University of Nebraska Medical Center

Current Award Recipients

Distinguished Alumnus Award

Sarena Dacus headshot

Sarena Dacus, MPH'13

Sarena Dacus is a consultant, facilitator, trainer and coach working both locally and nationally to support the professional growth and development of all those she has the honor to partner with. In 2021, Ms. Dacus joined the National Center on Health Behavior Health & Safety as a Senior Training & Technical Assistance Associate. As a member of the training and technical assistance team, she works to support the learning and professional development of early childhood systems to foster healthy and safe environments, programs and services for children and families.

It has always been her priority to remain actively involved in many community initiatives across the Omaha, NE metropolitan area. Ms Dacus was recently appointed as a member of the Aksarben Foundation Women’s Ball Committee. She currently serves as the President of the Board for the Women’s Fund of Omaha (WFO) as well as the President Emeritus of the Board of Directors for I Be Black Girl. Ms. Dacus also facilitates a BIPOC Affinity group for the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands (NAM) and is a member of the Leadership Team for NAM’s Nonprofit Executive Institute training program for new nonprofit leaders.

In addition, Ms. Dacus has completed training in the Technology of Participation (TOP ®) Facilitation Methods and leads and facilitates events for a variety of community coalitions, public health initiatives, and non-profit organizations. Such projects have included consultation on strategic planning, organizational and team effectiveness, program evaluation, and navigating difficult conversations around equity, diversity & inclusion. For the past four years she worked with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Clinical Scholars team as the Team Coach for Cohort 5.

Ms. Dacus is a graduate scholar of the Great Plains Leadership Institute as well as an alumni of the NAM Nonprofit Executive Institute and the Women’s Fund of Omaha Circles. In 2016 she was recognized as one of the Midlands Business Journal’s 40 under 40 outstanding professionals. Most recently, in 2023 Ms. Dacus was selected as one of Omaha’s Ten Outstanding Young Omahans where she was awarded the 2023 TOYO Distinguished Service Award.

Her educational experience includes a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from St. Louis University with a minor in Spanish and a Master of Public Health (MPH) from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.  In 2014 she became certified as a Parent Educator through Parents as Teachers, which has proven to be quite beneficial as she and her husband, RaShad, are the proud parents of a 13 year old daughter, Emery, 10 year old son, Everett, and 5 year old son, Oakland.  

Early Career Achievement Award

Headshot of Amber Bobbitt

Amber I. Bobbitt, MPH’22

Amber Bobbitt a North Carolina native began her calling in public health in the spring of 2017. She attended East Carolina University in Greenville, NC obtaining her Bachelor of Science in Public Health concentrating on community studies in 2019. From there Amber worked within the local school system in N.C. helping with the advancement of elementary students when she decided to pursue her Master’s in Public Health (MPH).

She has always had a passion for working with women and children, so she decided to concentrate her studies on maternal and child health. In 2022 Amber graduated from UNMC, with her MPH and certificate in Emergency Preparedness. After receiving her MPH, she started her career in clinical research by working on a clinical trial to help veterans manage their PTSD through an investigational drug. Then in 2023, she changed from psychiatry to pediatrics within the University of North Carolina System and became a clinical trials Research Coordinator.

Amber is currently working on multiple studies within the pediatrics department to help prevent child maltreatment through child-adult relationship enhancement and understand why the current youth mental health crisis is rapidly increasing. Amber plans to acquire a Doctor of Public Health degree soon and further her career in public health.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Award

Headshot of Echohawk Lefthand

Echohawk Lefthand, MPH'19

Echohawk Lefthand is an enrolled member of the Dine’ (Navajo) Nation and has been a Public Health champion for over 15 years. He currently serves as an administrator for the Office of Health Disparity and Health Equity (OHDHE) in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Previously Echohawk served as the director, manager, and specialist of the Title VI Indian education program with Omaha Public Schools, Veteran Affairs, and Indian Health Service, respectively. From his lived and work experience he has a great passion and dedication to promoting health and elevating quality of life for all.