Distinguished Alumnus Award: M. Patricia Leuschen, Ph.D. (Class of 1976)
Honorary Alumnus Award: Thomas L. McDonald, Ph.D. (This award is presented to a non-alum)
M. Patricia Leuschen, Ph.D.
Dr. M. Patricia Leuschen completed her PhD in Anatomy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1976 and completed post-doctoral training at UNMC in the Department of Physiology. She also holds a master’s of science in anatomy from UNMC and a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biology from Creighton University.
Dr. Leuschen served a dedicated 35-year career as a UNMC faculty member serving in roles in Graduate Studies and the College of Allied Health Professions before retiring in 2013.
She held an appointment in Pediatrics (newborn medicine research) beginning in 1980 and in Genetics, Cell Biology & Anatomy beginning in 1994, providing anatomy instruction to countless health professions students.
In 2007 she became assistant dean for research development in the School of Allied Health Professions (now College), where she was responsible for advancing the research mission.
She served as chair of the Medical Sciences Interdepartmental Area (MISA) graduate program for 21 years from 1989-2010. In 2005, she was recognized for her considerable contributions to graduate studies with the UNMC Faculty Mentor of Graduate Students Award. She served on the official supervisory committee for over 80 PhD students, including many who went on to marked achievements in their careers. Dr. Leuschen is commonly recognized as the backbone of the MSIA program, effectively managing what has historically been UNMC's largest graduate program and ensuring its success.
In 2010, Dr. Leuschen partnered with the University of Nebraska Foundation and the Charles R. O'Malley Charitable Trust Fund to establish the M. Patricia and James W. Leuschen Professorship for the Advancement of Research in the Allied Health Professions. The endowed professorship, which was one of the College’s first, provides research support for CAHP faculty, and honors Dr. Leuschen's late husband, Jim.
In addition, Dr. Leuschen helped form the newly-created Graduate Studies Alumni Engagement Council in 2014. She served as the group’s founding president to start the process of connecting Graduate Studies alumni back with the Graduate Studies program for both engagement and philanthropic opportunities. She also serves on the UNMC Alumni Association Board of Directors and the UNMC Retiree Association Coordinating Committee.
In retirement, she volunteers in the community through the Omaha Sister Cities Association and with local arts organizations – and even hosts visiting artists at her home.
Dr. Leuschen and her late husband had four children, Susan, Paul, Kathleen and James and five grandchildren.
Pat Leuschen hails from Panama, Iowa, a small town of just 300 people.
Thomas L. McDonald, Ph.D.
Dr. Thomas L. McDonald is an alum of South Dakota State University and Washington State University where he earned his Ph.D. in Immunology and an MPH in Medical Microbiology. He completed his post-doctoral fellowship at Washington State University in Veterinary Microbiology and Immunology.
Dr. McDonald joined UNMC as a faculty member in the Department of Pathology and Microbiology in1980 and he still serves the department as a professor. In this role, he teaches a course in Immunology to medical students and Introductory Immunobiology to graduate students. His laboratory focuses on Dr. McDonald’s research interests which include: Immunology, Antigen Isolation and Purification, Acute Phase Proteins, Inflammation and Immunoassays.
His laboratory conducts research related to acute phase proteins and their role in the inflammatory process. The focus is on the acute phase protein serum amyloid A (SAA). Within 18 hours following stimulation by infection, arthritis flare, tissue wound or essentially an inflammatory process, SAA is produced by the liver and blood levels reach 1000 fold higher concentrations than levels prior to stimulation. The function of SAA is unknown, although it plays a role in lipoprotein metabolism. His laboratory has discovered a novel isoform of SAA that is produced extrahepatic and does not occur in the circulation.
Dr. McDonald embodies the role of academician-scientist and takes great pleasure in mentoring and educating generations of students and researchers. He has served on countless Ph.D. committees, providing candid support, advice, and feedback to the candidates. Dr. McDonald is known amongst many Ph.D. students and alumni for his commitment to educating the researchers who go on to discoveries that advance science and health. Working behind the scenes, Dr. McDonald does not seek the limelight but is widely revered.
Dr. McDonald has invented, developed and manufactured prototype diagnostic tests for human and veterinary applications as well as established start-up companies to manufacture and market these technologies in collaboration with companies worldwide. He serves on several scientific advisory boards for local, national and international companies in addition to maintaining the role of Chief Scientific Officer for a Nebraska veterinary company. He has twelve issued patents; four pending, all related to either Diagnostic Assays of Secreted Biological Fluids for Detection of Infection and Inflammatory Conditions; of Serum Amyloid A Isoform from Colostrum.
He is a well-established author with journal articles and papers appearing in International Immunopharmacology, Immunology and Medical Microbiology, and many others. He has been actively involved in the UNMC campus community through numerous committees, leadership roles, and he has received over 20 teaching awards (most of which are presented by the students).
Dr. McDonald’s family includes his two brothers who both have advanced degrees and have contributed much to the advancement of the sciences as well as Information Technology. Dr. McDonald has several close friends he considers as family. In his free time, he enjoys yard work, gardening and helping those less fortunate.
Distinguished Alumnus Award: James McClurg, Ph.D. (Class of 1973)
Distinguished Alumnus Award: Ernest Prentice, Ph.D. (Class of 1976)