PA student plays 'angel' with critical catch

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | September 06, 2017

Image with caption: From left, Lindsay Peterson and Nadine Danaher

From left, Lindsay Peterson and Nadine Danaher

They were thrilled to see one another again. Nadine Danaher called Lindsay Peterson her "angel."

Peterson said, "I've been thinking about Nadine a lot."

They met in an exam room in David City, Neb. Danaher, 88, went to the clinic to check on a cough. Peterson, a UNMC physician assistant (PA) student on rotation at Witter Family Medicine, conducted the exam.

She was extra thorough, a student excited to work with real patients, and to do an exam just as she was taught. Then, she found a lesion on Danaher's tongue.

"We saw that mass," Peterson said. "We didn't know what it was. We knew we needed to send her on."

She called in her preceptor, and they got the ball rolling.

No one had noticed anything on a recent dental visit. No one had seen anything on any other trips to the clinic.

But Peterson, the intrepid PA student, made a crucial catch.

Nadine's son, Dan Danaher, is a longtime physician assistant himself. He was there, taking his mom to the doctor.

"I was pretty impressed," he said of Peterson. "She just nailed it."

As weeks went by, Peterson said she kept wondering about Danaher's fate.

It turned out to be a very rare clear cell carcinoma of the salivary gland.

"As a student, you often don't get to follow up long term with previous patients, and I find myself wondering how certain people I've seen along the way are doing," Peterson said.

But then, Dan Danaher called to express his appreciation. Nadine Danaher was treated with robotic surgery, excising the tumor. Cancer margins were clear.

"Dan's mom had a great outcome," said Michael Huckabee, Ph.D., director of the physician assistant program, proud of the role his student had played.

Peterson is in the inaugural class of PA students joining the College of Allied Health Professions' PA program in Kearney, at the Health Science Education Complex at UNK. "I'm very grateful for the program," she said. She graduates in December.

"She's part of the family," Nadine Danaher said.

Dan Danaher is one of UNMC's distinguished PA alums. He was in UNMC's first PA class, 1975, and serves the underserved as a PA with the Nebraska Department of Corrections. And he was a longtime military PA with the Nebraska Army National Guard.

"If everyone had a son like him," Nadine Danaher said, "and a daughter like her," she continued, looking at Peterson, "the world would be a better place."


Fill out the following and your comment will post once it has been approved.

Name (Required)

Email (Required)

Thank you, your comment will appear below once it has been approved.

Betty Zahourek
September 11, 2017 at 8:08 AM

So glad your guardian angel sent Lindsay your way. Dan is a great guy. A wonderful asset to our family.

David Hancock
September 10, 2017 at 9:22 AM

assume Lindsay Great Job

Candace Becher
September 08, 2017 at 1:04 AM

Great job Lindsay!

Julie Lazure
September 06, 2017 at 7:07 PM

Excellent assessment & critical thinking skills. Congratulations!

Jessie Danaher
September 06, 2017 at 7:01 PM

Thank you for saving my gma. I will be forever grateful.

Amber Keyes
September 06, 2017 at 1:09 PM

Way to go, Lindsay!

Colleen Lee
September 06, 2017 at 10:57 AM

What a great job - as a preceptor at another clinic site, I can say this does not surprise me. Well done!

Karina Bishop
September 06, 2017 at 10:48 AM

Awesome job Lindsay!! This is the beginning of great things ahead!!

Melissa Dorr
September 06, 2017 at 9:46 AM

This is a wonderful, uplifting story! Way to go, Lindsay! We are SO proud of you!!

Fran Higgins
September 06, 2017 at 9:13 AM

Fantastic, Lindsay!

Denise Waibel-Rycek
September 06, 2017 at 8:43 AM

Good work! You are going to go far in your career with the compassion and desire to serve that you exhibit. Well done!

Sue Anson
September 06, 2017 at 8:35 AM


Tessa Wells
September 06, 2017 at 8:25 AM

Way to go, Lindsay! Not only did you make a great catch, but your true compassion and caring for Mrs. Danaher is evident - and that is what will stir that desire to go the extra mile for your patients. Keep up the great work!

September 06, 2017 at 6:33 AM

This was so awesome to read, Lindsay!! Go Lindsay!!