Archive for May, 2015

Dr. Are is UNMC’s OTICA winner


Chandra Are, M.B.B.S.

Chandra Are, M.B.B.S., vice chair of education for the UNMC Department of Surgery, associate professor of surgical oncology, and program director for general surgery residency at UNMC, is a recipient the University of Nebraska’s Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award (OTICA).

Chancellor to speak

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., will give his annual address to the faculty at 4 p.m. on Thursday in the Durham Research Center Auditorium as part of the annual faculty meeting. Faculty Senate President Gay Canaris, M.D., assistant professor, internal medicine, College of Medicine, will provide an overview of the year’s activities. Following the address and the award presentations, Dr. Gold will host a reception in the center’s foyer.

Awards will be presented for Outstanding Teacher, Spirit of Community Service, Outstanding Faculty Mentor of Graduate Students and Outstanding Mentor of Junior Faculty, as well as the University of Nebraska’s Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award (OTICA) and Outstanding Research and Creative Activity (ORCA) Award. Faculty members also will be recognized for their 5, 10, 20, 30 and 40 years of service.

Since arriving at UNMC in 2007, Dr. Are has earned a reputation as an innovative educator, a meticulous surgeon, and someone with exemplary dedication to patients.

His innovative thinking led to the establishment of an international rotation program that allows residents to spend nearly six months in India, expanding their international awareness and exposing them to different health care models.

Dr. Are also was instrumental in the development of a novel surgical anatomy curriculum for first-year medical students, physician assistant and physical therapy students. Similarly, he developed an innovative and unique open surgical skills/procedures training curriculum for general surgery residents using lightly embalmed cadavers.

Since simulation is at the forefront of medical school education, Dr. Are’s efforts to stay ahead of the curve led to a virtual simulation-based operating room in the Sorrell Center.

Finally, to help residents pass their American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination (ABSITE) exit exams and improve their scores, Dr. Are developed a remedial course.

Dr. Are’s impact is best summed up by his students, with one former student calling Dr. Are “the most influential person” during his general surgery training.

Asked about his teaching philosophy, Dr. Are said it was to “teach unto others what has been taught to you with respect, and to train students not only to acquire competence but also build good character.”

10/10 Finding Balance


The pain that Rachel Smith felt just under her breastbone was like no pain she had ever felt before. It was debilitating pain; pain that caused her to drop to the floor unable to stand pain. On a scale of one to 10, it was a 10.

That’s how Smith remembers her first pancreatitis attack. It landed her in the hospital for six days.

Doctors diagnosed her with acute pancreatitis and sent her home on a liquid diet, pain medications and instructions to eliminate all alcohol consumption.


Story_Vertical_Balance2RACHEL SMITH

But the pain continued. One week later, Smith was back in the hospital for eight days, then two weeks later for nine days and then another two weeks later for two weeks. During this last visit, she was put on a feeding tube. She was not allowed to eat or drink anything as doctors tried to determine the source of her pain. Her doctors were stumped. They tried more pain medications. One suggested removing her gallbladder. But even more frustrating, no one seemed to listen or take the 22 year old seriously. It was a frightening and frustrating time, Smith says.

Everything changed, however, when a friend of Smith’s mother suggested she visit The Nebraska Medical Center’s Comprehensive Pancreatobiliary Disorder and Autologous Islet Transplantation Clinic. The only clinic of its type in the region, the clinic specializes in non-malignant pancreatic and biliary diseases and offers a full array of diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. The most common conditions the clinic treats include benign neoplasms of the pancreas as well as acute and chronic pancreatitis.

A Standing Ovation


Cora Christensen describes her care at The Nebraska Medical Center like that of a well-rehearsed symphony — a welcome relief when much of her health over the past 30 years has been more like an opera with its share of tragic moments.

Having the right care in competent and experienced hands not only saved her life but has given her a sense of peace and harmony. “It’s so much more fun being alive now that I know I have a team of doctors who can take care of me if something goes wrong,” says the 60-year-old Christensen. “I’m not scared anymore.”


Curtis Hartman, MD

Scene 1 of Christensen’s story begins at age 33 when she was diagnosed with familial cardiomyopathy. A condition characterized by thickening of the heart muscle, this can impede blood flow and worsen with age, leading to a host of problems including arrhythmia, shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue and heart failure. For some 15 years, Christensen treated the condition with medications.

By the time Christensen had reached her late 40s, the drama began to unfold. She started to experience fatigue, occasional dizziness and arrhythmia. The arrhythmias became more frequent and, at age 53, Christensen underwent surgery to have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a device that continuously monitors your heart. If it detects a life-threatening rapid heart rhythm, it sends an electric shock to your heart to restore a normal rhythm. Although the ICD did its job, saving Christensen from serious arrhythmias in numerous instances, Christensen’s condition continued to worsen.

The arrhythmias became more severe and bouts of dizziness, shortness of breath and fainting spells made it difficult to work. A teacher at Metropolitan Community College, she eventually had to quit. At the same time, Christensen was also going to school to get her master’s degree, a goal she refused to give up on.

Then she had a heart attack. Subsequent tests showed her heart was barely functioning. Her doctors sent her to The Nebraska Medical Center’s Heart Failure Clinic where she was diagnosed with end-of-life-cardiac failure. “I was barely cognitive,” recalls Christensen. “They said my ejection fraction was only 7 percent.”

Keeping Hope Alive | Personalized Brain Cancer Treatment


No one wants to hear the word cancer. But if there is one cancer that you would least like to hear come from your doctor’s mouth, it would probably be brain cancer.

While brain cancer is very rare, affecting less than 1 percent of the population, it also has one of the least favorable outcomes.

Craig Harrison, RN, is very familiar with these facts. Not only is he a nurse, but he often cares for brain cancer patients on the neuro intensive care unit at The Nebraska Medical Center.

Story_Vertical_HarrisonCraig Harrison


In 2012, when Harrison was just 26 years old, brain cancer became a very intimate part of his life.

Harrison was working in the neuro intensive care unit at The Nebraska Medical Center, doing a little home remodeling on the side and playing golf in his free time. He was planning to go back to school to become a nurse anesthetist and had dreams of having a family of his own and traveling the world. At 26 years old, life was carefree and full of hope.

On a beautiful fall day in September 2012 Harrison met his friends to play golf. The game came to an abrupt end, however, when at the par 3, 2nd hole, Harrison felt a strange sensation pass through his body before falling to the ground.

“All I remember from that point was trying to tell my friends that something wasn’t right, but I was unable to speak to them and unable to move,” recalls Harrison. “The last thing I remember is falling over, and then waking up on my back looking at the bright blue sky above and hearing peoples’ voices telling me that I had had a seizure.”

His friends called 911 and Harrison was taken to The Nebraska Medical Center. After undergoing a series of tests, doctors determined that Harrison had suffered a seizure that they suspected may have been triggered by a primary brain tumor — difficult news to swallow for a 26 year old with a full life ahead of him.

Fear initially engulfed him, Harrison says. But that eventually subsided when he met neuro-oncologist Nicole Shonka, MD, who would lead his treatment and care plan. “I was very comfortable with her from the first time we met and confident in her care,” he says. “She immediately put me at ease and I weighed her advice very heavily in my decisions.”