A Lifetime Alliance

Bob and Brianna met while enrolled in the med center’s health sciences pipeline program for high school students,

Bringing a new meaning to match day at UNMC.

One of the purposes of the UNMC High School Alliance, an academic enrichment program, is to (inhale) immerse highly motivated, secondary students from varying educational and socioeconomic backgrounds into an environment which will introduce them to health professions leading to a more diverse Nebraska workforce (whew!), which helps young people realize what they want to do with their lives. For Bob and Brianna, the UNMC High School Alliance helped them do exactly that. After going through an academic year of college-level classes that engrossed them in the health sciences, with engaging mentors, surrounded by UNMC’s unique med center environment, Bob and Brianna realized something: what they wanted to do with their lives was spend them with one another.

It's an outcome that won’t be mentioned in the High School Alliance’s outcomes report. Yes, the program boasts a 95 percent completion rate; 75 percent of students remain in Nebraska for college; and 70 percent go on to pursue STEM majors. And, now that the High School Alliance has been around for more than a decade, it includes alums who not only have matriculated to UNMC, but also are actually working as professionals in the health sciences (and one who was an NFL first-round draft pick).

But, it also has produced something else. Bob and Brianna, now Bob Anderson and Brianna Martinie Anderson, are the second High School Alliance marriage; a third couple is currently engaged.

Take that, “The Bachelor,” eharmony and farmersonly.com.
Couple

They were in the High School Alliance as high school seniors in 2014-15. And, yes, they learned science beyond chemistry. Bob, a University of Nebraska at Omaha alumnus, is working in bioinformatics. He’d originally thought about becoming a physician, but, “the High School Alliance helped you know you didn’t want to go to med school,” Brianna said, and Bob nodded. That’s true.

Meanwhile, Brianna, who also went to UNO, just wrapped up her second year of pharmacy school at UNMC. “My hardest year,” she said. She, too, thought about medical school, but the High School Alliance showed her there was so much more out there for her to explore.

“Drugs with the brain is so interesting, how it works,” she said.

Bob, who originally thought about going straight through to a PhD in bioinformatics, is working full time while she studies at the College of Pharmacy. “He took one for the team,” she said.

And then she looks at him the way she did when they were first starting out.

In many ways, they still are. They’ve been married for two years now.

But they’ve only just begun.

"The Newlywed Game"

Video Transcript

They first met during an icebreaker exercise. Brianna remembers that Bob, who now sports a macho, lumberjack-style beard, gave a sensitive answer to a question about heroes. His was a lifeguard who had helped him overcome his fears.

“I was like, oh, that’s so sweet!” she said. “And I thought, he’s kinda nice, and cool. So he made a little bit of an impression there.

“And then the next lab I came in and sat next to him. And you (Bob) thought, ‘Ooh, yah!’ ”

Bob agreed: “I didn’t remember your name. I remembered what you look like, though.”

They became study partners. They worked well together. They both were (obviously) super smart. Brianna liked that Bob also was super quick. He made her laugh. They made each other laugh.

“He’s got a wicked sense of humor if you get to know him. His comments just get ya.” Brianna snapped her fingers. Snap! Snap! That’s Bob.

They spent more and more time together. As teenagers sometimes do, they hung out in a group. And then …

“I invited a bunch of people to hang out,” Bob said. “She was the only one that showed up.”

He realized he didn’t mind. Not even a little bit. They talked and talked.

It was all so seamless. What was their first date? There was nothing official.

“I remember looking at stars at my parents’ house,” Bob said.

“That was definitely when we started to, I think, really notice that we were liking each other,” Brianna said.

 

She had some things she needed to talk about. “I remember he hugged me,” she said. “I had my head against his chest. I was like, wow, it’s the perfect spot.”

The kids in the UNMC High School Alliance are aspiring scientists. They can catch on to things. There was a control group (them) NOT falling into a relationship with someone else in the class. They knew something was up. At last, a group of them confronted Bob in an elevator. Are you guys dating?

Yes. He admitted it. They had tried to keep it low-key, to be professional in this professional setting. High School Alliance is serious!

(And yet, it is still high school. Yes, it is great to meet other students, to interact with clinicians and scientists, to take high-level classes, to explore possibilities beyond the scope of your imagination! But, that’s just the second-coolest thing. The first-coolest thing? Leaving school in the middle of the day. “As a high school senior,” Brianna said, “you’re like, ‘Bye!’ ”)

People were happy for them. These were their friends. Many of them are still their friends. They keep in touch. It’s one of the best things about the High School Alliance.

“You make all these connections,” Brianna said. “I know people from different professions.”

Several of those friendships carried over to UNO, where, all agreed, they were very well prepared for college, thanks to their time in the High School Alliance. (No, that doesn’t mean it was easy. But, they were well prepared.)

They had two weddings. They wanted Bob’s mom to marry them, but she was still in seminary school, and it wouldn’t have been legal yet. So they went to the courthouse to make it legal. And then, a month later, their real wedding, officiated by Bob’s mom.

They knew they were going to get married. But they didn’t know they’d be married two years by now.

“I asked her to marry me in August,” Bob said. “And then she planned a wedding in like six months!”

But Brianna didn’t want to wait. She was going through organic chemistry (whoa), and getting ready to graduate from UNO, and planning a wedding, on short notice, that they would pay for themselves, but she wasn’t waiting. Because, as Billy Crystal once said, dramatically (get the tissues), when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible!

And so they did.

So, it’s two years later, now. This is the ever after of the fairy tale. Regular, everyday life. Work is work, and school is hard. Everyday isn’t a date. The pandemic hit. Working from home means you are in the same room, but not together. And like that.

But, she’s still Brianna, and he’s still Bob, and they make each other laugh, and eat cheap cheeseburgers, and her head still fits on that perfect spot on his chest.

(Although she now knows that he sometimes talks in his sleep. “I’m an aggressive sleeper,” Bob said.)

And they will think back, sometimes, to those days in the High School Alliance, when they first met.

“Yeah,” Bob said, slowly, as if savoring the memory. For once, he is not so finger-snap quick. “Yeah,” Bob said, “it turned out pretty good.”

About the UNMC High School Alliance

The UNMC High School Alliance program provides high school juniors and seniors with the opportunity to observe, shadow and work alongside health care professionals and researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Students come from up to 13 public school districts in the greater Omaha area.