Critical hurdle cleared for Project NeXT

by Bill O'Neill, UNMC strategic communications | May 06, 2021

Image with caption: Shelly Schwedhelm, executive director of emergency management and biopreparedness at Nebraska Medicine, assists with National Disaster Medical System training.

Shelly Schwedhelm, executive director of emergency management and biopreparedness at Nebraska Medicine, assists with National Disaster Medical System training.

UNMC and Nebraska Medicine have been selected as a key pilot site designated to develop a federal program that will improve the nation's ability to respond to future catastrophic events such as pandemics, natural disasters or overt attacks. Rep. Don Bacon received word that UNMC/Nebraska Medicine had been selected by the federal government for the program and made the announcement Wednesday afternoon. The other sites are Washington, D.C., San Antonio, Denver and Sacramento.

The multi-federal department program will be led by the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services to improve the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) training program and to improve medical surge capability in the nation. Other partner agencies include the Veterans Administration, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Transportation. Rep. Bacon says Omaha was chosen because of the medical center's leadership in meeting surge capacity, infectious disease control, readiness training and education as a key partner in the nation's effort to improve overall health security and medical preparedness.

"UNMC and Nebraska Medicine are humbled to receive this recognition as one of the designated pilot sites," says UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD. "The med center is uniquely positioned with the capabilities to continue our journey to effectively partner with the federal government with not only improving the country's overall readiness in the face of future needs, but also with sharing our knowledge and experience with other hospitals and health professionals nationwide. This is a truly transformational project, with deep roots in both national defense strategy and 21st century health innovation. We are thrilled about this designation, as it will allow us to continue to scale this critical work in preparing the world for a healthier and safer future."

The site designation is also another important milestone for the ongoing development of "Project NExT" at UNMC/ Nebraska Medicine. Project NExT is a transformational public-private partnership to create a federal, all-hazard health security disaster response space that is adaptable and leverages UNMC/Nebraska Medicine's experience and global leadership in infectious diseases and biopreparedness. Our expertise will be used to meet America's current and future health care training and medical surge capacity needs, a priority of the current presidential administration.

"There is a long history of UNMC and Nebraska Medicine demonstrating world-class capabilities in this area through work in past crises and catastrophic global events," said James Linder, MD, CEO of Nebraska Medicine. "Our treatment of Ebola patients in 2014, being named the nation's quarantine and training center, our cutting-edge research in infectious diseases and bio preparedness, and serving as a trusted resource during the pandemic are just a few ways in which our expertise has impacted global health care. Project NExT will put us in an even better position to continue serving our region, country and the world."

Rep. Bacon and other members of the Nebraska delegation -- notably Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Sen. Deb Fischer and Sen. Ben Sasse -- worked closely with the med center on various pieces of the legislation and federal processes of securing this designation. "We are grateful for their support and will continue to work with them moving forward on this project," Dr. Gold says.

The state of Nebraska has committed $300 million in funding to support the project, contingent upon federal government and private support totaling more than $1 billion. Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert also has signed a memorandum of understanding to provide $93 million for Project NExT and adjoining development at UNMC/Nebraska Medicine. UNMC and Nebraska Medicine will also be seeking additional public-private partnerships.

"Over the coming months, UNMC and Nebraska Medicine will continue to work with the federal agencies on the many details and requirements to establish the public-private partnerships that are necessary to bring the project to fruition. There is much work to be done," Dr. Gold said.

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Tom O’Connor
May 06, 2021 at 8:03 AM

Wow! Congrats to all who made this happen. What a huge accomplishment!