Remembrance event honors Orlando victims

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | June 21, 2016

Image with caption: Dele Davies, M.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs, speaks Friday at the event.

Dele Davies, M.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs, speaks Friday at the event.

In what one organizer called "a groundbreaking event" for the UNMC community, a remembrance and community-strengthening ceremony was held Friday at the Durham Outpatient Center's West Atrium to honor and remember the victims of the Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub.

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Hosted by the UNMC LGBT+ Faculty Mentoring Group, the event drew more than 100 people.

Emily McElroy, director of the McGoogan Library of Medicine, opened the event by calling for a moment of silence for the victims of the June 12 event.

Dele Davies, M.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs, told the crowd, "We are gathered here, first and foremost, to remember the 49 people who lost their lives in such a senseless fashion in the horrific mass shooting in Orlando.

"We are also here in symbolic and in actual physical support of our LGBT community on campus and of LGBT individuals and their allies throughout our region. In this moment of pain and in the healing to come, we stand together."

Although UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., could not be present at the event, he sent a message, read by Dr. Davies, to remind attendees that "it is our duty as a prominent academic medical center to take leadership in times like these, that we must stand up and call these all-too-frequent mass killings what they are -- a public health crisis -- and we must address them as a public health issue."

Russ Buzalko, Ph.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine and a member of the UNMC LGBT+ Faculty Mentoring Group, said the UNMC and Nebraska Medicine community response had been overwhelmingly positive as Friday's event was planned.

"Entire departments rescheduled training so people would have the opportunity to attend this remembrance," he said. "Entire departments asked for ribbons to show their support. Dozens of people thanked us for doing what we are doing here today."

While Dr. Buzalko spoke of challenges facing the LGBT community, both nationally and in Omaha, he also sounded a note of hope.

"The terrorist act we saw on Saturday will not hold us down. If anything it will make us stronger," he said. "That applies to the LGBT community, UNMC, and our country.

"The LGBT family is about love. When the time comes, leave here with love in your heart and a hope for a violence-free future. And never forget the victims of Orlando."

Nicole Hackendahl
June 21, 2016 at 8:49 AM

I'm saddened by the loss of life and touched by the outpouring of support shown on campus. ...proud to be a part of UNMC.

Fran Higgins
June 21, 2016 at 7:19 AM

Wish had been in town to attend. My heart was there.