Olson Center for Women's Health marks 25 years

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | June 08, 2018

Image with caption: The advisory committee for the Olson Center for Women's Health includes, from left: Donald Gibbens, M.D.; Carl Smith, M.D.: Christine Murphy; Nancy Olson; Gail Walling-Yanney, M.D.; Kendra Swanson, M.D.; David Olson, M.D.; Jennifer Larsen, M.D.; and Karen Olson, M.D.

The advisory committee for the Olson Center for Women's Health includes, from left: Donald Gibbens, M.D.; Carl Smith, M.D.: Christine Murphy; Nancy Olson; Gail Walling-Yanney, M.D.; Kendra Swanson, M.D.; David Olson, M.D.; Jennifer Larsen, M.D.; and Karen Olson, M.D.

When the advisory committee of the Olson Center for Women's Health met in May, it marked the 25th anniversary since the signing of the first gift agreement with Lee and Dorothy Olson to create the center.

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The 1993 advisory committee included Sean McDonough, M.D., Warren Pearse, M.D., Dorothy Olson, Leland Olson, M.D., David Olson, M.D., Gail Walling-Yanney, M.D., and McClure Smith, M.D., chair of the department.
Leland Olson, M.D., was an OB/GYN in Omaha, and his wife Dorothy was a nurse, and they contacted the chairman of the UNMC Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology at UNMC with the goal of doing something to support women's health on the UNMC campus.

"Out of that discussion came the creation of the Olson Center," said Carl Smith, M.D., who was on the faculty when the center was created and today is chair of the department.

Initially a center without walls, the Olson Center provided funding for research, clinical programs, and a resource center for both patients and providers.

The Olson family has stayed involved to this day, as the current facility on the fourth floor opened in 2007, as the center's research portfolio grew and as its outreach efforts reached one million contacts -- through appointments, email, attendance at events and other measures -- with people and providers in the region.

"We believe in the university and their goals," said Karen Olson, M.D., Lee and Dorothy's daughter. "Women's health and resident education in women's health is key -- we want those goals to be carried out."

The center's mission, in the original writing, was "to provide a national, comprehensive health science center at UNMC for women, focusing on women's health issues and on new frontiers of science, medicine and nursing practice related to health care for women."

The effort has succeeded so well that administrator Rick Blum says administrators he meets from other OB/GYN departments around the country often tell him how unique the center is.

Both Drs. Smith and Olson spoke with pride of the center's support of research into women's health issues.

"Investigators that we have funded have gone on to receive substantial research awards from the NIH (National Institutes of Health)," Dr. Smith said. "So we've used that as seed grant money to spark people and encourage them on their path to being independently funded investigators."

Looking forward, Dr. Smith would like to expand services at the center.

"Many of the signature programs on this campus touch women and their health in various ways," he said. "Would it be nice to have some of those services provided at the Olson Center? Yes, it would."

"Looking back on this last year, we've had successes that we never thought we would have," Dr. Olson said. "It's like a snowball. You just keep rolling and a lot of good things happen."

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Tom O'Connor
June 08, 2018 at 10:11 AM

Congrats to the Olson Center on its 25th anniversary! It has been a tremendous resource for women....a real difference maker! Thanks to the Olson family for making it happen.