Forum: Good news on horizon

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC strategic communications | November 30, 2020

Image with caption: Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD

Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, headlined a full slate of panelists Nov. 24 in a virtual Zoom town hall.

Ted Cieslak, MD, interim executive director for health security at UNMC, Michael Ash, MD, vice chancellor for information and technology, and Sheritta Strong, MD, UNMC director of inclusion, joined Dr. Gold at the all-campus forum.

Dr. Gold thanked those on the frontline who are working so hard through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and cautioned against a "second pandemic": "The emotional health issues . . . are huge, and they are going to be enduring," the chancellor said.

View the forum.

"We are constantly looking for ways to say thank you," he said.

Dr. Cieslak concurred with the chancellor that "the pandemic continues to rage out of control." The good news, Dr. Cieslak said, is that UNMC campuses continue to be among the state's safest places.

"Please continue to model that behavior when you are off campus," Dr. Cieslak said.

"We remain cautious," he said, "but good news is on the horizon," meaning multiple vaccine candidates, hopefully soon ready for peer review, approval and distribution.

Dr. Strong gave a lengthy, if "rapid-fire summary," as Dr. Gold put it, report on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts currently underway on campus.

This included a recent Breakthrough Thinking series event, which drew more than 200 participants. As one of its guest speakers said, UNMC must elevate, engage, equip and empower, Dr. Strong said.

Ongoing efforts are both institutional, from NU President Ted Carter, and UNMC colleges, and grassroots, from students themselves. And they follow in the footsteps of those who have been doing this work for a long time, like Linda Cunningham, Dr. Strong said.

If you or your colleagues are working on any DEI initiatives, please go to this link, so Dr. Strong and her office will be cognizant of your efforts and goals.

"These must be ongoing conversations," Dr. Strong said, "not one and done."

But, "We cannot allow the work to only fall to the victims," she said.

Dr. Ash reported that greater than 90 percent of systems and data are restored following the recent cybersecurity event. The med center was a model in campus cooperation and response, he said. But we must remain wary: 64 percent of organizations impacted by malware are impacted again.

Of the millions of emails across our system, 77% percent are malicious, Dr. Ash said. Almost all are blocked. "But it only takes one."

Among the other topics touched upon at the forum:

  • This week, UNMC will take on its annual strategic goal-setting meeting. What are the short-term and long-terms outcomes of the pandemic? "We will stress test our current strategic plan," Dr. Gold said.
  • Enrollment remains positive and "Our budget remains in a very good place," Dr. Gold said.
  • Dr. Strong pointed out that it is Native American Heritage Month.
  • Dr. Gold noted that at the time of the forum, Nebraska was 70 hospital cases away from another tier of directed health measures from the state. The chancellor said that UNMC works closely with DHHS and the governor's office providing scientific data but, "policy decisions are not made by us."
  • Dr. Cieslak apologized to those who wanted but were unable to receive a COVID-19 test during a recent on-campus testing pilot. That anonymized data will be included in campus statistics and the testing effort may expand at a later date.
  • The colleges of medicine and allied health professions are among those adding DEI leadership roles in their deans' offices, Dr. Strong said.
  • Would you take the prospective vaccines? If peer review holds, Drs. Gold and Cieslak said they would give the thumbs up and roll up their sleeves. "I caution you to stay vigilant just a little bit longer," Dr. Cieslak said.

Dr. Gold again acknowledged and thanked those who "are holding the community together in this very difficult time." He expressed the gratitude for all those who are working so hard day after day dealing with all of the challenges caused by the pandemic and wished all a "happy, safe and healthy" holiday.

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