UNMC will honor three individuals and Nebraska's public health directors during its May 8 Omaha commencement ceremony.
UNMC will hold its commencement ceremonies in person, after having held virtual ceremonies in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 ceremonies will be significantly de-densified, with health screening, limited attendance and strict adherence to directed health measures, including masks.
Awardees include the visionary who helped usher in UNMC's current world leadership in biopreparedness; a native Nebraskan who is now one of the world's leading scientists; the state's top health official who helms Nebraska's response to the pandemic; and Nebraska's public health directors, who lead community efforts in the fight against COVID-19.
Longtime UNMC faculty member Philip Smith, MD, of Omaha, will be honored with the J.G. Elliott Award for his foresight and leadership that helped make the medical center one of the world's shining lights in the field of biopreparedness. Dr. Smith developed the concept of a biocontainment unit at UNMC, helped lead the establishment of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit team and tirelessly oversaw its efforts during the 2014-15 Ebola crisis.
UNMC is now seen as one of the world's leaders in biopreparedness and is home to the national Training, Simulation and Quarantine Center.
Gary Anthone, MD, chief medical officer and director of public health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services in Lincoln, also is honored with the J.G. Elliott Award. Dr. Anthone was instrumental in taking measures to allow retired, inactive or out-of-state health professionals to help with managing the pandemic.
He also played key roles in the expansion of testing, working with nursing homes and hospitals on transferring of patients and in securing personal protective equipment for health care facilities. Dr. Anthone was nominated for this honor by the Nebraska Hospital Association, which lauded his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nebraska native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln alumnus William Mobley, MD, PhD, will be honored with the Honorary Doctorate of Science Degree for high distinction in the use of his skills in medicine and science, and his human qualities of empathy and compassion, to serve his fellow man. Dr. Mobley is an internationally-acclaimed expert in the field of degenerative disease of the central nervous system, and a passionate advocate on behalf of Alzheimer's and Down Syndrome patients. He has collaborated with his Nebraska colleagues at UNMC and with the Dalai Lama.
Nebraska's public health directors will be collectively honored with the Chancellor's Distinguished Service Award. The directors partnered with their communities to engage in providing expert COVID-19 public health guidance since March 2020.
In addition to their everyday duties, they are recognized for working tirelessly to overcome obstacles, identifying key data to create robust dashboards, creating partnerships to establish testing sites, conducting contact tracing, reviewing business and event plans, distributing personal protective equipment and more.