University of Nebraska Medical Center

Current Award Recipients

Distinguished Alumnus Award

Ann Berger

Ann M. (Malone) Berger, PhD, MSN, RN, FAAN

1971 - Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Creighton University, Omaha NE 

1984 - Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), UNMC 

1996 - Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing, UNMC    

Career - 52 years in nursing and 1 year Professor Emerita and volunteer faculty 

  • Clinical Focus Areas: Intensive Care Nursing, Step-Down Coronary Care, & Cardiac Rehabilitation (1971-1981); Oncology Nursing (1981-present); Advanced Oncology Nurse Specialist (1984-2021). 
  • Nursing Educator: taught classroom and clinical in Diploma, Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree programs for 43 years. Director of UNMC PhD in Nursing program (2007-2015).
  • Research Focus Areas: Symptom Science in patients with cancer: Cancer-Related Fatigue, Sleep-Wake Disturbances, Cognitive Function, Oral Mucositis, Physical Function, Quality of Life, Cancer Survivorship (1991-present). Associate Dean for Research, UNMC College of Nursing (2015-2020).
  • Professional Service Areas: Leadership roles in the Oncology Nursing Society (1987-present); National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2006-2021); Oncology Nursing Foundation; UNMC College of Nursing Executive Team (2007-2020); Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, Cancer Prevention and Control (2007-2023).
  • Awards: Fellow, American Academy of Nursing (2005-present); UNMC College of Nursing Dorothy Hodges Olson Endowed Chair in Nursing (2007-2020); Oncology Nursing Foundation Distinguished Award for Consistent Contribution to Nursing Literature (2022).
  • Professor Emerita and Volunteer Faculty: Research mentoring of PhD students and faculty new investigators. Serving with her husband on the College of Nursing Committee for the Only in Nebraska Campaign (2023-present). 

During her nursing career, she served as a clinician, educator, researcher, and administrator and focused on contributing to oncology nursing. Her passion was personal. In 1972, her mother was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and died in 1975. She was survived by her husband and five children 17-27 years old. Her primary goal has been to improve the lives of patients with cancer and their families. This passion strengthened her resilience as she experienced many challenges during her life and career. She is proud that her career developed while living a family-focused life with four generations living in the local area and many relatives living throughout the country. She is grateful to her husband Tom and their nuclear and extended family for their support and flexibility throughout her career!  

Her connection to UNMC and the College of Nursing runs deep! Her first position after her BSN degree was at the Medical Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at University Hospital. She loved working with nurses and the team who were specialists in caring for patients in the ICU! She had six years of work experience in Illinois, Minnesota, and Nebraska hospitals. Next, she spent a year teaching a Cardio-Renal Nursing course at a diploma nursing program. She returned to UNMC to teach in the BSN program and enrolled in the MSN program. Her life changed course when her husband’s employer transferred him to eastern Washington and to central California where she gained valuable clinical experiences in rural areas. Upon their return to Omaha in 1981, she resumed the MSN program and focused on the educator role and Medical-Surgical and Oncology nursing. She taught in the Associate and BSN programs and worked on-call clinicals for many years. She restarted her employment in the College of Nursing in January 1984.  From 1991-1996, she enrolled in the PhD in Nursing program and worked half-time as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in General Oncology. She continued in the Oncology Service Line until 2021 and at the college until June 2023. She embraced the UNMC key values of Innovation, Teamwork, Excellence, Accountability, Courage, and Healing. Her goal was to demonstrate those values in her behavior and spirit. The work environment, faculty, staff, and students who display these values were a major factor contributing to her 50-year career span at UNMC and the College of Nursing.  

She is proud of her 28-year career as a researcher and the contributions she has made to students and faculty in the college and at UNMC. She served as a principal investigator, co-investigator, or mentor on over 25 funded studies. She earned an international reputation for research focused on cancer-related fatigue and sleep-wake disturbances in women with breast cancer during and after chemotherapy and as survivors. Based on findings that established co-occurring symptoms, referred to as symptom clusters, her work measured the frequency, intensity, and severity of many symptoms. Her most recent pilot study of cognition in patients with colorectal cancer used longitudinal multi-modal assessment strategies to reveal changes in the dorsal attention network of the brain as a function of treatment. A highlight of her career was receiving the Oncology Nursing Society’s 2022 Distinguished Award for Consistent Contributions to Nursing Literature. She was amazed to learn that an analysis of 114 documents revealed 4,651 citations by 3,384 documents and 337 co-authors! She has demonstrated this pattern of productivity while mentoring others. She is proud of her leadership of the Oncology Nursing Society’s Putting Evidence into Practice Team for Sleep-Wake Disturbances to inform clinical nurses of the interventions recommended for practice.  

Her contributions to the college’s research enterprise include teaching scientific writing and serving for 25 years as a research advisor for 19 MSN and 23 PhD students and six post-doctoral trainees. Most projects/studies involved multi-disciplinary teams from in and outside UNMC and required strong teamwork to complete the work and the publications. In the role of Associate Dean for Research, she supported many of the faculty researchers who had a wide range of expertise. In 2019, College of Nursing researchers were awarded the highest funding in many years. She transitioned to half-time work in 2020 focusing on the PhD program, her advising role, and mentoring faculty new investigators. She looks forward to the bright future of UNMC and the College of Nursing!

Dorothy Patach Spirit of Service Award

Trudie Owens

Trudie Owens, MSN, APRN-NP, CPNP-PC, AC

2001 - Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), UNMC 

2013 - Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), UNMC 

Trudie Owens is a native Nebraskan born in Omaha. She holds a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and is an acute and primary care certified pediatric nurse practitioner with more than 23 years of experience.  She is pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Creighton University and will complete her program at the end of 2024. She has had the opportunity to practice in several specialties including pediatric intensive care, emergency, home health, palliative care medicine, hospital medicine and aeromedical evacuation as a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force. She currently practices pediatric solid organ transplantation at Nebraska Medicine.   

She is an active member at Nebraska Medicine in the Pediatric Quality and Pediatric Operations committees and the Transplant Fellowship Program. As an undergraduate at UNMC, she was inducted into Sigma Theta Tau. She is a member of the National Association for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, and the American Society of Transplantation. She also supports the professional growth and education of novice medical and nursing professionals through annual participation in preceptorship opportunities.  

She has held leadership roles as the Co-Chair of the Nurse Practitioner/Physician Assistant Practice Council and Chair of the leadership structure subcommittee at Children's Hospital and Medical Center. She has also had the honor of contributing to the body of knowledge with a publication as primary author in Pediatric Transplantation. This work became one of their most downloaded articles in its first year of availability.  

Beyond her professional commitments, her passion for others has led her to volunteer for faith-based health screenings and community projects supporting autism, organ donation, women’s health, pediatric cancer and events in commemoration of 911.  

Nursing Excellence Award

Dilorom Sass

Dilorom (Delia) Sass, PhD, RN, AGPCNP-BC 

2013 - Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), UNMC 

2020 - Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing, UNMC 

2022 - Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), UNMC 

Dr. Sass spent the first 19 years of her life in Tajikistan, a country in Central Asia. With the support of her parents and grandparents, she moved to Omaha, NE in 2004. She became interested in nursing through teaching early personal finance classes at the refugee center and through the influence of her mother, who held a medical degree in Tajikistan. After earning her BSN from UNMC, she practiced at the bedside as a Registered Nurse (RN) caring for patients in acute and progressive care units and cardiovascular rehabilitation settings.  

While working as a bedside RN, she was motivated to pursue a graduate degree to improve patient outcomes. She enrolled in the Master of Science in Nursing program in 2015. Her faculty mentors at the College of Nursing and UNMC further inspired her to pursue nursing science and research and she enrolled in the PhD program. During her coursework, Dr. Sass ran a pilot study as part of her Research Practicum at the Engage Wellness Medical Fitness Center at UNMC’s Home Instead Center for Successful Aging. The project sparked research questions related to aging outcomes and chronic inflammation, leading to a systematic review entitled “Impact of Yoga on Inflammatory Biomarkers,” published in 2019 in the Biological Research for Nursing journal.  

During her doctoral studies, she applied and was accepted into the prestigious Graduate Partnership Program as a predoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. The fellowship provided unique training as a nurse scientist to learn and conduct biomarker investigations as predictors of patient-reported outcomes such as cancer-related fatigue, depressive symptoms, and sleep disturbances. In 2020, Dr. Sass successfully defended her dissertation entitled “The Role of Extracellular Vesicles in Cancer-Related Fatigue and Its Co-Occurring Symptoms.” 

After graduating with her PhD in Nursing from UNMC Graduate Studies in 2020, Dr. Sass completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the NIH focusing on the development of analytical methods used to collect predictive biomarkers of patient-reported outcomes. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Sass led three projects with intramural and extramural collaborators focusing on biomarker analysis of patient-reported outcomes in patients with prostate cancer, breast cancer, and traumatic brain injury in military and civilian populations. In addition to the biomarkers, Dr. Sass also investigated cancer-related symptom clusters and studied aging outcomes such as frailty among cancer survivors. Her investigations about frailty resulted in a systematic review entitled “Blood-based biomarkers of frailty in solid tumors,” published in the journal of Frontiers in Public Health in 2023. During this phase of her career, she graduated from the Master of Science in Nursing program at the UNMC College of Nursing and became a board-certified Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. 

During her fellowships, Dr. Sass served on various multidisciplinary trainee committees including serving as liaison for the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences for Graduate Student Council, and as contributing author and editor for the Center of Cancer Research Fellows & Young Investigators Newsletter. She is also a member of the American Nurses Association. 

Dr. Sass’ work with biomarkers as molecular correlates of patient-reported outcomes resulted in six peer-reviewed publications and five podium presentations. She received numerous awards during her predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships, including three awards for her poster presentations, first place in the elevator pitch competition, a dissertation award, and a 40 under 40 emerging nurse leader award from the Nebraska Action Coalition. Her research activities led, in total, to 15 peer-reviewed manuscripts, one editorial publication, six peer-reviewed abstracts, seven podium presentations, and 14 poster presentations from 2017 - 2023.  

Her research and education were supported in part by the UNMC Nellie House Craven Scholarship for Research and Education, the UNMC College of Nursing Dean’s Travel Award, the National Institute of Nursing Research Intramural Program, and the National Cancer Institute's Intramural Continuing Umbrella for Research Experiences program at the NIH. Dr. Sass is grateful for the financial and personal support that led to opportunities to advance in her career and serve the public.   

Currently, Dr. Sass holds a position as a Clinical Analyst in the Division of Clinical Outcome Assessment at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  

The views expressed in this biography are her own, the accomplishments were not conducted in her current role, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Food and Drug Administration or the United States Government. 

Honorary Alumnus Award

Nancy Bergstrom

Nancy I. Bergstrom, PhD, RN, FAAN

1965 - Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Columbia Union College, Takoma Park, MD

1968 - Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA, Medical-Surgical Nursing (Funding, Federal Nurse Training Act, Division of Nursing)

1981 - Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Clinical Nursing Research (Funding, Pre-Doctoral, National Research Service Award, #F31 NU-05231) 

Career - 50 years of nursing, 1965-2015, Professor Emerita, UNMC 1999-present 

Clinical and Research Focus 
Dr. Bergstrom’s research always focused on improving nursing care to reduce complications: Pre-Doctoral, “The Comfort and Safety of Tube Feedings,” among aging, oncology, and acute care patients (1972-1981); PhD studies, metabolic consequences of enteral and parenteral nutrition administered intermittently vs continuously (1975-1981); as well as, knowledge utilization, including evidence synthesis, and dissemination in practice. Post PhD, “Nutritional Outcomes of 3 vs 5 daily meals in nursing home residents.” Companion studies related to developing and testing the Braden Scale; and multi-site follow-up (1981-99). Leadership of Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Pressure Ulcer (PU) Prevention and Treatment guideline panels (1989-1999). UTHealth Houston, multi-site study of preventive interventions and PU incidence in 27 nursing homes in the U.S. and Canada (2000-2015).  

Academic Roles 
Teaching roles over the years included clinical and classroom instruction of baccalaureate, master’s, and PhD students (1969-2015). Post PhD positions and roles included: UNMC College of Nursing (1981-1999) Associate Professor to Professor; Director, Research and Theory Core, MSN Program; Graduate Faculty Fellow; Associate Dean, Graduate Programs (Interim). UTHealth Houston (2000-2015) Trumble Professor of Aging Research (Endowed); Associate Director, then Director, Center on Aging; Interim Associate, then Associate Dean for Research; Director Center for Nursing Research. 

Selected Professional Service Roles 
Leadership roles: Midwest Nursing Research Society (Board, Vice President, President); American Nurses Association Council of Nurse Researchers (Chair); Research committees: Midwest Nursing Research Society; Gerontological Nursing Society; Oncology Nursing Foundation; Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses; Sigma Theta Tau International. Chair, of two guideline development panels for the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (1989-1994). National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), National Institute on Aging, Ad Hoc Study Section Reviewer over many years. Editorial Board of Advances in Skin and Wound Care. Reviewer for Nursing Research, Research in Nursing and Health, Gerontological Society of America, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. Board member, American Nurses Foundation.  

Selected Awards 
Kosiak Award for Excellence in Research, Education and Clinical Practice, National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (1991); American Nurses Association Jessie M. Scott Award for Excellence in Research, Education, and Practice (1992); Sigma Theta Tau International, Baxter Episteme Laureate, for significant breakthroughs in knowledge development (1992); Midwest Nursing Research Society, Distinguished Contribution to Research in the Midwest (1995); Sigma Theta Tau, International, Nursing Research, Hall of Fame (2010). 

Professor Emerita 
She is Chair of the College of Nursing Committee for the Only in Nebraska Campaign (2023-present).  

Dr. Bergstrom joined the College of Nursing faculty because her dissertation advisors told her that UNMC was a “best-kept secret” with excellent infrastructure and support for research. The established culture linked master’s students and faculty in research teams, and small studies resulted in presentations and publications. The camaraderie was strong. The Nursing Research Center resources and a leader (Dr. Mara Baun) with funding experience, led to successful submissions to the NIH, and the National Center for Nursing Research (NCNR). UNMC surprised larger universities by ranking ninth in research funding in the early days of the NCNR. This accomplishment preceded the launch of the PhD program. She was an early recipient of NIH funding that helped her to launch her research career firmly.  

Her work was funded for over 50 years by multiple small and large grants from both the public and private sectors. Two noteworthy projects at UNMC were: “The Development and Testing of the Braden Scale for Predicting Ulcer Risk,” (copyright, Barbara Braden and Nancy Bergstrom, 1986). (Named the Braden Scale since both names would have been unwieldy). Her first major UNMC grant submission, building on previous work, was a comprehensive study of dietary intake and nutritional outcomes among nursing home residents. Barbara Braden joined the study and recommended pressure sores as an outcome. Subsequently, they collaborated on the development and testing of the Braden Scale, in multiple small studies. Later, she led a multi-site study of predictive validity in three settings (nursing homes, the VA, and University Hospitals) in three locations (Omaha, Chicago, and Raleigh) to understand differences in outcomes by setting and subject ethnicity. The study was later credited with being among the four best studies of the first 20 years of the NIH and the NINR. The resulting publication in Nursing Research was later ranked #11 in citations in the journal’s first 25 years. The Braden Scale is used to some extent around the world. Drs. Bergstrom and Braden collaborated for more than 35 years. The American Journal of Nursing (2024) dubbed Bergstrom and Braden as an “archetypal researcher/clinician collaboration undertaking translational research.” 

Secondly, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research Guideline Development initiative utilized interdisciplinary panels following processes described by the Institute of Medicine, to evaluate and synthesize research literature and create practice guidelines. “Prediction and Prevention of PU,” then “Treatment of PU,” resulted. As panel chair, she was supported by UNMC librarians, Janet Cuddigan (a new doctoral student), Dean Rosalee Yeaworth, and the UNMC administration. A million copies of the guidelines were distributed and promulgated widely. Guidelines are now updated periodically by many professional organizations. 

She was honored to be part of the development of Nurse Practitioner programs, a PhD program, and probably the first distance delivery PhD program. The 80s and 90s were exciting times for the UNMC College of Nursing. She is grateful for the wonderful colleagues and students with whom she worked and for all the opportunities along the way.  

In gratitude, while she was still at UNMC, she began giving back in recognition of all that she received. First, through a small scholarship, and now through “An Early Researcher Award,” to be fully funded through a bequest. She is excited about the College and all that is to come. She is honored to be named the 2024 Honorary Alumnus and to serve as Chair of the College of Nursing Committee for the Only in Nebraska Campaign.