Chancellor's forum: A problem and a solution

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC strategic communications | October 05, 2020

Image with caption: From left, Michael Ash, MD, vice chancellor for information and technology, Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, and Ted Cieslak, MD, interim executive director for health security, spoke at Tuesday's forum.

From left, Michael Ash, MD, vice chancellor for information and technology, Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, and Ted Cieslak, MD, interim executive director for health security, spoke at Tuesday's forum.

On Sept. 29, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, hosted his monthly forum covering a wealth of information from campus health strategies for COVID-19 and the recent cybersecurity events to record-breaking enrollment numbers and long-term UNMC strategic planning goals.

Dr. Gold was joined by special guests Ted Cieslak, MD, UNMC's interim director for health security, and Michael Ash, MD, UNMC's vice chancellor for information and technology.

View the forum.

"I want to tell you how proud I am of all of the hard work that's been going on at UNMC, on behalf of our faculty, staff and students who have made the beginning of this semester so incredibly successful in spite of all of the recent events," Chancellor Gold said. "There is no doubt that all the planning, hard work, curricular development and student services work that has been done over the past six months has had a tremendously strong and positive impact on our students and the community that we serve."

Dr. Gold described a phone call early Sunday morning from Dr. Ash.

"We've got a problem," Dr. Ash said.

"And we've got a solution."

That solution, to an information technology network outage, caused by a cyber incident, is still unfolding. Dr. Ash outlined four phases to it, during the forum: detection, containment, restoration and recovery -- the last of which takes the longest.

Dr. Ash said staff initiated our cybersecurity action plan within 20 minutes of noticing unexplained activity. Thankfully, the scenario that was covered in a tabletop training exercise the week before was "exactly this one," Dr. Ash said.

Dr. Ash said the med center brought in experts and is working with a forensics firm and e-discovery firm to continue to explore what was impacted and how.

Please watch UNMC Today and campus emails for continuing updates on the recovery process.

Dr. Gold praised the work and resiliency of the IT team and others throughout campus. "There are going to be some lessons learned from this," he said.

"We were knocked down," said Dr. Ash, "but we were not knocked out."

In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Drs. Gold and Cieslak expressed optimism at the use of nonpharmaceutical interventions on campus and the number of "shots on goal" in a handful of vaccine candidates now in phase three of clinical trials. The med center is expected to serve as a testing site.

But, they also noted the deaths of 200,000 Americans and over one million worldwide and likely more, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Gold said use of the 1-Check app by faculty, students and staff is encouraging.

If we continue to model good public-health practices, "I think we can get through this semester, and beyond, without having to go back to online learning," Dr. Cieslak said.

Dr. Gold also lauded the efforts of Sheritta Strong, M.D., director of inclusion. She has been hard at work implementing programs in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. And even all that is going on, a pandemic, a cyber incident, "doesn't distract us from the important work in this area," Dr. Gold said.

Dr. Gold acknowledged the stress and fatigue many are facing at this moment, but said he remains optimistic and grateful for the resiliency of the UNMC family.

"It's the people that provide the inspiration," he said. "I have never been more inspired about the future of this great institution."

Other topics touched upon at the forum:

  • Get your flu shot. Employees may reserve their times slots now.
  • IT security becomes more difficult when people work from home, so be especially alert for phishing attacks.
  • There is not yet an Android version of the UNMC 1-Check app. Please use the iOS or the web version each day that you plan to be physically present on campus.
  • There have been 11 student cases and six faculty and staff COVID-19 cases on the Omaha campus. There is no evidence that any of these were acquired on campus.
  • There is currently no elevator access to Wittson Hall's fourth floor. Please use the stairs. "I'm going to get to add a few extra steps as well," Dr. Gold said.
  • The Davis Global Center virtual ribbon cutting is set for Oct. 13.
  • MMI's new home is on time and on budget, set for a January or February move-in and a ribbon-cutting in June.
  • The NExT Project, in addition to having secured state funds through the passing of LB1107, has raised about $250 million in private dollars.
  • If you usually get allergies, you may have allergies, Dr. Cieslak said. But if you also have a fever, contact your health provider, and ask about ruling out COVID-19.
  • Lessons learned on triaging patients during initial COVID-19 shutdowns came in handy during the recent network outage.

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