2020 Recipients

Distinguished Alumnus Award

Shelly Schwedhelm, MSN, RN, NEA-BC
BSN 1991


Shelly Schwedhelm is the Executive Director of Emergency Management and Biopreparedness at Nebraska Medicine (NM), which includes the Biocontainment Unit and National Quarantine Unit, in addition to several biopreparedness grants.  She had overall accountability for unit operations and logistics during the care of patients with Ebola virus disease in 2014-15 and most recently has been a key leader in the COVID-19 response in creating guidance and serving as an infection prevention subject matter expert for onsite visits in meat packing plants, shelters, long term care facilities and correctional facilities.  

Shelly has previous leadership experience in Perioperative Services and Emergency and Trauma Services.  Shelly is currently a Program Director and Subject Matter Expert with the National Ebola Training and Education Center (NETEC) and oversees the Region VII Special Pathogens Treatment Center, Training, Simulation, and

Quarantine, Infection Prevention, Antibiotic Stewardship and the Region VII Disaster Health Response Ecosystem grants at Nebraska Medicine/UNMC.

Shelly is one of five executive directors at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Global Center for Health Security. Shelly in addition is chairperson of the Board of Directors for the Omaha Metropolitan Healthcare Coalition.

Dorothy Patach Spirit of Service Award

Kellee K. Grimes, MBA, RN, ADAC
BSN 2010


Kellee Grimes is a Registered Nurse, Certified ADA Coordinator, and the Manager of Health Services at Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, she earned an ADA Coordinator designation through the University of Missouri, and completed her MBA with an emphasis in Healthcare Administration at Creighton University.

Her extensive work as an inpatient cardiac care nurse equipped her with years of experience in diverse healthcare settings including critical care, quality improvement, hospital compliance and health promotion. At Mutual of Omaha, she provides strategic oversight for all employee health and well-being functions, including integrated occupational health, disability inclusion, absence management, ergonomics, health & wellness benefit programming, and on-site clinic offerings.

She is a devoted philanthropist working to increase access to health, encourage inclusive practices, and advocate for safe and equitable communities. In her work for the Omaha Chamber Young Professionals Council, she championed the creation of the Urban League of Nebraska's Diversity C.O.D.E. Coalition, striving to make Omaha a thriving business and community destination for people of all identities. She is an active member of the Women's Fund Circles program, and was recognized as a “40 under 40” leader in healthcare by the Nebraska Action Coalition in 2018. In 2020, she was named to the "40 under 40" list for the Midlands Business Journal.

She and her husband, Charlie, take great pride in raising their two sons, Cal and Shepard, and their daughter, Josephine, as engaged members of the Omaha community.

Nursing Excellence Award

Kosuke Niitsu, PhD, ARNP, PMHNP-BC
BSN 2009, MSN 2013, PhD 2017


Dr. Kosuke “Ko” Niitsu entered the BSN program on the UNMC Lincoln campus in 2007. Upon graduating in 2009, he worked as a staff RN at an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Omaha.

To deepen his understanding of psychiatric mental health nursing, he decided to study to become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) at the UNMC Omaha campus. In 2011, during his MSN program, the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

disasters occurred in his home country. This event motivated him to investigate stress, trauma, and resilience in UNMC’s PhD program; enrolling in 2012.

After graduating in 2017, he went to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (CU Anschutz) to develop his research program further as a postdoctoral fellow. At the same time, he also worked as a PMHNP to support the mental health of professional learners at CU Anschutz, such as nursing students and medical residents.

After he finished his postdoctoral training in 2019, he moved to the West coast and started serving as an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington Bothell, School of Nursing and Health Studies.


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