Endowed professorship recognizes James O'Dell, M.D.

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | November 07, 2019

Image with caption: James O'Dell, M.D. (second from left), with three of his former chief residents of the 1990s: Bill Johnson, M.D. (far left), of Lincoln, Joel Bessmer, M.D., of Omaha and Ted Mikuls, M.D., of the UNMC Rheumatology Division and vice chair of research in the Department of Internal Medicine.

James O'Dell, M.D. (second from left), with three of his former chief residents of the 1990s: Bill Johnson, M.D. (far left), of Lincoln, Joel Bessmer, M.D., of Omaha and Ted Mikuls, M.D., of the UNMC Rheumatology Division and vice chair of research in the Department of Internal Medicine.

The James R. O'Dell Endowed Professorship has been established in honor of James O'Dell, M.D., one of UNMC's most recognized faculty members and administrators. The professorship will be awarded to internal medicine residency program directors for continued development of the program.

The professorship was established through a gift of $500,000 to the University of Nebraska Foundation.

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James O'Dell, M.D. (far right), with two former chief residents, both of UNMC: Chad Vokoun, M.D., chief of the Section of Hospital Medicine in the UNMC Division of General Internal Medicine, and Sarah Richards, M.D., assistant professor, internal medicine, and medical director of patient experience for Nebraska Medicine.

The announcement was made during an October celebration honoring Dr. O'Dell's 35 years as director of the residency program for the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine. The professorship recognizes the significant impact Dr. O'Dell has had on generations of internal medicine residents, said Deb Romberger, M.D., Henry J. Lehnhoff Professor and chair of the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine.

Dr. O'Dell is the Stokes Shackleford Professor, vice chair of the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine, and chief of the UNMC Division of Rheumatology. Over the past 35 years, he has overseen the training of more than 600 internists and 1,000 residents.

Tammy Wichman, M.D., associate professor, internal medicine-pulmonary, is the first recipient of the endowed professorship. She was named director of the residency program this past summer.

Dr. Romberger said the department's ultimate goal is to create an endowed chair in Dr. O'Dell's name. One of the most prestigious honors a faculty member can receive, the endowed chair would enable the department to recruit and retain outstanding faculty and would help the department to grow its residency program.

"I'm grateful and humbled that the program that I'm so passionate about will have a chair with my name on it to benefit it going forward," Dr. O'Dell said. "Over the last 35 years I have been truly blessed to have my dream job as residency program director of internal medicine. I went into academic medicine to be a teacher, and I hope I have had a ripple effect with the hundreds of internists trained and the lives of the patients and learners they have touched."

Dr. O'Dell said he is proud of what the program has achieved over the last one third of a century.

"During that time, I'm thrilled that we led the nation with a 100% board pass rate for a 15-year period, but even more proud of the kind of people we have developed," he said. "I'm deeply grateful for the residents that I've had the privilege to work with and the support of the chairs including Drs. Mike Sorrell, James Armitage, John Gollan, Lyn Klassen and Deb Romberger. I'm also excited about the future of the program under the leadership of Dr. Wichman."

Dr. O'Dell has served as chief of the division of rheumatology since 1990 and as vice chair of internal medicine since 1997.

In his three roles as a clinician, educator and researcher, Dr. O'Dell has trained the majority of internists and many of the subspecialists currently practicing throughout Nebraska. He also has developed medical breakthrough therapies for rheumatoid arthritis, which have been published numerous times in scientific journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Samuel Pirruccello
November 07, 2019 at 9:05 AM

Well deserved Jim. It's not only the resident physicians who have been impacted by your teaching but their patients as well. Cheers!

Howard Fox
November 07, 2019 at 8:42 AM

How wonderful. Congrats to both Drs. O'Dell and Wichman.

Lisa Runco
November 07, 2019 at 7:20 AM

What an honor and I can't think of anyone who deserves it more. Congratulations and hats off to you, Dr. O'Dell. Your legacy lives on with the hundreds of physicians that have been trained under your leadership.