Archive for the ‘Medical Professionals’ Category

One of the Largest Living-Donor Kidney Transplant Chains

Nine Donors and Nine Recipients Meet Face-to-face for the First Time

All 12 of the donors and recipients attended the June 8 press conference.

All 18 donors and recipients attended the June 8 press conference.

Fourteen weeks after being part of the largest internal living-donor kidney transplant chain in Nebraska history, 18 people from different cities, states and backgrounds met face-to-face for the first time. The week of Feb. 27, nine patients received kidneys at Nebraska Medicine — Nebraska Medical Center from nine living donors. Previously, the largest internal living-donor kidney transplant chain here was a three-way exchange in July 2016.

This 18-person chain marks one of the largest single center kidney transplant chains involving a pediatric recipient in the United States. It’s also one of the largest single center kidney transplant chains performed in the U.S. in which none of the recipients were on hemodialysis (where a machine filters the patient’s blood outside their body). A 52-year-old Omaha woman, who wanted to donate her kidney in memory of a friend, started the chain.

Arika Hoffman, MD, became emotional while discussing the rare event.

Arika Hoffman, MD, transplant surgeon, became emotional while discussing the rare event.

“Without her, this never would have happened,” explains Arika Hoffman, MD, transplant surgeon. “One selfless act of an anonymous donor impacted the lives of 18 people.”

That woman is Sue Venteicher, a wife, mother and grandmother, who worked as a phlebotomist at Nebraska Medicine in 1988, before making the switch to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.

“We can always do something for somebody else. It’s not the things you have – it’s the things you do for other people. Donating my kidney has been a wonderful experience,” says Venteicher. “When I worked at Nebraska Medicine, I always thought, ‘I could give my kidney to somebody.’ But at the time, I was busy having babies, so the idea went on the back burner.”

After raising her seven children, the opportunity to donate a kidney presented itself. Michael Peters was a former patient that Venteicher cared for at Children’s. He received a heart transplant as an infant and now needed a kidney transplant. Venteicher was tested – but unfortunately, wasn’t a good match. Peters received a kidney from a different donor in the summer of 2016. Shortly after, the transplant failed and his health problems worsened. Peters died in January at the age of 20. One month later, Venteicher donated her kidney to an anonymous recipient at Nebraska Medicine in honor of Peters.

Once the transplant team knew Venteicher was willing to start a kidney transplant chain, the planning process began in October 2016 and took about five months. Patient names were matched and rearranged several times on a large board in the transplant offices. The transplant team referred to this board as the Board of Hope – as it gave people a chance to receive living-donor transplants that otherwise would not.

The woman who started the chain, Sue Venteicher, was presented a unique "Tree of Life" necklace by

The woman who started the chain, Sue Venteicher, was presented a unique “Tree of Life” necklace by transplant surgeon Alexander Maskin, MD.

A kidney chain is an approach to living-donor transplantation in which an anonymous donor comes forward to donate a kidney to someone they do not know, starting a chain of events where patients with incompatible donors swap kidneys for a compatible one. Kidney transplants from living donors last much longer and tend to do better postoperatively. If individuals are open to doing a chain, the transplant team actively looks for exchanges.

“We have an obligation to get as many people transplanted as possible – especially with the scarce resource of deceased kidney donors. Exchanges and chains are the way to do that,” explains Dr. Hoffman. “The most exciting part about this chain was that it included recipients who were very difficult to match.”

“Many hours were spent at the Board of Hope, plotting, planning and finding potential matches,” says Vicki Hunter, Kidney/Pancreas Transplant manager. “We had to make sure everyone was healthy enough to participate. If a single person dropped out, the entire chain would fall apart.”

The morning of Feb. 27, Venteicher walked into the Nebraska Medical Center to start the chain. Two transplants were performed each day on Feb. 27 and 28, March 1 and 2, with the final transplant happening on March 3. Transplant surgeon Alexander Maskin, MD, performed the donor surgeries (known as a donor nephrectomy) and Dr. Hoffman transplanted them into the recipients. The chain included five patients who had not yet started dialysis, four who had a difficult time finding a match, and one person who was transplanted off the wait list. None of the recipients knew who gave them a kidney – until now.

On June 8, the 18 people involved in the chain finally met.

“This is our labor of love,” says Hunter. “It wouldn’t be possible without the living donors putting complete trust in the transplant team and saying ‘yes’ to the option of a chain. The donors didn’t know who they would ultimately give a kidney to, but they knew the end result was their intended recipient being transplanted.”

6-12 Kidney Chain wide of presser

Nebraska Medicine – Nebraska Medical Center is home to one of the most reputable and well-known organ transplant programs in the country. Since 1970, the organization has performed more than 1,000 living-donor kidney transplants. Nebraska Medicine transplants more patients on peritoneal dialysis (where the lining of the abdomen filters blood inside the body) than any other program in the world. It also performs more deceased donor kidney transplants on individuals who are nearing – but not yet started on dialysis – than any other program in the country.

Each year, the number of patients needing kidney transplantation increases while the number of deceased donors has remained about the same. If you’d like more information about becoming a living kidney donor, visit

For more on the celebration, watch our video below.

6-12 Kidney Chain Graphic JPG

Bariatric Surgery: A Growing Solution for Obesity

Obesity is a national health issue in this country with more than one third of all U.S. adults considered to be overweight. Bariatric surgery has become a growing solution for obese individuals.

“For many obese individuals, surgery provides the most effective long-term solution for weight loss when other methods have failed,” says Vishal Kothari, MD, bariatric surgeon at Nebraska Medicine’s Bariatrics Center. The Bariatrics Center is the most comprehensive program in the region offering medical weight loss, placement of a weight loss balloon, bariatric surgery and a meal replacement plan all in one location. The program is designed and directed by physicians who are fellowship-trained in medical weight management and bariatric surgery and are supported by a multidisciplinary team of specialists.

Vishal Kothari, MD

“Approximately 80 to 90 percent of our patients have kept their weight off after five years,” says Dr. Kothari. “On average, people can expect to lose 60 to 70 percent of excess body weight, which can be 100 pounds or more.” Like any weight loss plan, patients have to make lifestyle changes to make it work including exercise and adopting healthy eating habits.

“One of the key aspects of the program that makes it different from many others is that we take a holistic approach to our care and follow our patients for life,” says Dr. Kothari. “After surgery, we follow them closely for the first 18 months and then annually to help keep them healthy and motivated. We work closely with their primary care doctor to check weight and nutrition, recommend labs and address any issues such as nutritional deficits, medical issues and any excess weight gain so we can help our patients stay on track.”

We also understand that a successful transition to lifelong healthy living requires more than just losing the weight and may require the support of other specialists, notes Dr. Kothari. As a result, the Bariatrics Center also includes medical nutritionists, an exercise specialist and a clinical psychologist to support a patient’s medical, physical and mental health throughout the process.

In addition to weight loss and improved quality of life, there are other reasons a patient and his or her physician may want to think about weight loss surgery. “Increasing evidence shows that it can help reduce a person’s risk for a number of serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and cancer,” notes Dr. Kothari.

Depending on the type of surgery and the amount of weight loss, bariatric surgery has been shown to improve or resolve diabetes in 50 to 85 percent of patients; reduce sleep apnea by 90 percent; lower high blood pressure by 60 percent; decrease joint pain by 60 to 70 percent; and drop high cholesterol by 60 percent. Bariatric surgery patients also have been shown to live longer than their obese counterparts.

A person may be considered for surgery with a BMI over 35 with other obesity-related health conditions, or a BMI over 40 and has tried various weight loss plans with no results.

The most commonly performed bariatric surgeries at the Bariatric Center include laparoscopic adjustable gastric band, laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy and laparoscopic roux-y-gastric bypass. All of the surgeries are performed laparoscopically, which means they involve making several small incisions that are closed with only a few stitches, resulting in fewer complications and a much quicker recovery time for patients.

The Bariatrics Center at Nebraska Medicine also offers a newer, noninvasive bariatric procedure that can be performed endoscopically and is an alternative to traditional bariatric surgery. Orbera® gastric balloon is a reversible, nonsurgical weight loss procedure providing obese patients with another option to achieve significant weight loss when regular methods of diet and exercise have not worked, and traditional bariatric surgery isn’t a fit for them, says Dr. Kothari. “The procedure is very safe, can be performed as an outpatient and requires minimal recovery time,” he says.

“The health and quality of life benefits these patients receive from bariatric surgery and other weight loss methods are tremendous,” says Dr. Kothari. “They are more mobile, feel better about themselves, have less depression and have better family, social and work lives.”

The Bariatrics Center at Nebraska Medicine is nationally accredited by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP), a combined program of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). The designation recognizes surgical programs with a demonstrated track record of favorable outcomes in bariatric surgery. Clinical research shows that the most experienced and comprehensive bariatric surgery programs have much lower rates of complication.

Nebraska Medicine Announces Availability of Breakthrough New Treatment for Patients with Peripheral Artery Disease

Nebraska Medicine is among the first in the United States to offer a new treatment recently cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide relief for patients suffering from the painful symptoms of peripheral artery disease, or PAD – a condition caused by a build-up of plaque that blocks blood flow in the arteries of legs or feet.

The device, Avinger’s Pantheris™ lumivascular atherectomy system, is an innovative image-guided therapy that, for the first time ever, allows physicians to see and remove plaque simultaneously during atherectomy – a minimally invasive procedure that involves cutting plaque away from the artery and clearing it out to restore blood flow.

Nebraska Medicine vascular surgeon David Vogel, MD,
is now able to see and remove plaque simultaneously.

Because the Pantheris device incorporates real-time optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging on a therapeutic catheter – like having a small camera on the tip of the device – physicians are able to remove this plaque more precisely than ever before, with less risk of damage to the artery walls which can result in aggressive scarring that greatly increases the risk of restenosis, or re-narrowing of the artery. In the past, physicians have had to rely solely on X-ray as well as touch and feel to guide their tools while they try to treat complicated arterial disease.

For patients, this safe and more-precise treatment may potentially reduce the need for follow-up procedures and stents.

“Peripheral artery disease greatly impacts quality of life, with patients experiencing cramping, numbness, discoloration and pain,” said David Vogel, MD, a vascular surgeon at Nebraska Medicine. “The Pantheris technology is on the front lines. Nebraska Medicine is the only hospital in the region using it. We’re helping lead the way.”

Clinical results confirm that the technology is safe and effective: a 130-patient study showed a target lesion revascularization rate of just 8 percent, and not a single event of vessel perforation, clinically significant dissection or late aneurysm resulted from Pantheris. In addition, this radiation-free technology may help minimize radiation exposure to clinicians and patients by decreasing use of fluoroscopy.

Peripheral artery disease affects nearly 20 million adults in the U.S. and over 200 million people globally. PAD is caused by a build-up of plaque in the arteries that blocks blood flow to the legs and feet. Often dismissed as normal signs of aging, symptoms of PAD include painful cramping, numbness or discoloration in the legs or feet. PAD can become so severe and difficult to address with traditional treatments that patients and physicians often resort to undergoing invasive bypass surgeries, which can result in even higher health risks and lengthy, painful recoveries. In severe cases, patients often face amputation, the worst-case scenario associated with PAD.

Atherectomy is a minimally invasive treatment for PAD in which a catheter-based device is used to remove plaque from a blood vessel. Lumivascular technology utilized in the Pantheris system allows physicians, for the first time ever, to see from inside the artery during a directional atherectomy procedure by using an imaging modality called optical coherence tomography, or OCT. In the past, physicians have had to rely solely on X-ray as well as touch and feel to guide their tools while they try to treat complicated arterial disease. With the lumivascular approach, physicians can more accurately navigate their devices and treat PAD lesions, thanks to the OCT images they see from inside the artery.

From Transplant to the NICU, Family Relies on Nebraska Medicine


Phil Sauvageau (pictured in black) visits his daughter and grandson in the NICU at Nebraska Medicine.

For the Sauvageau family, “Serious Medicine. Extraordinary Care.” isn’t just a slogan. They’ve witnessed it time and time again at Nebraska Medicine.

On January 24, 2016, Phil Sauvageau received the first lung transplant with Nebraska Medicine’s reignited program. For years, Phil struggled with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a disease that causes scarring of the lungs, often resulting in respiratory failure. Because there is no cure for IPF, Phil’s only option for survival was a lung transplant.

“The surgery went very smoothly with no significant complications,” says Aleem Siddique, MD, surgical director of lung transplantation. “It was a very exciting time for Phil.”

A few months after receiving his transplant, Phil walked his daughter Michelle down the aisle at her April wedding.

“My dad also sang me a beautiful song that he wrote, and we had that special father-daughter dance I’d always dreamed of,” says Michelle Gleason. “I’m so thankful to the family that donated life to my dad and the amazing doctors, nurses and staff at Nebraska Medicine.”

Little did Michelle know at the time, but she’d soon be the one in need of medical care. One week after celebrating their first wedding anniversary, Michelle and her husband Eric were preparing for the birth of their son – two months earlier than planned.


Michelle Gleason holds her newborn son in the NICU at Nebraska Medicine.

Nebraska Medicine OB/GYN Sonja Kinney, MD, diagnosed Michelle with preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure. Michelle was on bed rest for nearly a week before Nebraska Medicine OB/GYN Laura Cudzilo-Kelsey, MD, performed an emergency c-section on April 23. Banner Gleason weighed 2 pounds, 8 ounces and was rushed to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

“NICU medical director Ann Anderson Berry, MD, talked us through the whole thing,” says Michelle. “Everyone in the NICU has been wonderful – especially the nurses. We watched my dad receive the best care during his lung transplant, so it’s no surprise that Banner and I are receiving the same extraordinary care.”

On May 1, Banner received a special visit in the NICU from Grandpa Phil and Grandma Emily.

“Nebraska Medicine has done so much for our family,” says Phil. “They’ve become our second family. From the transplant team to the NICU, we are very grateful.”

As long as Banner continues to gain weight, Michelle and Eric are hopeful they can take him home by early June.


My Doctor, My Friend

Galen Furstenau

Galen Furstenau is a retired farmer from Tilden, Nebraska.

Finding a doctor you trust is a relief. Finding a doctor who becomes your friend is rewarding. Finding a doctor who saves your life is invaluable. Fortunately, I was able to find all three in the same person – James Armitage, MD, an oncologist/hematologist at Nebraska Medicine.

My relationship with Dr. Armitage goes all the way back to January 2000, when I relapsed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the time, I was being treated by a doctor in Norfolk, Neb., until my mother read an article in the Omaha World Herald about Dr. Armitage. She insisted I make an appointment. I called his office and within one week, I was driving to Omaha to see him. The following month, I underwent chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant at Nebraska Medicine. The care was wonderful. The staff handled everything from the appointments, to the paperwork and the insurance. From day one, it was a quick turnaround.

Things were fine until that December when my cancer decided to make another appearance. Obviously, I was disappointed, but Dr. Armitage’s nurse coordinator assured me there were dozens of other treatment options. I felt relieved. This time, Dr. Armitage decided to have me do injections, three times a week. I continued the treatment for nine years. It worked! It was an incredible feeling to hear the word “cured.” Even better than being told you’re in remission. But, little did I know, more health battles were just around the corner.

Oncologist/hematologist James Armitage, MD

In January 2015, while visiting my daughter in Gretna, Neb., I started experiencing stomach pain. By the time paramedics arrived, the pain had subsided. Two weeks later, I started having pain in my esophagus and upper right chest. I went to the emergency department in Norfolk, but they didn’t find anything. Reassured me it wasn’t my heart.

During a trip to California, I ended up having two more episodes. My wife contacted Dr. Armitage, who asked his nurse coordinator to set up appointments with gastroenterologist Dr. Daniel Schafer and cardiologist Dr. Ward Chambers. Both men were colleagues and friends of Dr. Armitage.

When I arrived at Nebraska Medicine, Dr. Chambers recommended I take a stress test. He looked at my heart while it was resting, then while I was on the treadmill. My heart rate wasn’t coming up to where they wanted it. I was also having difficulty catching my breath. The nurse had a very concerned look on her face. They put me in a wheelchair and I went straight to the cath lab. That’s where they discovered I desperately needed a three-way bypass. I was at risk for a widow maker heart attack — the kind few people survive.

A few days later, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Aleem Siddique performed the surgery. My wife, Debbie, was very worried, but I went into it knowing everything was going to be okay. My mind was good. I knew I was in the best hands possible.

The morning after surgery, Dr. Armitage came to see me. He brought 5-6 interns with him and shared my story. He told them I was a “model patient” who had been through a lot. That visit meant the world to me – it’s hard to put into words. A few days later, I returned home. It took about three months before I was feeling “normal” again.

Galen and Debbie

Some people say I’ve been on quite a trip. It’s not a trip anyone looks forward to, but looking back on it, there’s not a single part I regret. I’ve been able to weather the physical and mental pain very well. Yes, mental.

Because of everything I’ve been through, Dr. Armitage recommended I speak with another friend of his – Nebraska Medicine psychiatrist Dr. Carl Greiner. I have to admit, I’m not proud that I’m doing it, but I’m also not ashamed. My thoughts on psychiatry have totally changed. If you need help – seek it. It’s comforting to have someone there who can take the time to listen.

I can’t say enough good things about Nebraska Medicine. This place is very special to me. We’re lucky to have an extraordinary facility like this in Nebraska. I consider Dr. Armitage not only my doctor – but my friend. When I need anything, Dr. Armitage is there. I try to schedule a visit with him once every six months.

I love coming back to see the people that saved my life. I also enjoy sharing my story. Once a month, I volunteer at the med center’s cancer clinic. I visit with patients and try to offer hope. Cancer isn’t a word anyone likes to hear, but I encourage people to seek treatment.

I owe my life to Dr. Armitage. Without him, I wouldn’t be here for Debbie, our four kids and 13 grandchildren. I often think back to that first newspaper article my late mother read about Dr. Armitage. If the cancer hadn’t come back, if the heart problem didn’t occur, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I think my story has turned out pretty well and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter will bring.

Galen’s family in Tilden, Nebraska.

Why Nebraska Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer Care?

Pancreatic cancer can be difficult to detect and diagnose. Nebraska Medicine has a team of specialists experienced in treating pancreatic cancer and a variety of other pancreas-related illnesses. They will arm you with the ideal treatment plan for you.

Why Nebraska Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer Care?


We have cancer doctors who specialize in treating pancreatic cancer. Their experience and knowledge will ensure that you receive an accurate diagnosis and the most advanced, up-to-date therapies. Our cancer specialists are known for their ability to treat the most complex cases with the best possible prognosis. Patients undergoing cancer treatment at Nebraska Medicine also have access to our 24/7 Infusion Center at the Peggy D. Cowdery Patient Care Center, which serves as both a treatment center and 24/7 urgent-care-type facility. A rare offering in the region.

A Nuanced Diagnosis

The majority of pancreatic cancers are pancreatic adenocarcinoma, a cancer that starts in the glands of the pancreas. While other types of pancreatic cancer are quite rare, each type behaves uniquely and is treated very differently, so making an accurate diagnosis with a biopsy is very important. Our cancer specialists have the experience and expertise to stack the odds of a correct diagnosis the first time in your favor, so you get the treatment you need.

A Team Approach

At Nebraska Medicine, we bring specialists from a variety of medical disciplines together, multiplying exponentially the likelihood of an accurate diagnosis for you. The options for treating pancreatic cancer typically include drugs (chemotherapy), surgery and radiation therapy depending on your type of pancreatic cancer.

We’re involved in the latest research.

There is a lot of research happening, both around the world and here at Nebraska Medicine to improve the detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer. Our doctors are involved in pancreatic cancer research and clinical trials. By coming to Nebraska Medicine, you will have access to the latest treatments and therapies in clinical trials if you qualify, before they become available to the general public. See what trials related to pancreatic cancer are currently underway.

Addressing Your Personal Care Needs

Addressing a patient’s physical, educational, emotional and spiritual needs are important aspects of providing a more complete and holistic approach to care. A host of amenities and supportive services are available to help meet these needs. This includes personal care services such as wigs, wig fittings, prosthetic and bra fittings, yoga, massage therapy, skin care and make-up lessons specifically geared for people with or recovering from cancer are also provided in a private setting.

Cancer Support Services

Finding out that you have cancer can be a very emotional and difficult time. You will likely have many questions and issues to work through. We will be with you every step of the way. Nebraska Medicine offers a host of cancer support services to help you with your physical, emotional, educational and financial needs.

We’re Here for you Long After Your Treatment

Our Survivorship Clinic is designed to help you deal with the emotional and physical challenges cancer can leave behind such as fear of recurrence, physical and medical long-term side effects and helping you return to a normal life again. It will also help you transition back into the care of your primary care physician.

Accreditations and Awards

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska Blue Distinction Center+

Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ have a proven history of delivering exceptional care and results. Nebraska Medicine has received Blue Distinction in pancreatic cancer care.

Biden: ‘I Hope Other Institutions Follow Your Lead’


Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center a “remarkable facility” during Tuesday’s dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility.

“I’m not sure I can fulfill what I feel in my heart about the commitment all of you have made to deal with this dreaded disease,” he told the audience of health care professionals, elected officials, community leaders and members of the UNMC community.

“I’ll bet almost every one of you in this audience has been touched by cancer,” he said. “Either you personally, a family member, a husband, wife or child — someone you love, somebody close to you. Cancer is in a sense a communal disease — no one family member contracts the disease that the entire family doesn’t feel the consequences. So that’s why I think what you’re doing here is so, so important.”

Omaha philanthropist Susie Buffett introduced Biden, who lauded the way the cancer center came together, pointing to the significant philanthropy of Pamela Buffett and others. “It is really a credit to the community,” he said.

Biden, who spoke shortly after Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, gave an emotional tribute to nurses — “I am a Democrat, the mayor’s a Republican, but I love her, because you know why? She was a nurse before this.”

5-24 Biden ceremony

He also spoke of his son’s battle with cancer — the former vice president’s son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46, and Biden has said he will spend the rest of his life fighting to eradicate the disease. He talked of the Cancer Moonshot initiative he championed, his new Biden Cancer Initiative, and his hopes for advancements in the battle against cancer.

“There’s a renewed momentum, and there’s a whole lot of renewed hope,” he said. “Apart from what we did in the White House, there’s a real excitement around the country about the moonshot because we started a program in the White House that has become a movement well beyond the White House, well beyond government,” he said.

Biden said it meant a great deal to him to celebrate the opening of “this remarkable facility” and to recognize the Buffett family’s commitment to the fight against cancer.

“In addition to the state-of-the-art research facility and the brilliant researchers and clinicians that are going to occupy these halls, you are obviously a completely patient-oriented center, just by the physical design of this place,” he said. “I hope many, many patients who will get treated here will get well in this place, and I hope other institutions follow your lead – and more and more are — in terms of patient-oriented treatment.”

The effect of the center already has reached beyond Nebraska, he said.

“We have to update our strategy to the 21st century . . . I hope the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center will be the forefront of that change.”

“Collaboration is the key,” he added. “We need to come together and break down these siloes that exist out there now, to best care for patients.”

Vice President Biden understands that the cancer center is a transformational force, said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD.

“The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center will house the future of cancer research, clinical care and education,” Dr. Gold said. “It is a true integration of science and medicine, and of UNMC and Nebraska Medicine.”

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden entered the building with Pamela Buffett.

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden entered the building with Pamela Buffett.

“Vice President Biden recognizes that potential here and we’re honored to have his presence,” said Daniel DeBehnke, MD, MBA, Nebraska Medicine CEO. “This journey began many years ago with a vision of creating a new way of integrating cancer research and treatment into the care of cancer patients. Look around you — that vision has become a reality. We are truly fortunate to live in a place like Omaha, where philanthropists, business leaders, elected officials and regular folk can share in a common vision and work together to achieve a lofty goal.

“There has never been anything like the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center before,” he said.

Mayor Stothert called the center a commitment to saving lives.

“The City of Omaha is proud to partner with the University of Nebraska Medical Center in this impressive facility. The research and care that will take place here will impact Omaha, our state, our county and our world,” she said. “It will impact patients and families and futures. In 2014, Nebraska Medicine and UNMC became internationally known for world-class health care during the Ebola crisis. We will now proudly build on that reputation as the groundbreaking facility in the fight against cancer.”

Hank Bounds, PhD, president of the University of Nebraska, said the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center was about partnerships.

“This is a journey we have been on together,” he said. “The university, the city, the county, the state of Nebraska, incredibly generous private donors, and truly citizens from across our state.

“This is what’s possible when we put our shared ideas, our passion, our commitment and our resources to work for the benefit of Nebraskans.

“We’re setting a new standard in patient-focused care,” he said. “This center represents new hope for Nebraskans whose lives have been impacted by this terrible disease.”

Dr. Gold thanked the governmental officials in attendance, as well as the organizations and individuals who had supported the center.

“We cannot thank you enough for your investment in our future,” Dr. Gold told Pamela Buffett, who with her late husband Fred lent their names to the center. He thanked other founding benefactors as well. Founding benefactors are Pamela Buffett (Rebecca Susan Buffett Foundation), Suzanne and Walter Scott Foundation, and CL & Rachel Werner. Distinguished benefactors are: Clarkson Regional Health Services, Mary & Dick Holland, Peter Kiewit Foundation, Robert B. Daugherty Foundation, and Ruth and Bill Scott.

The presentation included a video of cancer patients, who also attended the event, sharing stories of their experiences at Nebraska Medicine and their enthusiasm for the new Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

“That’s my center,” one of them said in the video.

“This magnificent new cancer center is all about making people’s lives better,” said Ken Cowan, MD, PhD, director, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

Watch Joe Biden’s speech below.

UNMC’s Chancellor Gold Also to Lead UNO

Chancellor Gold April 27, 2017

After the announcement that UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, would also serve as the chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Dr. Gold walked through UNO’s campus with several students. From left, UNO student Patrick Davlin, Dr. Gold, UNO student Sadie Denker and UNO student Hameidah Alsafwani.

University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds, PhD, said Thursday that he has indefinitely paused the chancellor search at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and appointed UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, to also lead the UNO campus on an interim basis.

The appointment will deepen collaboration between NU’s Omaha-based institutions and ensure steady leadership at a time when both are poised to grow their impact in Nebraska and beyond.

Dr. Gold, UNMC’s chancellor since early 2014, will add leadership of UNO to his responsibilities on May 8, pending approval by the Board of Regents at its June meeting. Dr. Gold succeeds current Chancellor John Christensen, who last fall announced his decision to step down after more than a decade of leadership at UNO.

“Jeff Gold is a proven leader who, together with talented faculty, staff and students, has put UNMC on a remarkable trajectory,” Dr. Bounds says. “He knows Omaha and our state well, he has built deep connections with university stakeholders, and he appreciates the unique – and in many cases complementary – missions of Nebraska’s public academic health science center and its metropolitan university.

“We have a chance to think boldly by leveraging the combined strengths of both campuses to grow our research enterprise, expand opportunities for students, and serve our state even more effectively. This appointment makes sense financially and, more importantly, it makes sense for our students, faculty and staff, and Nebraskans. Jeff is the right person, at the right time, to lead UNO into the future.”

Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, UNMC chancellor, will also take over the UNO Chancellorship on an interim basis.

Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, UNMC chancellor, will also take over the UNO chancellorship on an interim basis.

Dr. Gold says, “Over the past three years I have been impressed and inspired by the work being done at our neighboring University of Nebraska campus. UNO is on the move, and that is a credit to Chancellor Christensen’s leadership, along with the faculty, staff, students, and community and private sector partners who share in the vision of what it means to be a premier metropolitan university. Our campuses have a long record of collaboration and I am humbled and honored to get to know UNO and its people even better in the months ahead. This is an opportunity to work together to change the world – and we will.”

Dr. Gold’s appointment follows a national search that began in November when Dr. Bounds named a 15-member search advisory committee and hosted a series of stakeholder listening sessions to gather input on the qualities the university should seek in the next chancellor.

Bounds praised the work of the committee, co-chaired by Theresa Barron-McKeagney, associate dean of UNO’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service, and Michael Yanney, chairman emeritus of The Burlington Capital Group LLC and a leader in Omaha’s business and philanthropic communities. Committee members worked with professional search firm Parker Executive Search to develop a position profile and build a rich and diverse pool of candidates.

“Our goal was to find the right person who could pick up where Chancellor Christensen will leave off and continue UNO’s momentum,” Barron-McKeagney says. “We spent countless hours evaluating candidates. While the position attracted interest from across the country, ultimately none of the candidates were the right mutual fit. We’re excited to have Dr. Jeff Gold lead our campus forward.”

Dr. Bounds said the search was challenged by two primary factors. First, it was conducted in a highly competitive marketplace. At one point during the search, there were 100 president and chancellor openings across the country.

Second, Dr. Bounds said the state’s current fiscal challenges and their impact on the university created hesitation for some candidates.

Dr. Bounds says Dr. Gold’s interim appointment is a logical and strategic solution given that fiscal realities will necessitate more shared operations between the Omaha campuses. Particularly as the university faces critical budgeting decisions in the coming months, pausing the search for an indefinite period and establishing clear and stable leadership is the right decision for UNO and its faculty, staff and students.

He adds he and Dr. Gold will continually evaluate the leadership structure and, in concert with UNO stakeholders, determine at a later date the right time and approach for resuming the chancellor search. Dr. Gold’s appointment will be assisted by a broadly representative transition team whose members will be named in the coming weeks. The team will include Chancellor Christensen and other university stakeholders who will help ensure a seamless transition of leadership.

Dr. Gold’s leadership of both UNO and UNMC will build on collaborative efforts already underway that are growing Nebraska’s economy and quality of life. For example, the two campuses have joined on a new institute, called UNeTech, that will support start-up companies grown from university research. The campuses also partner on the Urban Health Opportunities Program, through which students receive scholarship support at UNO and then, upon successful completion of the program, are guaranteed admission to health professions programs at UNMC.

UNO and UNMC also work collaboratively in biomechanics research, an area where UNO is a national leader; in the university-wide National Strategic Research Institute, through which faculty conduct research focused on defense and national security; the Nebraska Applied Research Institute, which contracts with industry and government to address financial, security or life-threatening risks that businesses and public agencies face; and a number of other efforts. The campuses’ global engagement efforts are also under unified leadership.

New Minimally Invasive Procedure Provides Significant Results for Obese Patients

New Minimally Invasive Procedure Provides Significant Results for Obese Patients

A new noninvasive bariatric procedure that can be performed endoscopically has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and is available to patients at the Bariatrics Center at Nebraska Medicine.

The Orbera® intragastric balloon is providing obese patients with another option to achieve significant weight loss when traditional methods of diet and exercise have not worked.

“This is a very safe procedure that can be performed as an outpatient and requires minimal recovery time,” says Tiffany Tanner, MD, bariatric surgeon at Nebraska Medicine.

The procedure is one of several weight loss options available at the Bariatrics Center, which offers both surgical and non-surgical medical weight loss options for treating obesity. The program is designed and directed by physicians who are specialty trained in medical weight management and bariatric surgery and are supported by a multidisciplinary team of specialists.

“Obesity is a difficult condition to treat,” says Dr. Tanner. “The Bariatrics Center is the ideal place to send patients because it offers patients a variety of surgical and non-surgical options. Not all patients are ready to undergo surgery and our program allows us to meet patients where they are at and offer them options to help them loose weight.”

Tiffany Tanner, MD

For many obese patients, however, surgery provides the most effective long-term solution for weight loss when other methods have failed. In a randomized clinical trial that involved 255 adults with a BMI between 30 and 40, people who had the intragastric balloon procedure along with behavioral therapy lost 27 percent of their excess weight. The group that had only behavioral therapy lost 10 percent of their excess weight at 9 months.

The Orbera® intragastric balloon procedure is a soft, deflated silicone balloon that is introduced into the patient’s stomach via an endoscope that is passed down a patient’s esophagus into the stomach. Once the intragastric balloon is endoscopically inserted, the empty balloon is filled with sterile saline. The balloon takes up space in the patient’s stomach, limiting food intake and reducing feelings of hunger. The intragastric balloon is removed after six months in another short endoscopic procedure. During that next six-month period, the patient continues to participate in a behavior modification program and follows a medically supervised diet.

Another difference with this procedure is that it has an indication for a lower BMI than that of traditional bariatric surgery. The National Institute of Health’s current guidelines for bariatric surgery require patients to have a BMI of 40 and over or a BMI of 35 and over with significant co-morbid conditions. This procedure can be performed on patients with a lower BMI of between 30 and 40. “This allows us to offer patients another option as we can intervene sooner and practice preventive medicine,” notes Dr. Tanner.

Patients are carefully selected after a thorough evaluation process that includes screening by the bariatric surgeon as well as a psychologist, exercise psychologist and nutritionist.

The intragastric balloon procedure is ideal for patients who are moderately overweight and want to begin with a less invasive weight loss procedure, notes Dr. Tanner.

As with other bariatric procedures and surgeries that lead to significant weight loss, the intragastric balloon may help improve or eradicate conditions often related to being overweight, says Dr. Tanner.

“Obesity has many implications for a patient’s health and can significantly increase a person’s risk for a number of serious diseases like cancer, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes, and therefore, increase mortality,” says Dr. Tanner. “It effects daily life, co-morbidities and mortality.”

A study published in the January issue of JAMA looked at patients who had undergone bariatric surgery (primarily roux en y gastric bypass) and compared them to matched controls and then looked at their survival. The study showed that at 10 years, mortality for obese individuals who had weight loss surgery was 13.8 percent versus 23.9 percent for the control group. “This study underscores how hard obesity is on the body,” says Dr. Tanner.

The Bariatrics Center at Nebraska Medicine is a nationally accredited program through the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and American College of surgeons (of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP)). The designation recognizes surgical programs with a certain physical, and human resources and standards of clinic practice. Clinical research shows that the most experienced and best-run bariatric surgery programs have much lower rates of complication.


About the Author

Nizar Mamdani, Executive Director and founder of the International Healthcare Services at Nebraska Medicine says, “Tiffany Tanner, MD is an inspiring and remarkable example of the caliber of specialists and researchers working tirelessly to help provide better care for obesity.  Through collaborative strategic partnerships with 122 institutions in 44 countries, we continue to provide innovative educational and treatment options, as well as specialized tele-pathology and second opinion consultation services for Neurology, Cancercare and Transplantation patients around the world.”

Contact |;; +1 (402) 559-3656

Melanoma on the Rise

Early Detection and Staging of Melanoma is Key to Successful Outcomes

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. While melanoma accounts for only one percent of skin cancer cases, it is responsible for the majority of skin cancer related deaths.

Nicole De Rosa, MD

The incidence of melanoma has been steadily increasing for at least 30 years. A 2012 study found that between 1970 and 2009, the rate of melanoma among women and men increased by eight-fold and four-fold, respectively.

“The incidence of melanoma has been steadily increasing on average by 1.4 percent each year over the past 10 years,” says Nicole de Rosa, MD, surgical oncologist at Nebraska Medicine, who specializes in melanoma, complex gastrointestinal cancers and sarcoma. “Common risk factors include UV light exposure from sunlight or tanning beds, older age, male gender, white race and family history. “If caught at an early stage and treated with proper surgical resection, it is highly curable.”

“Most skin cancers can be diagnosed early with a simple skin examination. Your doctor should check your skin carefully as part of a routine cancer-related check-up. Additionally, it’s important to check your own skin, preferably once a month, if you have many moles or any of the risk factors for melanoma”, says Dr. de Rosa. High-risk groups – those with a family history of skin cancer or a personal history of any skin cancer may benefit from a regular skin examination by a board-certified dermatologist.

Many moles are completely benign. Signs we use to determine if a mole may be suspicious for harboring cancer are known as the ABCDEs of a melanoma: Asymmetric shape, Border irregularity, Color variation or uneven distribution, Diameter (6 mm or anything larger than a pencil eraser), and most importantly Evolution, meaning a mole with recent changes in size, color, or irritation.

Melanoma can occur on any skin of the body, even those that have not been exposed to the sun, says Dr. de Rosa. Additionally, melanomas can more rarely form on other parts of the body including the eyes, mouth, genitals, and anal area.

“If a suspicious mole is detected, a full-thickness skin biopsy should be performed to get the most accurate staging information to direct future treatment,” says Dr. de Rosa. “Melanomas are treated based on the depth of extension into the skin, not on the width of the lesion.”

In general, melanomas up to 1 mm in depth are considered early stage and can be treated with wide local excision alone, as long as there are no signs that the lesion is high-risk. Melanomas deeper than 1 mm and without evidence of distant spread, should be treated with wide local excision and sentinel lymph node biopsy. “Patients who undergo sentinel lymph node biopsy have between a 5 to 40 percent chance of having cancer detected in the lymph node, based on the primary lesion characteristics,” says Dr. de Rosa.

“Early-stage melanomas can often be treated successfully with surgery alone, but more advanced cancers require additional treatments,” says Dr. de Rosa. Nebraska Medicine has a multi-disciplinary group of physicians who are dedicated to treating patients with melanoma and other complex skin cancers. This team includes surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, as well as plastic and reconstructive surgeons who are highly specialized in optimizing oncologic and aesthetic outcomes.


About the Author

Nicole De Rosa, MD

Nizar Mamdani, Executive Director and founder of the International Healthcare Services at Nebraska Medicine says, “Nicole De Rosa, MD is an inspiring and remarkable example of the caliber of specialists and researchers working tirelessly to help provide better cancer care.  Through collaborative strategic partnerships with 122 institutions in 44 countries, we continue to provide innovative educational and treatment options, as well as specialized tele-pathology and second opinion consultation services for Neurology, Cancercare and Transplantation patients around the world.”

Contact |;; +1 (402) 559-3656