver cells treated with ω-3 fatty acids and SC-560, individually or in combination.  Residents will have an opportunity to learn cell culture technique, realtime PCR and western blot analysis. 
  • Anticipated outcomes: Treatment with ω-3 fatty acids or SC-560 will increase the expression of genes involved in bile acid detoxification.  The combined treatment will be more potent in mediating this effect. 
  • Researchers involved: Saraswathi Viswanathan, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor); Murali Ganesan, Ph.D. (Post-doctoral Research Associate). 



Carol Casey, PhD;

  • Alcoholic liver injury studies
    • Examination of interactions of various liver cell types following alcohol administration using animal models
    • Utilization of knockout mice to examine altered receptor function and its role in liver injury
    • Examining of alcohol on trafficking of lipid droplets
    • Examination of alcohol's effects on liver metastases from colorectal cancer
  • Overview: Our laboratory is involved in examining the deleterious effects of alcohol on various protein and lipid trafficking functions of the liver, and recently, we have initiated studies examining alcohol's effects on metastases of colorectal cancer cells in the liver.
  • Resident work scope:We welcome residents to contact us about either a one-month or two-month research opportunity in our laboratory.
  • Anticipated outcomes:  In either a one-month or two-month rotation in our laboratory, the resident will be expected to participate in laboratory techniques as instructed/taught by experienced laboratory members.  A project will be written by the resident with the help of the principal investigator (Dr. Casey and/or Dr. McVicker) and experiments will be planned for the period the resident is in the lab.  If experiments are successful, and abstract submission will be one goal.
  • Faculty involved:  Carol Casey, PhD (faculty), Benita McVicker, PhD (faculty), Karuna Rasineni, PhD (research associate)

Terrence M. Donohue, Jr., PhD; 995-3556

  • Ethanol, protein catabolism and liver cell injury
    • Impairment by ethanol metabolism of hepatic proteasome activity and on the subsequent formation of Mallory-Denk bodies (i.e protein aggregation). Alleviation of protein aggregation by proteasome activation
    • Mechanisms of hepatic steatosis (fatty liver) after acute (vs chronic) ethanol administration
    • Role of specific transcription factors in hepatic steatosis and their regulation by antioxidants
    • Ethanol-induced suppression of hepatic autophagy. Role in alcohol-induced liver injury
  • One-month opportunity
  • Title: Multi-level regulation of autophagy by alcohol in liver cells
  • Overview:Autophagy ("self eating" ) is a natural process by which cells digest their own contents in lysosomes, particularly when nutrient supplies are low. Recent evidence indicates that autophagy profoundly affects (or is affected by) the progression of certain disease states, including liver injury from alcohol abuse.  We have evidence that acute alcohol (i.e. binge drinking) stimulates autophagy while chronic heavy drinking inhibits the ability of liver cells to carry out normal autophagic degradation. We wish to investigate this multi-level regulation in liver cells by measuring  autophagy using current methodologies
  • Resident work scope:Measure autophagic biomarkers in cells subjected to short-and long-term ethanol exposure and to different doses of ethanol. End points will include autophagic biomarkers, cellular protein content and cellular triglycerides. Laboratory methods will include  electrophoresis and blotting, cell culture and flow cytometry.
  • Anticipated outcomes:Early alcohol exposure will stimulate autophagy  by enhancement of autophagic marker synthesis. Longer periods of exposure will suppress autophagy by blocking movement of autophagic cargo to lysosomes.  
  • Faculty involved: Terrence M. Donohue, Jr., PhD (Professor); Paul G. Thomas, PhD (Senior Research Associate). 

Duygu Dee Harrison-Findik, DVM, PhD; 402-559-6355

  • Title:  Iron metabolism and liver diseases

  • Overview: The main research focus of Dr. Harrison-Findik is the molecular regulation of iron metabolism in the liver.  Although iron is essential for a variety of key biological processes, it can also cause cellular injury. However, the molecular mechanisms of iron overload are unknown.  Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of iron metabolism in the liver is  of considerable clinical importance because iron acts as a risk factor increasing the severity of disease.  Hepcidin is an antimicrobial peptide and an acute phase protein synthesized in the liver. It plays a key role in the regulation of iron metabolism.  Our laboratory and others have shown a potential role for hepcidin in iron overload observed in alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and hepatitis C viral infections.  We are currently employing transgenic and dietary models of diseases to study the molecular mechanisms of hepcidin regulation by liver diseases and angiotensin II.  

Kusum K. Kharbanda, PhD; 995-3752

  • Title: Studies on Pathogenesis of Alcoholic liver injury and treatment modalities.
    • Alcohol-induced alterations in methionine metabolic pathways and methylation defects that play a causal role in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver injury.
    • Efficacy of betaine and betaine analogs and esters in preventing and treating liver injury of various etiologies including alcohol and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
    • Examination of interactions of various liver cell types following alcohol administration using animal alterations in intestinal permeability and gut microbiome leading to systemic endotoxemia.
  • Overview:The principal research interest of my laboratory is to determine how alcohol-induced alterations in methionine metabolic pathways results in defective methylation reactions and in the development hallmark features of alcoholic liver injury such as steatosis, apoptosis, the accumulation of  altered proteins and defective creatine synthesis and in alcoholic myopathies. We are also evaluating the efficacy of betaine and betaine analogs and esters in preventing and treating liver injury of various etiologies including alcohol and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.  Our most recent work is examining the changes in the intestinal barrier function and the gut microbiome following ethenol consumption that leads to increased portal circulating endotoxins and hepatic exposure, thus further promoting liver inflammation and progression to alcoholic liver disease.
  • Resident work scope:One-month or two-month research rotation in our laboratory in which the resident will work on a research project written by the resident in consultation with the PI. End points will include determining metabolites of the methionine metabolic pathway such as S-adenosylmethione, S-adenosylhomocysteine, homocysteine, glutathione and other functional assays in the liver and also determine intestinal barrier function by a variety of biochemical and functional assays.  Laboratory methods will include high performances liquid chromatography, electrophoresis and blotting, cell culture and immunohistochemistry.
  • Anticipated outcomes:It is anticipated that ethanol exposure will induce alterations in many methylation reactions in the liver and other organs/tissues affected by ethanol exposure such as the intestinal barrier and the gut microbiome, muscle, heart and the brain which could be prevented by betaine treatment.  If experiments are successful, it is envisioned that the resident will submit an abstract for a national conference.
  • Faculty involved:  Kusum K. Kharbanda, PhD (Associate Professor); Paul G. Thomes, PhD (Senior Research Associate).

Benita L. Mcvicker, PhD; 995-3736

  • Title:  Alcohol and liver immune responses
  • Overview:We are studying how alcohol-mediated injury to liver cells affects lymphocytes in the liver and associated immune responses.  Information gained from this research aims to impact our understanding of how T cell homeostasis is maintained in the liver, the role of hepatocytes in this regulation and how ethanol-mediated impairments can lead to enhancements in liver disease. 
  • Resident work scope: One to two-month opportunities to perform research are available. Work would include literature research, data analysis and various laboratory techniques including the use of cell cultures, as well as primary liver cells from rodent models of alcoholic liver disease to study the effect of alcohol on liver immunology. Endpoint measures could include the analysis of liver injury parameters and the characterization of liver lymphocyte populations.
  • Anticipated outcomes:Presentation of obtained results locally and possibly at a national meeting if abstracted work is accepted.
  • Faculty involved: Benita McVicker, PhD, and Carol Casey, PhD

Natalia A. Osna, MD, PhD; 995-3735

  • Title:   Mechanisms of acceleration of HCV-induced liver pathology by ethanol
  • Overview:Alcohol consumption is known to exacerbate the course of HCV infection and makes HCV patients less responsive to IFN treatment.  There are multiple mechanisms of synergism between HCV and ethanol. One of them is the impairment of innate immunity mechanisms by suppression of IFNα signaling due to defective methylation of signal transduction proteins. IFNα-production requires two loops of signaling: β-interferon production and IFN signaling through the JAK-STAT 1-2 pathways.
  • Resident work scope: The scope of resident work will be to study the effects of ethanol-impaired methylation on IFN signaling necessary for IFNβ (loop 1) production. For these purposes, hepatoma cells that express HCV proteins and able to metabolize ethanol will be used and treated with ethanol in the presence or absence of pro-methylating agent, SAM. Then we will study whether these treatments affect innate immunity, namely, expression of adapter protein, MAVs (Western blot), as well as the attachment of IRF3 to DNA (ELISA), which is downstream from MAVs-dependent signaling. As an end-point, IFNβ mRNA will be quantified in treated cells.
  • Anticipated outcomes:We anticipate that HCV protein will cleave MAVS, which will block IRF-3 attachment to DNA and finally, suppresses IFNβ expression. These effects will be potentiated by ethanol.  Pro-methylating agent SAM will at least partially reverse the effects of both HCV and ethanol, indicating that the suppression of IFNβ is based on methylation-related changes in signal proteins.
  • Faculty involved: Natalia Osna, MD, PhD, and Kusum Kharbanda, PhD



The Division of General Internal Medicine has a strong history of students and residents participating in new and ongoing research projects. Several faculty in General Internal Medicine are involved in research projects, the majority of which are investigator-initiated.

All may be reached at 559-7502

Rachel Bonnema, MD MS

  • Title:  Women's Health Research
  • Overview: Currently Dr. Bonnema is working on two projects: Emergency Contraceptive Controversies (To describe providers’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding the prescription of ulipristal and emergency contraceptives) and Providers' Approach to Screening in Women's Health.  However, any clinical or educational topic within women’s health would be reasonable to discuss.
  • Resident work scope: Variable, depending on timing.  May include working with Dr. Bonnema on new project development, writing an IRB proposal, data collection, or work in education such as curriculum or workshop development based on previous findings
  • Anticipated outcomes: Depending on timing may include IRB proposal or workshop/abstract presentation at a national meeting.
  • Faculty involved: Rachel Bonnema, 559-2530,

James Campbell, MD

  • Medical information technology applications

Gay Canaris, MD MSPH

  • Title:  Impact of thyroid disease on functional status among the elderly.
  • Overview: Correlates functional measures such as the SF-36 and cognitive measures with thyroid function.
  • Resident work scope: Data analysis and interpretation; abstract development and submission
  • Anticipated outcomes: Opportunity for publication if contributes.
  • Faculty involved: Gay Canaris, MD, MSPH; Brenda Keller, MD 
  • Title:  PQRI: Does it make a difference?.
  • Overview: Correlates PQRI meaningful use initiatives to outcomes that GIM, DEM and FM reported, before and after implementation.
  • Resident work scope: Data analysis and interpretation; abstract development and submission
  • Anticipated outcomes: Opportunity for publication if contributes.
  • Faculty involved: Gay Canaris, MD, MSPH; Amy Neumeister, MD

Kelly Caverzagie, MD


Title:  Competency-based medical education (CBME)

Overview: CBME is an approach to medical education that emphasizes demonstration of learner outcomes as opposed to the traditional curricular-based structures and processes of education.  It requires that learners demonstrate the necessary knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that are necessary to function within and meet the needs of the current and future health care system.

Resident work scope: The resident will work with Dr. Caverzagie to identify and implement innovative educational curriculum and assessments that are rooted in CBME.

Anticipated outcomes: Revised educational opportunities that improve resident and faculty experience and learning. This will most likely involve curriculum development, revision of assessments and potentially presentation/teaching to learners of all educational levels including faculty.

Faculty involved:  Kelly Caverzagie

Title:  Internal Medicine mentoring peers in an academic career track (IMMPACT)

Overview: The goal of this faculty peer mentoring group is to facilitate the professional growth and development of early-career general internal medicine faculty who have an interest in educational research and the application of educational principles.  Elevation of the academic profile of the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine is anticipated. Due to the educational nature of this goal and the focus of mentoring, resident involvement in various research and scholarly projects is anticipated.

Resident work scope: Work with various faculty members who are members of IMMPACT on research and other scholarly projects that are designed to improve teaching, learning, assessment and feedback.  Residents should discuss scholarly interests with or propose specific projects to IMMPACT faculty members for guidance, feedback and mentoring.

Anticipated outcomes: Completion of scholarly projects resulting in presentation and/or publication on the regional or national stage. The development of mentoring relationships between faculty and residents is also anticipated. 

Faculty involved: members of IMMPACT include Drs. Micah Beachy, Shannon Boerner, Rachel Bonnema, Kelly Caverzagie, Emily Leasure, Sarah Richards, Jason Shiffermiller, Christopher Smith, Andrew Vasey and Chad Vokoun

Gale Etherton, MD

  • Through the Omaha VAMC, working on quality and safety issues. (Improvement capability grant through the VA)
  • Quality improvement at UNMC, along with General Internal Medicine colleague Julie Fedderson, MD

Katie Kueney, PhD

  • Relationship counseling and intervention

Phyllis Nsiah-Kumi, MD

  • Childhood obesity and diabetes in underserved communities

Jason Shiffermiller, MD

  • Perioperative care of orthopedic patients


Title:  Chronic angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors in intermediate risk surgery

Overview: A randomized, blinded study comparing the continuation vs. discontinuation of ACE-inhibitors perioperatively. main outcome intraoperative hypotension. Beginning enrollment in October.

Resident work scope: Resident opportunities include data collection, analysis and writing of the manuscript.

Anticipated outcomes: Publication

Faculty involved:  Drs. Jason Shiffermiller, Chad Vokoun, Micah Beachy and Andrew Vasey

Title:  Midtown multimorbidity project - BCBSNE fund

Overview: A case management intervention to prevent readmissions in Midtown clinic patients with multiple chronic illnesses.  Pre-post intervention design.

Resident work scope: There is a resident already helping coordinate this study.  There would be an opportunity to assist that resident with implementation, data collection, analysis and writing.

Anticipated outcomes: Publication

Faculty involved: Drs. Jason Shiffermiller and Andrew Vasey


Christopher Smith, MD

  • Patient safety/quality improvement
  • Resident education

Title:  Emergency Department to In-patient Handoff Communication

Overview: Our study aims to investigate the between-unit handoff process between the Emergency Department and the in-patient setting.  This will include survey-based evaluation of provider experience and attitudes, direct observation and event flow mapping, and development of interventions to improve this vulnerable patient care transition.

Resident work scope: Willing to work with residents to identify their particular interest area.  Would include development of surveys, literature review (IRB, abstracts, etc.), future study design and implementation

Anticipated outcomes: Better understanding of barriers to effective handoff communication and ultimately development of interventions to improve the process.

Faculty involved: Christopher Smith (IM) and Michael Wadman (ED)

Other Projects: Competency-based handoff utilizing ACGME Milestones, Teaching root-cause analysis through the use of an interactive teaching conference.

Tom Tape, MD

  • Clinical judgment, decision analysis and prediction rules

Chad Vokoun, MD

  • Perioperative care of orthopedic patients

Robert Wigton, MD

  • Clinical judgment, decision analysis and prediction rules



The Section of Geriatrics offers rich clinical research opportunities to staff, fellows, residents, and students. Dr. Jane Potter and Dr. Brenda Keller have served as research mentors for trainees at all levels. The Geriatric Assessment Clinic at UNMC has been the source of a comprehensive clinical database on geriatric functional status, physical and emotional well-being, social interactions as well as severity and etiology of dementia.

Stephen J. Bonasera, MD, PhD; 559-8409

Title:  Normal CNS aging in human and mouse models

Overview: Our laboratory strives to understand the mechanisms underlying the functional losses of mobility and energy balance that accompany normal aging. We approach this problem from a variety of experimental methods. At the most granular level of detail, we study how aging changes gene expression in whole CNS tissue (both human and mouse) and selected CNS cell types (microglia, neurons, astrocytes in mouse). We use genetic pathway "dissection" techniques to determine the role that specific molecules contribute to aging in primary cultured mouse cerebellar granule cells. We use confocal microscopy techniques to quantify synapse density and structure in the young and old mouse cerebellum and hypothalamus. We complement these findings with MRI-based neuroimaging to quantify excitatory neurotransmission in the cerebellar granule cell layer and hypothalamus of young and old mice. We use state-of-the-art behavioral techniques to assay both energy balance and mobility behaviors in young and old mouse cohorts over long periods to quantify age-related changes in mobility, circadian rhythm, feeding, and drinking. Finally, we translate these findings to human populations by developing a system to measure these behaviors in ambulatory, community-dwelling human populations by repurposing inexpensive telecommunication devices such as cell phones. 

Resident work scope: Anticipate a 1 month 80% commitment (half day clinic per week). Resident will pick an active project from the above ongoing efforts. Many of these projects have specific subtasks whose completion can easily occur within a month. Typical projects might include "shepherding" a cohort of mice through the behavioral and energy balance testing procedure (including all intermediate data analyses), performing the cell counts quantifying synapse and molecular immunocytochemistry using imaging software, quantifying excitatory neurotransmission in specific regions of interest in the CNS, performing RT-qPCR assays of gene expression, preparing single cell suspensions of neurons/astrocytes/microglia and validating the results, developing additional primary neuronal cell culture techniques, participating in validation and deployment experiments for translational research studies.

Anticipated outcomes: Realistically, increased appreciation of the process required to fully flesh out the science behind medical practice. By appropriately limiting the scope and extent of these projects, we hope that the resident will be able to significantly complete their subtask, and have ownership of this data and co-authorship of the manuscript describing the results. 

Faculty involved: Will work extensively with Dr. Bonasera and his research group. For translational studies, will also interact closely with clinical nursing and faculty of the Division of Geriatrics.


Sara Bares, MD; 559-5392

Various projects in the broad area of HIV/AIDS/ are available. Residents should contact Dr. Bares for additional information. visit the following website to view potential projects with Dr. Bares

Diana F Florescu, MD; 559-8609
Various projects in the transplantation area are available. Contact Dr. Florescu for additional information on current research projects.

Alison Freifeld MD; 559-8650

  • Bloodstream infections and emerging antimicrobial resistance in fever and neutropenia
  • Assessing 'appropriate' empirical antibiotic therapy in cancer patients
  • Fungal infections immunocompromised hosts
  • Granulocyte transfusions in neutropenic patients with active infections
  • Histoplasmosis in immunosuppressed patients: clinical presentation, diagnosis, treatment and course
  • Laboratory diagnosis of infectious pathogens by rapid PCR technology (M. tuberculosis, C. difficile assay in development)
  • Mathematical modeling of tuberculosis epidemiology in resource-poor populations: relationship to HIV transmission and treatment
  • Travel and vaccine clinic: development of new UNMC clinic at Village Pointe to handle global travel medical advice and prevention and vaccination as well as routine vaccinations

Howard Gendelman, MD; 559-3549

Angela Hewlett, MD; 559-8650

  • Various projects in the areas of orthopedic infectious diseases, infection control, and biopreparedness are available. Contact Dr. Hewlett for additional information on current research opportunities. 

Andre Kalil, MD; 559-8650

  • Various projects in the transplantation area are available. Contact Dr. Kalil for additional information on current research projects.

Mark Rupp, MD; 559-5276

  • Infection Control Issues -- examples of projects include:
    • Hand Hygiene: Correlation between hand hygiene and nosocomial infection. Drivers of hand hygiene compliance.
    • Device utilization and infection prevention: Study of necessity of invasive device utilization (IV catheters, foley catheters, etc.) and infection.
    • Efficacy of Chlorhexidine patient bathing on healthcare-associated infections
    • Role of environment in healthcare-associated infections
  • Antimicrobial resistance/antimicrobial utilization:
    • Appropriate diagnosis and management of asymptomatic bacteriuria 
    • Utilization guidelines
    • Clinical microbiology issues; rapid diagnosis, prevention of culture contamination, etc.
  • Miscellaneous projects in specific infectious diseases

Uriel Sandkovsky, MD; 559-5392

  • Various projects in the broad area of HIV/AIDS are available. Residents should contact Dr. Sandkovsky for additional information. Visit the following website to view potential projects with Dr. Sandkovsky:

Philip W. Smith, MD; 559-8650 pwsmith@unmc.eud

  • Various projects in the areas of nursing home infectious diseases and bioprparedness are available as appropriate. Contact Dr. Smith if interested.

Trevor VanSchooneveld, MD; 559-5276

  • Correlation between antibiotic use and resistance
  • Effect of guidelines on antibiotic use
  • Effect of alternate dosing of antibiotics on patient outcomes
  • Significance and utility of fungal blood cultures
  • Use of antibiotics in "pneumonia"
  • Algorithm based Clostridium difficile diagnosis and treatment
  • A variety of other projects in both antimicrobial stewardship and infection control are available



Jennifer Fillaus, D.O.; 559-9227

  • Patient education and outcomes
  • Hypertension

Marius Florescu, M.D.; 559-9227 

  • Interventional nephrology
  • Hypatorenal syndrome
  • Renal disease in Cystic Fibrosis

Clifford Miles, M.D.; 559-9227

  • Kidney transplantation in elderly
  • BK virus nephropathy
  • m-TOR inhibition in kidney transplantation

Troy Plumb, M.D.; 559-9227

  • Vascular access maturation and outcomes
  • Home dialysis therapies

Ketki Tendulkar, M.B.B.S.; 559-9227

  • Chronic kidney disease and pulmonary hypertension
  • CKD and cancer
  • Kidney donor

Justin Westervelt, M.D.; 559-9227

  • BK polyomavirus nephropathy
  • Infectious complications in kidney transplant recipients
  • Hemodialysis access



Mojtaba Akhtari, MD; 559-3834

  • Title:  Research in myeloid malignancies and bone marrow transplant
  • Overview:
    • Clinical research on therapy-related MDS/AML
    • Clinical research on bone marrow transplant and GVHD
    • Translational research on genomics of therapy-related MDS/AML; it is an active lab project
  • Resident work scope:I am open to any ideas/suggestions/projects from the residents in the field of myeloid malignancies and bone marrow transplant. I also have opportunities to look at some data from our institution (OncoBase). The majority of projects would be clinically based.  Having said that, however, if the timing coincides with sample analysis for my ongoing therapy-related AML/MDS project, residents might be able to spend some time in the lab.
  • Anticipated outcomes:Residents could put together an abstract for a national meeting, write a case series or case report to submit for publication, pursue a database review for either abstract presentation or publication in the area of blood disorders and BMT. They could also help to write book chapters or review articles.
  • Faculty involved: Mojtaba Akhtari, MD; pager 402-888-1089

R. Gregory Bociek, MD; 559-5388; pager 888-2630

  • Title:  Research projects in Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and autologous and allogeneic stem cell transplantation, as well as various projects relating to oncology/hematology more generally
  • Overview:
    • Clinical research on the above topics could potentially include:
      • Case reports on unusual manifestations or outcomes of various illnesses
      • Small case series on unusual or unique disease entities
      • Larger retrospective database review projects
      • Assisting in the development and implementation of phase I or II trials in the above topics
      • QI/QA projects in several areas of hematology/oncology
    • The possibility exists for projects in translational research on unusual entities or new markers in various disease entities
  • Resident work scope: We have a database of more than 60 possible/feasible projects that encompass a wide variety of issues relating to lymphoma and stem cell transplantation, also including the possibility of some very good QI/QA projects that would assist our division in looking at ways to change the way we deliver care, costs of care etc.  The resident would have quite a wide array of project possibilities, and the faculty involved would depend in the project desired.  We have excellent statistical support in our division, and no shortage of topics!! The level of project is subject to the resident's time and timeline for completion.
  • Anticipated outcomes and Skills Learned:
    • Expectation would be for a possible abstract submission to a national meeting; manuscript submission for publication, either, or both depending on the project
    • Advancing the resident's knowledge base in hematology/oncology in general
    • Learning how to frame a question, find the best available research methodology to address the question, and design a project that can practically answer the question
    • Learning how to work with databases
    • Learning how to perform and interpret simple statistical analyses
    • Learning about the role and use of multivariate analyses in retrospective datasets
    • Potentially learning about protocol development and implementation
  • Faculty involved: R. Gregory Bociek, MD, Philip Bierman, MD, James Armitage, MD, Julie Vose, MD, Fausto Loberiza MSc.

 Apar Ganti, MD; 559-6210;

  • Clinical trials for patients with lung cancer who are not eligible for standard therapies
  • Disparities in the treatment and outcomes from lung cancer in various ethnic populations
  • Evaluation of novel biomarkers in lung cancer
  • Effect of comorbid conditions on lung cancer outcomes

Fausto Loberiza MD, MS; 559-3234

  • Determinants of patient-centered care in patients with cancer
  • Effect of follow-up care provider source in the outcome of patients receiving stem cell transplantation for hematologic malignancies
  • The value of transplant center accreditation on the outcomes of stem cell transplantation
  • Interaction of biological, psychological, cultural, spiritual and religious domains as determinants of outcomes in cancer patients
  • Phenomenology of patient-care oscillation in the context of continuum of care
  • Implications of tumor cytogenetic classification on cost and medical service utilization of patients with lymphoma

Nicole Shonka, MD; 559-5520;

  • Epidemiologic factors in the development of primary brain tumors
  • Clinical and translational research on gliomas
  • Clinical and translational research on CNS metastases and leptomeningal disease
  • Epidemiologic factors in the development o f primary brain tumors
  • Title:   Research in CNS tumors
  • Overview of topics
    • Epidemiologic factors in the development of primary brain tumors
    • Clinical and translational research on gliomas
    • Clinical and translational research on CNS metastases and leptomeningal disease
  • Resident work scope and anticipated outcomes:I am open to any ideas for projects for the residents in the area of CNS malignancy. Depending on the amount of time available, residents could put together an abstract for a national meeting, write a case series or case report to submit for publication, or pursue a database review for either abstract presentation or publication in the area of CNS tumors. Depending on current projects, they might also help to author chapters or invited review articles.  All opportunities would be clinically based. However, if time coincides with sample analysis for my ongoing biomarkers project, residents might be able to spend some time in Dr. Batra's lab
  • Faculty involved: Nicole Shonka, MD

Julie M. Vose, MD, MBA; 559-3848

  • Clinical and translational research on non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), Hodgkin's lymphoma (HD), and multiple myeloma (MM)
  • Clinical trials involving novel chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and stem cell transplantation for NHL, HD and MM



Tricia LeVan, PhD; 559-4088

  • Gene and environment interactions in respiratory disease
  • Population-based studies
    • Polymorphisms in pathogen recognition receptors and COPD
    • Effect of agricultural exposure on COPD
  • Molecular-based studies
    • Role of haemophilus influenzae in COPD
    • Epigenetic responses to organic dust

Jill Poole, MD; 559-6266

  • Laboratory studies include: evaluation of inhaled environmental bacterial agents and organic dust in innate immune responses in vitro and in vivo.
  • Clinical study - Evaluation of the role of vitamin D in chronic urticaria (hives) and angiodema (swelling).

Stephen Rennard, MD; 559-7313

  • Long term studies of the natural history of COPD.
  • Evaluation of prostaglandins in the lung in COPD.
  • Assessment of vitamin D and the function of vitamin D binding protein in COPD.
  • Assessment of retinoids as aids for new alveolar wall formation in emphysema.
  • Evaluation of novel approaches to smoking cessation.
  • Evaluation of novel treatments for COPD.
  • Laboratory studies include:
    • Evaluation of the role of circulating stem cells in lung repair
    • Evaluation of the role of stem cell deficiency as a risk factor for emphysema
    • Evaluation of the control mechanisms directing mesenchymal cell mediated tissue repair
    • Evaluation of mesenchymal cells differentiation.
    • Evaluation of control mechanisms that regulate lung repair

Debra Romberger, MD; 559-4875

  • Developing an approach to screening for osteoporosis in patients with lung disease at the VA.
  • Risks (including genetic risk) for agriculture-related lung disease.
  • Smoking cessation in special populations.
  • Protocols for treatment of latent TB infection at the One World Health Center.

Austin Thompson, MD; 559-9101

  • Any interested resident, please contact Dr. Thompson to discuss possible projects.



The Section of Rheumatology at UNMC directs the Rheumatoid Arthritis Investigational Network (RAIN) which is a consortium of rheumatologists throughout the Midwest that design and conduct clinical trials designed to elucidate better treatments for RA. Over the last 12 years, a number of trials have been completed and results published.

Amy Cannella, MD; 559-7288

  • The use of ultrasound imaging techniques in rheumatic disease.

Ted Mikuls, MD; 559-7288

  • Gout treatment safety and gout quality of care.
  • Omaha VA Rheumatoid Arthritis (OVARA) Registry: study of disease epidemiology and outcomes in veterans with RA.
  • Environmental (i.e. smoking) and genetic determinants of RA risk and outcomes.
  • Post-operative outcomes in RA patients undergoing total joint arthroplasty.
  • Epidemiology and outcomes of lymphoproliferative disease in the context of RA.
  • Associations of periodontal disease with RA.

Jim O'Dell, MD; 559-7288

  • Are there correlations between lab changes and joint scores?
  • How do methotrexate dose, folic acid dose, and MCV correlate and how does this correlate with outcome?
  • How does patient-derived information (Health Assessment Questionnaires, Patient Pain Scale, etc.) correlate with physician-derived parameters?