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In virtual forum, Chancellor Gold offers thanks

UNMC and University of Nebraska at Omaha Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., Monday sent a message of thanks to the UNMC community for their hard work and leadership.

During a virtual forum Monday afternoon, he also spoke about a new normal and how education and health care would evolve in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Education, research and health care delivery will continue to evolve, he said.

“While it is unclear how this is going to evolve from a socio-economic perspective, it is clear that it’s going to change the complexion of the care delivery, education and research in the health professions and biomedical sciences significantly, at least for the foreseeable future.”

But his single most important message, he said, was “to thank you and to recognize how hard everyone is working at this time of uncertainty.”

The online learning and work-from-home models adopted by the University of Nebraska have been “amazingly successful.”

The chancellor said he was grateful to the faculty and staff “for trying to find ways that our students can complete their educational journey,” adding that UNMC will bestow degrees to all its graduates on schedule through multiple online, virtual events run by each college and institute.

“The magic of information technology and communications will hopefully come together and make this successful,” he said.

UNMC is open and welcoming to this spring’s graduates joining future commencement events or perhaps holding a future special event.

“I hope you come back to campus so we can celebrate together, recognize your achievements and give us an opportunity to thank you for being part of the graduating class of 2020,” Dr. Gold said.

The chancellor discussed a potential state budget shortfall and its impact on the university.

“We have been asked by President Carter and have been actively involved in modeling – and I want to underscore this is modeling – what would happen if there was a 5% reduction, a 10% reduction. . . We need to be flexible and we need to have plans.”

The chancellor pledged transparency and openness in the process.

Other points Dr. Gold highlighted, some during his question-and-answer session:

  • Planning continues for summer and fall sessions, although it is unsure if the sessions will be traditional, remote or most likely a hybrid blend of the two.
  • Planning for the NeXT Project remains important, he said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for such a project, not only in Nebraska, but throughout the country. He discussed potential federal and state support for the project. (“I’m grateful that our unicameral legislature, the governor, our federal delegation, United States Congress, has signed off on the understanding of the importance of this.”)
  • The university’s stay-at-home declaration is likely to be extended, but definitive time will be shared shortly.

Chancellor Gold pointed to areas of pride for UNMC:

  • Partnership with UNMC, UNO and Apple Computer to build the 1-Check COVID app for screening and identification of risk;
  • Volunteer work by UNMC students throughout the university and the broader community;
  • The National Institutes of Health clinical trial for remdesivir being led by Andre Kalil, M.D.;
  • The work of Jana Broadhurst, M.D., Ph.D., on both genetic and serologic diagnostic testing;
  • The work of John-Martin Lowe, Ph.D., and Joshua Santarpia, Ph.D., in looking at use of UV to recycle N95 masks and respirators;
  • The SIM-NE and iEXCEL training of rural emergency medicine responders on COVID-19 protocols;
  • The UNMC College of Public Health and the Global Center for Health Security’s 24/7 response to requests from federal, state and county leaders, as well as other entities.
  • Dr. Gold described the Davis Global Center as “the most amazing facility of its type in the country, if not the world.”

On campus construction projects.

  • The Munroe-Meyer Institute project continues on schedule and on budget, set to open by this time next year.
  • The McGoogan Library project continues on budget, while the Wigton Heritage Center is ahead of schedule — the library is set to be completed in early summer, and the Wigton Heritage Center by late January.
  • The renovation of the Williams Science Hall is on schedule and on budget, with many areas already completed.
  • The Ruth and Bill Scott Student Plaza improvement project is on schedule to be completed in the next several months.