Celebration of life Saturday for Rachel Valleley, PhD

by John Keenan, UNMC strategic communications | November 24, 2021

Image with caption: Rachel Valleley, PhD

Rachel Valleley, PhD

A celebration of life is scheduled Saturday for Rachel Valleley, PhD, who died Nov. 19 at the age of 49.

A visitation will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday with a celebration of life at 10 a.m. at Braman Mortuary, 1702 N. 72nd St. in Omaha, followed by a graveside service, then a luncheon for family and friends at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, 15353 Pacific St., at 12:30 p.m.  

Keith Allen, PhD, director of the MMI Department of Psychology, called Dr. Valleley a wonderful colleague, friend and a key member of the department’s leadership team.

"This is a painful and stunning loss for us all," Dr. Allen said. "Rachel was an important role model for how to integrate extraordinary patient care with remarkable clinical training and research. She did all three with sustained excellence. She will be deeply missed, but her impact on our programs will not be forgotten."

Joe Evans, PhD, former director of the MMI Department of Psychology, remembered when Dr. Valleley arrived at MMI in 1996 as a graduate student.

"At that time, Rachel’s goal was to become a full-time clinician working with children," Dr. Evans said. "She expressed wanting little to do with academics, teaching or research."

Although Dr. Valleley’s career goals shifted — a faculty appointment eventually led to full professorship and the position of associate director of psychology, as well as notable research work — her focus on children and families never wavered, Dr. Evans said.  

MMI Director Karoly Mirnics, MD, PhD, called Dr. Valleley a master of her profession.

"She was a remarkable, caring individual. Her loss has shaken our MMI family to the core," he said.

For Brandy Clarke, PhD, Dr. Valleley was both mentor and friend.

"She was very passionate about creating access to behavioral health services for children and families, and she did so much good in the lives of those she served," Dr. Clarke said. "She mentored numerous students to go on and do the same, and her loss is felt deeply in our department and community."

Mark Shriver, PhD, director of the University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, served as the chair of Dr. Valleley’s dissertation committee and hooded her at her PhD ceremony in 2001.

"We collaborated early in her career on research specific to improving reading for adolescents with learning disabilities and other related topics," he said. "She had a national reputation for her work in integrated behavioral health primary care. However, most important to me, she became a tremendous friend and my sister in our MMI psychology family."

Dr. Valleley was an outstanding mentor and supervisor for psychology interns, post-doctoral fellows and residents from both pediatrics and family medicine, as well as a productive researcher with a focus on improving behavioral health access for families, particularly in rural areas. 

"Her career at UNMC spanned over half of her lifetime," Dr. Evans said. "Rachel will be sorely missed by her colleagues and friends at MMI."

Said Dr. Clarke, "We will do our best to continue her legacy."

Judy Mathews
November 26, 2021 at 3:53 PM

I am so sad to hear of Rachel's passing. She was a superb clinician and took on the role of coordinating the integrative behavioral health portion of MMI Psychology with great determination, broadening its scope and mentoring many students to become clinicians in rural Nebraska communities. She worked diligently and with great heart without shining the light on herself and became an integral part of the Psychology Department. Since my retirement, I have followed her great works at MMI and know that she will be sorely missed, not only as a colleague but also as a friend and member of a very special MMI family. My heart stretches out to her family and friends on this untimely loss.

Kenneth Zoucha
November 26, 2021 at 1:50 PM

This is such a significant loss for our university family. I worked with Rachel as a pediatrician in Hastings, and she had an amazing way with kids and families. Her passion for the health of kids and families inspired me to be a better clinician. It appears that I am just one of many people that will miss her.

Bart Williams
November 24, 2021 at 4:29 PM

Dr. Rachel Vallely was, and always will be, a true inspiration.

John Keenan
November 23, 2021 at 3:31 PM

Dr. Valleley was one of the first people I met at MMI when I began working at UNMC. She was a friendly, warm and caring person. My condolences to her family and to her MMI family.

Howard Liu, Chair Dept. Psychiatry, UNMC NM
November 23, 2021 at 2:40 PM

Dr. Valleley will be greatly missed by the UNMC and child mental health community. She was a skilled therapist, an outstanding colleague and a wonderful human being. The UNMC Department of Psychiatry sends our condolences to our colleagues at MMI and to Rachel's family.