Archive for June, 2014

‘Space flight’ has UNMC’s Simorov walking on air

by Vicky Cerino, UNMC public relations


Anton Simorov, M.D., gives a thumbs up in a weightless state.

Anton Simorov, M.D., gives a thumbs up in a weightless state. UNMC made history last week when a UNMC surgery fellow and three University of Nebraska-Lincoln students dressed in flight suits boarded a 727 jet modified for zero-gravity experiments with NASA.


Anton Simorov, M.D., practices surgical techniques with the mini surgical robot. 

For more than 10 years, inventors at UNMC and UNL have spent countless hours building, testing, perfecting and patenting miniature surgical robots.

But the robots that fit inside the abdomen were developed for NASA to close medical gaps in space — something a flight surgeon could use in an emergency.

The next frontier for testing would have to be space – at least a simulation of space.

Anton Simorov, M.D., UNMC surgery fellow, and UNL engineering students Kearney Lackas, Walter Bircher and Tom Frederick took off from Johnson Space Center in Houston on a parabolic flight operated by Zero Gravity Corporation.


From left to right: UNL engineering graduate students Walter Bircher, Kearney Lackas and Thomas Frederick and UNMC surgical fellow, Anton Simorov, M.D. 

The flight created a weightless environment to test the robots.

Dr. Simorov practiced surgical techniques during 80 separate 20- to 30-second weightless periods, while engineering students monitored equipment.

“We accomplished our experiment goals. We collected a lot of data which will take several weeks to process and analyze,” Dr. Simorov said. “We learned a lot to further our experiments. It was a great, unforgettable experience.”

The flight was the result of a 2013 visit by a NASA team to learn about university research with potential applications in space, said Marsha Morien, executive director of the UNMC Center for Advanced Surgical Technology. “The NASA visitors saw the project and said it was ready for flight testing. Getting this flight is amazing. It’s highly competitive.”

On the other hand…

Dmitry Oleynikov, M.D., co-inventor of the mini-surgical robots, explained why he wasn’t on the test flight. “Every part of me wanted to be launched into an airplane that flies as high as 34,000 feet and then plummets to earth in an uncontrolled fall and is referred to by the people who fly it as the ‘vomit comet.’ I just couldn’t get away — I’m just too busy,” he joked.  Dmitry Oleynikov, M.D., a co-inventor of the robots, said the flight was a big step.

“We’re very excited. We’ve always felt it was a good idea to take a surgical platform, miniaturize it and use it in places you can’t have a hospital,” said Dr. Oleynikov, director of the Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery and the Center for Advanced Surgical Technology at UNMC. “It’s a natural extension of that concept to use it in space, on the battlefield and in other remote areas.”

Shane Farritor, Ph.D., UNL professor of mechanical and materials engineering and the robots’ co-inventor, said the flight moved the research forward. “It was a great learning experience for the students who successfully deployed a complex field system and operated it in a unique environment. We have more to do, but I really like where we are.”

Dr. Gold recognized nationally as health care leader


Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.

Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., was selected as one of 25 recipients of the Becker’s Healthcare 2014 Leadership Awards by Becker’s Hospital Review.

The awards recognize men and women who have made remarkable contributions and will leave lasting legacies to their respective health systems, hospitals and communities.

Dr. Gold became UNMC’s chancellor on Feb. 1. The Becker’s announcement references his “previous accomplishments as chancellor of the University of Toledo’s health science campus,” adding that his work there suggests his leadership skills and vision for health care delivery will serve him and the University of Nebraska well.

The award announcement notes that under Dr. Gold’s leadership, the University of Toledo opened the Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center and the Gardner-McMaster Parkinson Center, as well as added an orthopedic center, minimally invasive surgery center, medical pavilion and student library.

Dr. Gold and other awardees will each receive a token of appreciation for their hard work and service, along with recognition at the fifth Annual Becker’s Hospital Review May Conference, which will take place May 15-17 in Chicago.

National Strategic Research Institute reports impressive progress

by Melissa Lee, University of Nebraska


Ken Bayles, Ph.D., is one of the UNMC researchers taking part in the National Strategic Research Institute collaboration.

Ken Bayles, Ph.D., is one of the UNMC researchers taking part in the National Strategic Research Institute collaboration.  •New, more effective vaccines for anthrax and ricin. •Improved information systems that would allow national leaders to make better and faster decisions during security crises or natural disasters. •Stronger assessment tools to allow for timely, thorough responses to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.

These are the goals of just a few of the projects undertaken since the establishment of the University of Nebraska’s National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) in the fall of 2012. The institute, a collaboration between NU and the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), has highlighted numerous accomplishments in its first annual report, available now on the NSRI website.

Key among those: Faculty from across the university, including UNMC, have attracted more than $9 million in contract funding to pursue 22 different projects related to the chief mission of the National Strategic Research Institute to support research for combating weapons of mass destruction.

“We launched the National Strategic Research Institute a year and a half ago with the goal of leveraging the talents and expertise of our faculty for the benefit of our partners at USSTRATCOM and the Department of Defense. I’m pleased that at this early stage, we are doing that very effectively,” said University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken. “NSRI has engaged a range of diverse faculty who are committed to supporting our men and women in uniform and improving national security. Because of their work, and the leadership and commitment of our founding executive director, Bob Hinson, the NSRI is off to an incredible start.”

The National Strategic Research Institute is the newest of 13 University-Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs) across the United States. NSRI focuses on five core areas of expertise demonstrated by NU faculty: nuclear detection and forensics; detection of chemical and biological weapons; passive medical defense against weapons of mass destruction; consequence management; and space, cyber and telecommunications law.

“The establishment of the NSRI at the University of Nebraska has created a significant opportunity for the university faculty and researchers to contribute directly to the combating weapons of mass destruction research and technology requirements of our defense partners and other federal agencies,” said Robert Hinson, a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General and executive director of NSRI. “The established core competencies reflect a very real mission area concern of USSTRATCOM and other federal agencies with assigned roles and responsibilities for addressing significant national security requirements for combating weapons of mass destruction.”

Dr. Oleynikov receives IDEA award

by Elizabeth Kumru, UNMC public relations


Dmitry Oleynikov, M.D.

Dmitry Oleynikov, M.D. UNMC’s Dmitry Oleynikov, M.D., and his collaborator Shane Farritor, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, received the University of Nebraska’s Innovation, Development and Engagement (IDEA) Award Wednesday.

Dr. Oleynikov, the Joseph and Richard Still Endowed Professor of Surgery, director of the Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery, and director of the Center for Advanced Surgical Technology at UNMC, is one of UNMC’s most internationally recognized scientists.

Watch a video about Drs. Oleynikov and Farritor.

“I am motivated in my clinical research to create new discoveries and solve new problems in surgery. I have always felt that progress could not be had without learning from our history and improving our future,” Dr. Oleynikov said.

In collaboration with Dr. Farritor, Dr. Oleynikov has led a team that combines the experience of surgical practice with the exceptional problem-solving skills of the engineering profession.

The results have been a radical departure from existing surgical technology: the surgical robotic device they have developed is miniature, mobile, remotely controlled and fits entirely inside the abdominal cavity.

The Oleynikov and Farritor partnership has resulted in multiple patents and technology commercialization and is widely recognized as a model for cross-campus collaboration. It is for extending their academic expertise beyond the boundaries of the university in ways that have enriched the broader community that they were jointly acknowledged.

“My life’s goal is to transform surgery to be safer, more patient friendly and to improve the outcomes from surgical operations that we perform today,” Dr. Oleynikov said. “I innovate not because I want to but because I am presented with patient need and I feel I have to do something to help solve these surgical problems.”