About the Department

UNMC’s Department of Anesthesiology is the exclusive provider of anesthesia services for the Nebraska Medicine. The department is an academic unit in the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Medicine that strives to fulfill the clinical, educational and research missions of the college.

A History of the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center

The Department of Anesthesiology became an independent department in 1971 following nine years as a division within the Department of Surgery (1972-1971). In 1962, the division consisted of one faculty physician, Dr. John Jones, 2 certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), and a single resident, Dr. Gail Walling Yanney. The department has grown throughout the years to its current size with a faculty of 79 anesthesiologists, 43 residents, 18 fellows, and 65 CRNAs.  

The department Chairs are: 

 Steven J. Lisco, MD 

5/16/2012-present 

Kenneth A. Follett, MD Interim 

  2010-2012 

Sheila J. Ellis, MD Interim 

  2008-2010 

John H. Tinker, MD 

  1997-2008 

Myrna C. Newland, MD Interim 

  1997 

Dennis W. Coombs, MD 

  1996-1997 

Myrna C. Newland, MD Interim 

  1994-1996 

Dennis F. Landers, MD, PhD  

  1987-1994

Michael L. Nahrwold, MD 

  1986-1987 

F. Miles Skultety, MD, PhD Interim 

  1986 

K. Reed Peters, MD Interim 

  1985-1986 

Jan D. Smith, MD 

  1983-1985 

Jerry Edelman, MD Interim 

  1980-1983 

Daniel W. Wingard, MD 

  1972-1980 

John Jones, MD 

  1962-1972 

The anesthesiology residency program has had approximately 10 residents per year since the 1980s.  The program expanded from a 3-year training program to a 4-year program incorporating the Clinical Base Year (post-graduate year one) in 2012. Currently, there are 43 residents, and 18 fellows in the fields of adult cardiothoracic anesthesia, critical care medicine, pain medicine, transplant anesthesiology, and pediatric anesthesiology. 

During the 1970s, research and clinical activities in the department included studies in Malignant Hyperthermia, under the leadership of Dr. James Chapin, with UNMC serving as a muscle biopsy testing center until 1990.  Over the past 30 years, there have been several faculty members involved with the Malignant Hyperthermia Association volunteering as 24/7 Hotline consultants for anesthesia providers worldwide seeking assistance during a crisis. Currently, two faculty members serve as consultants out of the 35 national consultants.

In 1985, the department was an integral part of establishing a Liver Transplant program at UNMC, although it only had a faculty of 7 physicians.  The department has done more than 3,500 liver transplants including 877 in pediatric patients, 2700 kidney transplants, 440 heart transplants, and 59 lung transplants. 

The 1990s and early 2000s were highlighted by establishing the department’s first fellowship program in Pain Medicine and initiation of a training program in Perioperative & Critical Care Echocardiography with the introduction of echocardiography in cardiac surgery and other high-acuity procedures. The merger of University Hospital and Clarkson Hospital in 1997 expanded the clinical volume and anesthetizing locations and the department was very involved in the planning and move of perioperative services to the Hixson-Lied building. This growth required the department to increase the number of faculty and accelerate the hiring of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) while incorporating the former Clarkson Hospital anesthesiology personnel into the department. During this time, the faculty remained focused on resident education and the residency continued to receive the maximum-length reaccreditation from ACGME.

The department’s involvement in Critical Care services has significantly accelerated since 2010.  Prior to that, anesthesiology residents obtained critical care training through Internal Medicine. Recruitment of fellowship-trained anesthesiologists, including our current Chair, initiation of a Critical Care fellowship, and establishment of multiple anesthesiology critical Care teams has greatly expanded the scope and presence of the department beyond the operating room. 

Another impressive growth is cardiothoracic anesthesia. Cardiac Anesthesiology has been a clinical and academic leader with the development of a fellowship in 2013, starting with one fellow and increasing to four fellows.  There is also an Echocardiography fellowship program which was established in 2017 and the formation of an Echocardiography consult service in 2019 to provide perioperative echocardiography for diagnosis, evaluation, and resuscitation.  With twelve cardiac anesthesiologists, cardiac anesthesiology assisted in the expansion of the cardiac service line at UNMC with an emphasis on complex cardiothoracic surgery including ventricular assist devices, minimally invasive surgery, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and heart and lung transplants.

In the past 10 years, there has also been significant growth in the use of other anesthesia modalities including regional anesthesia, management of pain through multimodal therapies, and development of the Acute Pain Service in 2014.  This expansion has benefited patients through improved pain management and resident education in the ultrasound-guided placement of nerve blocks.  This year the department will also start its first Regional Anesthesia and Acute Pain Management fellow.

In addition to Acute Pain Management, Chronic Pain Management continues to grow and now has 5 chronic pain specialists with expertise in all types of chronic pain services including nerve blocks, spinal cord stimulators, and kyphoplasty.  They provide service in multiple outpatient locations including Bellevue Medical Center and have increased the training program to 3 fellows a year. 

UNMC Anesthesiology has always had a close relationship with the pediatric anesthesiologists at Children’s Hospital as they provided educational training for the residents.  In 2009, this relationship became more formalized as the Children’s anesthesiologists became members of the department faculty.  In 2013, the recruitment of Dr. Mohanad Shukry as the first Vice-Chair of Pediatrics Anesthesiology, and his establishment of the pediatric anesthesiology fellowship has accelerated the growth and academic output of the Division of Pediatric Anesthesiology.  

Other sites that have provided a significant educational experience for the residency program include the Omaha VA Medical Center, Nebraska Orthopedic Hospital (now OrthoNebraska), and Bryan LGH in Lincoln.  The commitment of the academic department to collaboration with private practice physicians has enhanced the department’s reputation as the leading anesthesiology practice in the state, and also facilitated excellent training for our residents and fellows.  

The clinical expansion and growth extended the opportunities for educational and academic growth. The department increased the number of support staff in administration and education, developed an online learning portal, and hired Faye Haggar, EdD as Director of Educational Development and Educational Technology to lead innovation in the design and implementation of improved curriculum and learning experiences.   

The past 5 years have seen tremendous growth in the number of researchers in the department and a significant upward trend in the number and amount of grants awarded from NIH and other funding sources.  Basic and translational science and scholarly activities within the department are growing rapidly with numerous faculty publishing and presenting at academic conferences.  Additionally, and due to the generosity of many donors including faculty members, many endowments have been established in the department to help recruit and retain top talent, faculty development, and secure the prestige and future of the department.

Anesthesiology has been very active in participating in global health activities with numerous trips to Gitwe, Rwanda to provide clinical care and health care infrastructure, improve medical education, and promote research.  Faculty physicians, CRNAs, residents, educational specialists, and research nurses have all participated in these missions. The department also had 4 members join the Xtreme Everest research initiative in the Himalayan Mountains to study hypoxia in high-altitude environments.