Nadine Danaher, of David City, Neb., is now one-year cancer-free, and counting. And she has a former UNMC physician assistant student - now a PA at Faith Regional Physician Services in Norfolk, Neb. - to thank.
Danaher has called Lindsay Peterson her "angel."
Peterson said, "I think about Nadine a lot."
They met in an exam room in David City. Danaher, 89, went to the clinic to check on a cough. Peterson, as a UNMC physician assistant 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 one of her preceptors, physician assistant Jim Witter, 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.
"In this day and age, when technology is sometimes emphasized over the essential art of the basic physical exam, we are always pleased to see astute students like Lindsay who work to develop keen skills in this area," said Dr. Jo Witter, who also taught and supervised Peterson on her rotation. "A careful exam is very important as demonstrated by cases like these."
Nadine’s son, Dan Danaher, is a longtime physician assistant himself. He was there that day, taking his mom to the clinic.
"I was pretty impressed," he said of Peterson. "She just nailed it."
It turned out to be a very rare clear cell carcinoma of the salivary gland. Nadine Danaher was treated with robotic surgery, excising the tumor. Cancer margins were clear. A year later, they remain so.
Peterson was in the inaugural 2017 class of PA students who graduated from the PA program at the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions, which is located in the Health Science Education Complex at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
"I'm very grateful for the program," Peterson said.
Gregory Karst, Ph.D., executive associate dean of allied health at UNMC, said, "As one of the first UNMC PA students to graduate from the Health Science Education Complex in Kearney and a current practitioner in Norfolk, Lindsay is a great example of the quality health care professionals UNMC is training to serve the citizens of rural Nebraska."
Her new employer agrees.
"We are very pleased to have Lindsay as a member of our health care team at Faith Regional," said Patrick Roche, chief operating officer of Faith Regional Physician Services. "She’s already shown tremendous skill, and we know she will continue to bring this same level of care to all the patients she sees in our hand, wrist and elbow surgery clinic."
High praise. But, Nadine Danaher described Peterson in a different way, saying, "She's part of the family."
We are Nebraska Medicine and UNMC. Our mission is to lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care.